Companies in the fast-moving and perpetually changing telecommunications industry must adapt to change if they are to succeed.
"The one thing that remains the same is the ever-changing nature of the business," says Ellis Ng, learning and development manager, City Telecom (HK) Limited (CTI). "When our company first started up in Hong Kong 15 years ago, we made a remarkable breakthrough in the IDD market. But the growing popularity of the Internet had far reaching financial consequences."
Rather than accepting the decline in business, CTI adjusted its business focus. Eyeing the mounting network service demand, the company formed a wholly owned subsidiary, Hong Kong Broadband Network Limited (HKBN) in 1999. Through investing billions in its own infrastructure and advanced technology, HKBN successfully established the world's largest Metro Ethernet network in 2002. It continues to expand coverage from the existing 1,300,000 homes to the targeted 2,000,000, which will mean reaching 95 per cent of Hong Kong's population.
Mr Ng points out that the shift in business focus is an example of inevitable transformations. "We foresaw that when people started to communicate via the Internet free, traditional long-distance call services would have lost their position," he says. "Faced with such changes in customer behaviour, we shifted our business focus and developed a set of sales and marketing strategies. Today, our broadband service has become a flagship product in the group."
HKBN is now the largest alternative end-to-end network in Hong Kong. It provides ultra-fast broadband Internet access, telephony and corporate data services, and IPTV. "As a forward-thinking telecommunications service provider, we keep upgrading our systems and emphasising the quality of our services," Mr Ng says. Customers nowadays want speedy and reliable Internet access at a reasonable price. To exceed expectation, the group focuses on enhancing customer experience. "We provide creative analogies to introduce our advanced products along the selling process," he explains. To cater for customer needs, a selection of up to six different bandwidths from symmetric 10Mbps to 1000Mbps at different subscription fees are currently on offer. "It is the variety of choice plus our ground-breaking approach that make us a market leader," Mr Ng notes.
To provide the best quality service, HKBN requires its employees to be innovative and constantly ready for challenge. Mr Ng says, "Our sales and marketing staff need to be adept at assisting customers as new technologies emerge. For instance, they should be able to maintain good customer interaction, in particular, make creative analogies that puts hi-tech jargon into laymen's language so that customers can understand more about our products."
The increasing number of customer accounts and needs for value-added service enhancement call for an even stronger arm of marketing professionals. Depending on the different functions of the teams, marketing staff are expected to contribute in the design of strategic plans for customer acquisition and retention, improve the group's corporate brand image, and enrich the already extensive product portfolio.
A class above
HKBN aims to set itself apart from competitors. To build a distinctive corporate image, instead of the "normative" T-shirts, all HKBN sales persons must be attired properly in shirts and pants. Sales and marketing staff must also possess higher academic qualifications and related work experience. To reward performance, generous remuneration packages are on offer. Staff can expect to take home an above-the-average pay packet, and benefits such as medical and dental care, as well as paternity leave. "We create a platform for career development," Mr Ng stresses. "With us, staff can realise their potentials, build a career and subsequently achieve their career goals."
To encourage personal development, staff undertaking external education programmes can claim a subsidy of up to 30 per cent of their monthly salary. If needed, they can also apply for a maximum of one year's sabbatical leave without having their employment benefits cut. "We've received many positive feedbacks on our learning policy. Many of our sales and marketing colleagues are taking MBA or degree programmes," Mr Ng says.
Further, new recruits go through an intensive orientation programme that familiarises them with the group's background and operations. Ongoing training are in place to keep staff abreast of the latest industry know-how. Mr Ng adds, "We invite heavy-weight experts to organise seminars and training sessions on various topics to facilitate professional and personal growth."
Mr Ng remarks, in the highly competitive telecommunications sales and marketing field, one must be able to manage stress. "If you can handle that and truly enjoy working with new products, the industry offers ample opportunities for you to exercise your quick-thinking and creative mind," he concludes.