The days when a loyal customer base and good prices were direct routes to sales success are long gone.
As such, the ability to anticipate, meet and even exceed customer expectations often dictate the success of a business. This is particularly true for multinationals whose scopes of business encompass a wide spectrum of tangible and intangible services. This is where Intertek Testing Services Hong Kong Ltd comes into play.
Intertek is a global quality and safety services company with a key regional base in Hong Kong. The company provides testing, inspection, certification, and quality assurance services, helping clients from a broad range of industries worldwide to assess their products and commodities against a wide range of safety, regulatory, quality and performance standards.
"As a vital support partner, our role as independent consultants is to analyse and identify the product safety requirements of the countries that our clients' products are shipped to," says Yvonne Tse, senior sales and marketing manager of Intertek Hong Kong's textile & footwear division.
"We also assess the potential risks at different stages of the supply chain cycle for our clients and advise them on issues such as environmentally sound product design and manufacturing processes," Ms Tse adds.
Intertek's clients hail from industries as varied as textiles, food, toys, chemicals, electronics, oils and minerals. With constantly evolving testing regulations, laws and standards, they are not only under constant pressure to expand and diversify product lines within strict timeframes, but also seek to meet quality and safety requirements throughout the business process.
"In view of this, we need to take a proactive role and put ourselves in our clients' shoes to understand their businesses and to make them aware of potential risks and safety concerns, in order to enhance the quality of their products, service levels and brand image," stresses Laura Lam, Intertek's commercial & electrical sales manager.
Since the scope of the services that Intertek provides is extremely broad, the company depends on a sales force with all-round product, technical and market knowledge, notes Denise Chan, senior sales and marketing manager of Intertek's toys, food & hardlines division.
"Our clients in the department store business manage a large portfolio of suppliers. This is why we must be on constant alert as to how changing product regulations and standards will affect their business," Ms Chan explains.
Intertek's quality control and consulting services often stretch further than just a client's core business, Ms Chan explains. "For example, if one of our food and beverage clients wants to hand out toys as souvenirs, we will conduct a product review first and advise the client regarding any possible risks the toy might pose to children," she says.
Intertek supports global and local companies and customers in more than 110 countries, and the company adopts an efficient multi-centre quality control mechanism.
"Clients range from component suppliers, manufacturers and trading companies to wholesalers and retailers. A buyer for a particular product could be located in the West, the supplier in the East, and the end retailer somewhere in the middle. It is therefore an absolute must for us to be open-minded and to understand and appreciate cultural differences. Cross-cultural management is crucial," says Ms Tse.
While Intertek's extensive global coverage of more than 1,000 laboratories, worldwide offices, and 23,000-plus employees provides the company with competitive advantages, the majority of goods tested and inspected are manufactured in Asia, and particularly in mainland China.
Intertek's Hong Kong office continues to play an important role in maintaining client relationships due to its proximity to the mainland, says Ms Lam, who regularly conducts site visits in southern China with her clients, and sees the dynamic and diverse nature of her role as the most rewarding aspect of the job.
"This job always keeps me interested. Every day is different," agrees Ms Tse, who finds the close interaction with clients on different levels of the supply chain greatly satisfying.
"Our clients are all multinationals operating in different countries. We get to work with people from different cultures and often organise joint international trade shows and events with colleagues based in other parts of the world," Ms Chan adds.
The nature of the business does present many challenges. These include keeping up with changing testing regulations, standards and requirements. Ms Tse points out self-motivation and a positive attitude as absolutely indispensable. She advises candidates interested in the field to be proactive, creative and flexible and to work at cultivating good communication and interpersonal skills.
"Candidates must also be eager to learn and to expand their knowledge and understanding of a wide range of products and services," she emphasises, concluding that the ability to adapt to change is crucial for success.