Innovations needed for public services
The development of capitalism has led to an economic sector where private companies based on free competition cannot achieve the purpose alone. The public corporations supplement what private companies are lacking, and each is created for a specific purpose, supplementing funding or preventing monopoly.
However, people’s view on Korean public corporations is quite far from what it should be. A survey showed that the most respected companies are private companies like Samsung Electronics and POSCO. Public corporations cannot be found among the top ranks. In a survey on customer satisfaction and reputation, private companies are generally favored and trusted than public corporations. Why do Koreans have less regards for the public corporations than private companies whose purpose is pursuing profit?
The biggest factor is that the public corporations haven’t met the elevated expectation of the citizens. People’s expectation is not fixed. In the past half century, the Korean economy grew dramatically, and consequently, people’s living standards and awareness have been enhanced. The service for the people needs to improve accordingly. However, as most public corporations feel no need to engage in service competition for survival like private companies, they haven’t caught up with citizens’ expectation in reality.
Service innovation should begin from contemplating for the people and answering the question of “why.” Right after I became the CEO of the Korea Expressway Corporation, I asked myself why the price at gas stations in the highway rest stops is so expensive. Through discussion with employees, the corporation came up with a plan to lower the purchasing price by buying gasoline for highway gas stations together, and as a result, the price could be lowered to the level that would satisfy the citizens.
Since the 1960s, many public corporations have been privatized. There were various justifications, such as management efficiency and expansion of the market economy. But if they were rated high by the citizens, they could still be public corporations. Lately, the nation is stirred by political issues. Many ambitiously promoted policies could lose traction in the chaos. But public corporations must not be stirred by the social atmosphere and need to focus on their own operations and make sure citizens don’t experience inconvenience.
*CEO of the Korea Expressway Corporation