Compared with some of the business giants involved in the mobile phone industry, China Mobile Peoples Telephone Company (Peoples) is a relatively small company with about 700 employees. Licensed in 1996, it was purchased as a listed company by China Mobile in 2006.
According to director and CEO Charles Henshaw, Hong Kong's six mobile operators have quite different office structures and hierarchical organisations. "Peoples has a very flat organisational chart. We have an open door policy and a friendly and understanding work atmosphere," he says. "The functional relationship between the divisions is good. Teamwork comes from the committees, and the strength of the company's human resources is our culture — it's like a family concern."
In the marketplace
In terms of sales and marketing strategies, Peoples keeps a keen focus on the market. "We look at market developments very carefully and match products that fit in with all the different types of tariff plans," explains Mr Henshaw. "This means that a subscriber wanting any particular mobile phone plan can come to us and get the best deal. In that sense it's given us a pretty easy marketing ride — keep an eye on the market itself and provide a very competitive product right across the board."
In addition, Peoples closely studies what subscribers need, in particular analysing the practices of their main user groups. "This helps us establish what is wanted and not wanted, what you like if it is free or what you like if you had to pay for it," he points out. "We employ a lot of such good feedback to test the market. Also we keep a very close eye on feedback from our customer hotline, and study all viewpoints and opinions very seriously, looking at every single input."
Subscribers contacting the hotline with complaints or suggestions are assured that their views will be properly followed up. All calls are logged and registered with the hotline's software. "If there is no response within a certain period the complaint is flagged, and the supervisors get involved," Mr Henshaw adds.
Another strength of the company is that it owns and operates 47 retail outlets and does not sell its products through outside dealers. Efficient after-sales services are provided from these points of sales, where customer care extends to access to billing, various sales plans and new products.
Ways of keeping staff
Contrary to the general trend in the sales and marketing field, Peoples has a good track record in staff retention. Mr Henshaw credits this to the company's efforts in avoiding making an employee redundant, and rewarding performance via salary increases and discretional bonuses. "Another point is that we avoid outsourcing work," he explains. "We hire from within first and will move personnel between our divisions before going to outside sources. If a job doesn't work out, an employee can move back to his original position. In response to this company philosophy, both management and general staff have repaid us by being loyal and productive."
Turnover among sales staff is low by industry standards since the staff does not have to compete with other dealers. "We want to keep our sales staff happy and motivate them to work together," Mr Henshaw notes. "It's how they feel for the company and what they do for it that is crucial to us. If you get a company situation where the employees are always worried, they are not thinking about the job, just their worries. Take that away, and make sure people get the benefits and the rewards they deserve, and they will turn their attention back to the job."
It follows that Peoples has a rewards system and a twice-yearly appraisal system. Incentive schemes are closely monitored to ensure they are not "cutthroat" in nature, and all the shops are checked monthly for productivity.
With mobile phone companies bringing out as many as 40 new phone models every year, training is important to determine if a particular mobile phone suits clients' needs. To be able to supply on-the-spot answers to customers' questions, each shop has a data services specialist on call to explain the intricacies of push email, GPRS, mobile TV and a host of other innovations.
Summing up the difference between Peoples' people, and the mobile phones they deal in, Mr Henshaw concludes, "Good people make the company — hardware and software come and go but with the right people you get enthusiasm and initiative, creativity and responsibility that cannot be replaced."