High touch

by Wendy Shair

Ivan So
senior engineer I
Hong Kong Broadband Network Ltd
Photo: Dickie Tam
Internet service provider recruits service oriented personnel in order to stay ahead of competition

Today's savvy internet surfers are demanding consumers who look for responsive customer service on top of reliable high-speed connections, exciting multimedia contents and reasonable tariffs. Key players in the field are therefore pulling out all stops to attract the best available talent capable of helping the companies to catch up with technology and retain the loyalty of their customers.

"The market momentum makes service enhancement a priority," notes Ivan So, senior engineer I, Hong Kong Broadband Network Ltd (HKBN), a wholly-owned subsidiary of integrated telecommunications services provider City Telecom (HK) Limited.

The first "fibre-to-the-home" broadband service provider in Hong Kong, HKBN is renowned for its customer-centric business approach but cut-throat competition in the market has prompted the company to go the extra mile.

People business

Keeping pace with the ever-changing multimedia industry takes more than a state-of-the-art technology infrastructure and any trade leaders would agree that all businesses must at the end of the day be able to connect with people.

In view of this, HKBN ensures that its talent, particularly those on the frontline, are equipped with all the necessary skills and knowledge plus a good positive customer service mindset.

According to Mr So, prospective HKBN staff must possess basic technical and good communication skills. The entry requirement for technical supporting staff is a diploma, and the company welcomes young graduates with open arms. In fact, recruitment drives such as university campus talks have helped HKBN to snap up some the best talent Hong Kong's academia has to offer. "This gives young graduates the opportunity to understand more of our business while being informed of what an HKBN career would be like," says Mr So.

When assessing job candidates, he pays attention to their history of extracurricular activities in addition to academic qualifications.

"Our technical staff work closely with engineers and members of the support team to offer on-site maintenance support to residential and commercial customers and conduct regular broadband network checks at buildings," he says. "They interact with people from all walks of life on a daily basis. Exemplary people skills definitely add value to our products and services."

While it is important to send ideas and messages onsite back to the supporting office accurately, Mr So adds a dedicated employee should be diligent, observant and a good team player. "Customer support staff serve as the company's hands, ears and eyes. Office staff should in turn be able to assist in sorting out any onsite problems and following the instructions received," he says.

In addition, employees should be detail-oriented, be able to relay what they observe onsite while, at the same time, carry out emergency maintenance with efficiency and by exercising their expertise and good judgement. "For this reason, they also need to be clear about every working procedure required and be good listeners," he points out.

Growth path

In a bid to help new recruits to find their feet, HKBN has in place a comprehensive on-the-job training schedule. "There are not many institutions in Hong Kong that offer hands-on experience for students and that's why we provide our new staff a lot of opportunities to get their hands dirty," Mr So stresses. "New talent can also expect a steep and ongoing learning curve. One of the objectives is to keep staff abreast of the latest technology not only because change is constant in this industry but also because we launch new services frequently."

He remarks that generic training is complemented by mentoring, which is aimed at providing professional guidance at different career stages.

With a belief that advanced learning helps drive better personal efficiency and work performance, HKBN partners with the University of Wales in the UK to offer employees without a university degree extramural study opportunities. Staff may begin with a certificate programme in management, and work towards a diploma, an advanced diploma and subsequently a bachelor's degree in business management. Around 80 of HKBN employees have already received sponsorship from the company since the inception of the programme early last year.

"As a responsible employer, we offer aspiring staff the necessary flexibility to expand their expertise into new areas," Mr So emphasises.

Engineering staff typically begin their career as technicians, followed by assistant engineers and engineers. Those with good performance will then move up to become senior engineers, network operation consultants, assistant network operation managers, network operation managers, senior managers and other supervisory and managerial levels such as associate directors and directors.

It is also part of the company's talent management practice to identify high potential talent to fill middle management positions or transfer skilled personnel to other positions for wider exposure. "HKBN employees have ample opportunity to experience the buzz of the fast-paced industry," Mr So notes. "These people however are expected to be highly adaptable and able to cope well with new business challenge."

Winning basics

  • Technical staff equipped with skills, knowledge and a positive customer service mindset
  • Training for new talent aimed at building all-round competence
  • Engineers encouraged to assume managerial roles

Taken from Career Times 20 August 2010, B5

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