Sales / Marketing

Training and motivation programmes perfect professionals

by Isabella Lee

NiQ Lai, chief financial officer, City Telecom (HK) Limited
Photo: Johnny Kwok

All-round staff development is the key to outperforming rivals in the fiercely competitive telecoms market

In the highly competitive and fast-moving telecommunications industry, business success always comes at big cost.

After the Hong Kong telecommunications market was opened up, City Telecom (HK) Limited (CTI) stepped in to provide residential and corporate fixed network and international telecommunications services across Hong Kong. It quickly grew into a major provider of operational voice and broadband services with its wholly-owned subsidiary, Hong Kong Broadband Network Limited (HKBN), providing the world's fastest residential 1Gbps, 100Mbps, 25Mbps and 10Mbps broadband Internet access, telephony, IP-TV and corporate data services through its self-built Metro Ethernet IP network.

In addition to its emphasis on technical edges, the group takes great pains to nurture the skills behind the sales services it delivers. Its sales team of 200-plus professionals is trained to provide outstanding services to customers. "Millions of dollars are invested every year in staff training," says NiQ Lai, chief financial officer of CTI.

New joiners to the sales team go through an intensive induction course that covers broadband knowledge, basic English, skills in personal communications and negotiation. The course was jointly developed by the marketing, and the training and development departments to ensure that, before working solo, newcomers acquire practical experience through hands-on training guided by the team leaders.

To extend the staff's repertoire, the training and development department also organises different in-house training programmes covering grooming skills, emotional selling skills and appropriate phrases in English. CTI believes it is important for sales team members to reflect the quality of the company from the uniforms they wear to the words they use. "Our sales team members not only stand out smartly in their suits and project a professional image, they also have the necessary tools to communicate with the customers," says Mr Lai. "In CTI, our goal is not just to sell the products off the shelves. We focus on telling potential customers about the long-term benefits our services will bring them."

Life-time learning

To continue career development of its staff, CTI has set up the Life Time Learning Centre, a venue for professional advancement able to handle up to 150 participants. It is a well-equipped facility for skill or knowledge-based training sessions and seminars as well as an all- weather location for such activities as large-scale meetings, team-building exercises and reading days.

"Continuous learning is highly encouraged in our company," says Mr Lai. "Employees are offered a half day off for group reading every month. Besides the various internal training programmes such as seminars hosted by experts from respected institutions, our employees are eligible for an external education subsidy of up to 30 per cent of their monthly salary. This is yet another way CTI employees grow their careers with the company." All sales team members are non-contract staff enjoying full remuneration, including paternity leave for male employees to welcome their new family members.

Beyond its attractive wage and welfare package, CTI operates a Free-Zone multi-purpose staff canteen to realise and enjoy the concept of work-life balance. The Free-Zone is designed to create an oasis for staff to temporarily ease out of their hectic daily schedules and "recharge their batteries". From breakfast to dinner, the canteen serves self-made dishes, including home-recipe soups as the daily special. The restaurant facilities include such state-of-the-art facilities as large plasma screens and symmetric 100 Mbps Internet access, enabling it to double as a venue for private staff functions.

In a bid to strengthen staff morale, an incentive trip to Japan is going to be organised this month for 80 high-performers at a location chosen by the staff themselves. "Encouragement is always a key to staff motivation," says Mr Lai.

Action on staff feedback

CTI also treasures staff members who become its internal customers, and has a staff engagement department (SED) to enhance benefits for its workforce. The SED team is formed by representatives from the administration, human resources, training and development, and general affairs and control departments. CTI treats its human resources as the company's most valuable asset, regarding them as "internal VIPs".

"The SED is a strong communication channel for all employees to express their needs in furthering their careers. We carefully take note of all reasonable requests and implement them when possible and practical," says Mr Lai.

One gainful suggestion concerned the outdoor sales teams who had to manhandle parts of dismantled promotion booths to sites where promotions were being staged. As a result, CTI now provides a van for transport all the equipment required for such promotions. "I believe we are the very first telecoms company giving this kind of support to staff," says Mr Lai. "A happy staff brings happy customers, so we will continue to provide quality services both to our staff members and our customers."

All-round training

  • Millions invested yearly in training
  • Skills of sales force constantly honed
  • Intensive induction course for newcomers
  • Smart clothes project professional image
  • Life Time Learning Centre takes 150 staff

Taken from Career Times 02 February 2007
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