Know Our Customers

The first rule of good customer service is to know our customers: Who are they? What are their needs?

In my first BTO launch last month, nearly 14,000 Singaporeans applied for 4,000 units. I asked HDB for their profile. There were many details, but some key points are tabulated below:

May 2011 BTO Launch - Profile of flat applicants

A “first-timer” refers to an applicant who has never bought an HDB flat directly from HDB, nor taken a CPF Housing Grant.

A “second-timer” refers to one who has previously bought an HDB flat directly from HDB or taken a CPF Housing Grant.

We try to give greater priority to first-timers.

I made the following observations.

First, 65% of the applicants were first-timers.

Second, 55% of the applicants were making their first BTO attempt (35% first-timers, 20% second-timers).

Third, 35% of the applicants were first-timers and making their first BTO attempt.

Fourth, among the first-timers, more than half applied under HDB’s Fiancé-Fiancée Scheme. Their median age was 27. As for the other first-timers (i.e. those already married), their median age was 34. There is therefore justification to revise the HDB income ceiling, given the rising age of applicants.

Fifth, about 40% of first-timers applied under the Married Child Priority Scheme, to live near their parents. This is an aspiration, which we must be mindful of. However, meeting it will not be easy, as mature estates have limited scope for further BTO development. But we will try to squeeze out as many as possible.

Sixth, 45% of the applicants were making their repeat BTO attempts. In the previous quarter, the corresponding figure was 60%. I take some comfort that the situation seems to be improving. But we have much work to do still.

Seventh, 14% of the applicants had applied for three or more previous BTO exercises in the last one year. Of these, a third had the chance to select a flat but did not do so for their own reasons. I am, however, conscious of the frustrations and anxiety of those who did not have a chance to select at all. I am ramping up BTO launches to try to ease this problem. Meanwhile, my advice is that they try less mature estates to improve on their odds.

HDB is now processing the applications. 4,000 will be successful and we must analyse the profile of the successful applicants, after the exercise is complete. I am sure the analysis will provide further insights.

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