executive vice president, human resources
Photo: Edde Ngan
Staff training and service excellence make all the difference for innovative operator
As competition mounts in Hong Kong's challenging mobile telecommunications industry, players in the field need to differentiate their services to stay in the game. One leading service provider sees staff development as a crucial tool to create long-term value, gain customer loyalty and increase revenue.
"A key requirement these days is to offer firm-specific customer service and value-added solutions that can be customised according to subscribers' needs," says Wilson Hon, executive vice president, human resources, CSL Limited.
Established in 1983 as Hong Kong's first mobile operator, CSL currently offers mobile and roaming services under three brands: 1O1O, one2free and New World Mobility, targeting customers from different market segments.
The company is particularly committed to providing mobile services to Hong Kong's business sector, but some of its useful exclusive offerings are perhaps less well known, Mr Hon notes. Such options include a 24-hour toll-free customer hotline that allows outbound roamers to reach a customer service officer without incurring IDD roaming charges. The wide range of services also includes an emergency delivery service to subscribers who lose their handsets or SIM cards while travelling on the mainland, as well as free handset delivery to customers who buy a mobile phone or subscribe to CSL's mobile service through its customer hotline.
"Our customer support services demand a dedicated team of specialists that are knowledgeable about our products and services and possess outstanding people skills," says Mr Hon.
The launch last year of the operator's Next G mobile broadband network will create a need for more customer service officers with sound data-services knowledge in order for the company to meet the increasing demand for multimedia applications, he anticipates.
With people forming the backbone of CSL's business, the company invests heavily in talent development and believes customers will ultimately benefit from this.
In particular, the company's four-week customer service hotline training and development induction programme is one of the most comprehensive in the industry, covering organisational structure and value, basic product knowledge and service offerings, as well as customer management skills. Employees are equipped with a range of problem solving techniques and approaches to handle enquiries efficiently.
The aim of every commercial transaction is to ensure that customers are happy with their purchase and overall experience, says Mr Hon. However, the skills needed for face-to-face retail transactions are very different from those required for telephone communications with customers.
"Small things such as tone and volume of voice and speaking pace can all reflect the officer's attitude and willingness to help," he says. "These aspects are covered in our training."
New recruits also undergo telephone skills training based on different scenarios, a first for the industry, Mr Hon points out. "In addition to on-the-job training, staff are familiarised with our hotline features and computer system before they begin to take calls from customers," he explains. "They're therefore able to apply the techniques learnt during scenario training."
Telephone manners and problem solving are emphasised for call centre staff, while a proactive customer service approach is stressed for employees working in retail, so that they are able to take the initiative to understand and respond to customers' requirements, Mr Hon says.
Anticipating customer needs is one of the biggest challenges for the mobile telecommunications industry. CSL has therefore installed a state-of-the-art information system, providing comprehensive, updated information to support its call centre customer service staff.
Once employees have been trained to use the system, they can use it to pull the latest product and service information to provide customers with accurate and updated facts.
The company also stresses the importance of the English language in dealing with customers. Staff can take advantage of a three-month English-language programme offered in conjunction with an external educational institution. This should enable them to discuss confidently with English-speaking customers the company's products and services.
Typically, entry-level CSL customer service officers can expect to spend a year in one of the company's units, including retail stores and the call centre.
While employees may choose to continue working in a specific function, they are also given opportunities to tap into other areas within the organisation. "They can, for example, choose to develop cross-functional expertise as part of our corporate account and small- and medium-enterprise teams," Mr Hon remarks.
A university degree is not a prerequisite for entry-level officers, but job candidates must be service oriented and demonstrate a positive attitude, Mr Hon concludes.
- Comprehensive four-week induction programme fosters a skilled and client-focused team
- High-tech information system supports call-centre staff to answer queries efficiently
- Scope for career development in different areas within the organisation
Taken from Career Times 5 February 2010, B4