Sales / Marketing

Creative solutions mark out mobile services

by Carmen To

Francis Tsui, head of business markets, SmarTone-Vodafone

Personal touch keeps one mobile phone service provider ahead of the competition

The mobile phone sector in Hong Kong remains intensely competitive and service providers face the constant challenge of having to battle for business every single day. One tactic is to offer customers more comprehensive and personalised service and to respond effectively to any specialised needs they may have.

"Customers have very high expectation on the kinds of service they may receive," says Francis Tsui, head of business markets for SmarTone-Vodafone. "We must try our best to accommodate needs at all time since customers nowadays require almost immediate follow-up service." He admits that this presents a new set of challenges and that marketing strategies must be adjusted to offer tailor-made solutions for end-users.

The personalising of services, Mr Tsui explains, applies not just to individual customers, but also to companies. "Some enterprises, which we regard as VIP clients, have over 10,000 staff who may require specific and complicated billing arrangements, so we tailor billing procedures for individuals to save their time and trouble," he says.

Extra services

Besides that, the company has introduced an array of value-added services including on-site service support, easy dialling functions on handsets for quick access to customer support; and has made transferring numbers, messages, personal data and pictures from one phone to another more straightforward. Also, even if someone loses a phone, they needn't worry about losing all the numbers stored in it, provided they have registered with the phonebook backup service which is now available. For customer convenience, there are also phone delivery and lending services.

As part of these general developments, Mr Tsui is looking for new recruits with a passion for customer service. The managerial team believes this is a prerequisite for success in the field and shows that people have the right mindset. "We strive to differentiate our services, so we have high expectations of candidates," he says. "Anyone under consideration as an entry-level client service representative should be detail-oriented and empathetic, a good communicator and know how to work effectively."

The most important skill is being able to satisfy customer demands with a personal, creative and flexible approach. All employees must also be conscious of the need to respect the privacy of customers, particularly if they are dealing with celebrities or VIPs. "The right working attitude and an ethical approach are everything," Mr Tsui says.

Job training

Eleanor Chan, the company's corporate communications manager elaborates, "SmarTone-Vodafone's HR department organises diverse training courses to ensure that employees have the necessary background knowledge and information about products and applications." This usually begins with a three-month programme covering essential hard and soft skills. It will include communication, presentation and interpersonal skills, as well as aspects of customer service such as how to deal with complaints and objections.

"With advances in technology, we are also equipping staff with relevant IT-related knowledge," says Mr Tsui. "This helps them to serve customers better by explaining the latest changes and anticipating needs that clients may have if, for example, they travel abroad."

He emphasises that the key thing for customer service staff is to know when to be proactive. "Encouraging employees to think ahead strategically is one reason we have won awards for being the best service provider for five consecutive years," he says. To maintain these high standards, Mr Tsui keeps track of comments via a customer feedback management system and is always on the lookout for areas where there is room for further improvement

Considerations for successful client service representatives

  • Attentive and fast to follow-up of customer enquiries
  • Always think ahead to anticipate possible client needs
  • Being able to apply a creative and flexible approach
  • Have the right attitude to work
  • Possess high ethical standards

Taken from Career Times 21 April 2006
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