The landscape of modern telecommunications has seen swift change with the development of 3G technology, giving rise to a whole new sales model for mobile telecommunications service providers.
"In the 3G era, we cannot simply compete by slashing prices. Rather, we set ourselves apart from our competitors through the provision of exceptional quality customer service that exceeds customer expectations," notes Ray Yan, a senior sales development officer, sales division, Hutchison Telecommunications (Hong Kong) Limited, the mobile operator of the household brand "3".
Back in the 2G or the voice communications era, salespeople might have focused on demonstrating handset functions when serving new customers. The company now adopts a multi-dimensional sales approach to surpassing the growing expectations of technologically savvy customers.
"Salespeople need to consider customers' needs such as their personal interests, habits and work schedules, before recommending service plans and devices that best suit their diverse needs," Mr Yan says. "I've always felt like a friend to our customers. Only through understanding customers' genuine needs can I make the best suggestions."
Comprehensive after-sales customer service is also more important now than ever. Not only do customers need help in choosing the right mobile phone, many also require assistance in learning the various advanced functions, such as setting up email services and using PC-based applications via their handsets.
Taking the initiative and reading the customer's mind are keys to driving customer satisfaction, remarks Mr Yan. "Instead of waiting for customers to raise questions, we anticipate their queries and offer additional information," he says.
This customer-centric sales approach is echoed by Asuka Lam, a sales development officer and technical instructor for 3 Hong Kong's customer workshops. "Our customer workshops, like the one for iPhone 3G, provide new channels to communicate with existing and potential customers. I enjoy working in the frontline and getting in touch with customers in workshops where I can interact with them so as to understand their needs thoroughly. This way, we help them get the most out of our devices and our services," says Ms Lam.
Not many customers are fully aware of all the services available with their 3G phones. This is the very reason why 3 Hong Kong is eager to run those workshops.
"For example, if a customer is interested in trading stocks, it's our responsibility to draw their attention to the available real-time stock market information," emphasises Mr Yan.
Such foresight of customer needs is the result of in-depth product knowledge and strong team support. Ms Lam reveals that 3 Hong Kong offers orientations and regular training sessions for its 800 sales team members. The company also boasts an online platform, a handy tool created by members of the sales team for their frontline colleagues to share insights on how to better serve customers and to exchange views and solutions particularly on technical issues.
"We have a special duty unit called S8 that helps us to assimilate new mobile technology and applications swiftly," says Mr Yan. The unit is comprised of sales staff who are passionate about mobile technology. They share user reviews with sales team members upon release of new products and offer technical support to frontline staff around the clock.
Besides this, the company is keen to immerse staff in an open and energetic corporate culture. "It was the sales team's idea to organise the iPhone workshops for customers. The company values our feedback and puts our suggestions into action, and now the workshops have become a great success," says Ms Lam. She finds the respect and recognition given by the company empowering. This also encourages her to take initiative in interacting with customers and devising new sales strategies.
Due to the popularity of the company's iPhone workshops, similar training workshops will soon be held.
For Mr Yan, a 3G instructor himself, such coaching sessions have not brought him additional work pressure, rather they have been a rewarding and satisfying experience.
To keep up with the ever-changing technology and products, instructors are determined to keep updated and learn new skills every day. This is a constant learning experience, and requires both perseverance and patience, as well as a great deal of enthusiasm fostered by an encouraging working environment.
At 3 Hong Kong, instructors are selected based on their sales experience, presentation skills and customer-orientated service mindset. These attributes have helped Mr Yan and Ms Lam win the Hong Kong Management Association's Distinguished Salesperson Awards last year.
"Although it is challenging to become a technical instructor, I enjoy communicating with my customers. The freedom to communicate is what telecommunications is all about after all," concludes Mr Yan.