Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chinese banks' efficiency

I must be spoiled by HSBC and Wells Fargo; now in Beijing, I found even China Merchant Bank, the so-named China's best retail bank, still has a long way to go.

I was in the Dawang Road branch of CMB yesterday to apply for a new account. It took over half an hour waiting and half an hour to process. The other customers have same situation too. In fact, there are quite a few ways to improve the service, just a bit effort.

Ways to improve the customer experience based on the operation theory:
Reduce paper work and word-typing process. There are so many paper work involved in each service, while customer don't necessarily need it. For example for easy service such as deposit, signature is not necessarily needed. Another example is to reduce the required blank for applying new account, such as office phone/home phone.etc.

Add the number of customer rep in the normal service counter. Right now, there are three customer representatives serving in the hall(one manager, two intern), six reps in four normal service counter, three reps in the wealth management counter, maybe a few in the VIP room, too. Among the four normal service counter, one is in charge of easy service, and the other three are dealing with complicated service. The whole bottleneck is here. CMB can try to move the reps from the wealth management counter to the normal service counter to reduce the waiting line. Reps in wealth management counter basically doing nothing, while reps in the normal service counters are busy to death. CMB should increase the utilization in the other counter by letting them doing normal services.


Entertain customer while they are waiting. There are a lot of ad post but they are not entertaining at all. CMB should add some newspaper/magazine or some TV screen to attract customers' attention from waiting. Those entertaining tool will dramatically reduce customers' complain.

Good luck to CMB and other Chinese banks on the way.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

bad service in Lotus Beijing Lotus Supercenter retail store in Beijing

If you are ever in Beijing, never ever go to Lotus Supercenter retail stores. It might be close to your place, but you will sacrifice your good mood for this convenience.

I got a very bad experience in a Lotus Store in Beijing near Chaoyang park. I left my basket in a corner, and went to get something else. The basket just disappeared. I asked one customer rep, and she said she doesn't know. I asked another customer rep, and he said he is charge of the other area. There's a manager-look lady asked a rep to help me, and the rep's answer is she can't help since she just got off the work. I asked totally six employees, and no one ever felt responsible for an annoyed customer.

It turns out Lotus has this rule of return every goods left in five minutes, and someone may mistake my basket as a leftover. I understand this, but that can't be the reason for them to collect the goods basket the customer is still shopping with in two minutes. The rule is a burden to the customer, just because the store wants to keep the goods in order. Shame on them.

More importantly, no one takes an ownership on a single customer. i don't know how Lotus trained their employees, and how they got paid(definitely not for customers but probably for the speed of returning the goods). Every rep looked at me like there's nothing to do with them, instead of trying to take the responsibility to help me. When I asked to see the manager, a rep even said he is not allowed to cross the level to report to the manager.

I used to think the service in Asia is much better, but if you ever in Whole Foods or Safeway in U.S., you can feel like being helped. Reps will approach you and say "do you need help", the countermen or counterwomen will say "did u find everything ok. It's a pity that Lotus is founded by Charoen Pokphand Group, a well-respected Thai conglomerate.

With such a bad service, no wonder Lotus is losing a lot of money in China. It hired two senior WalMart excutive, Jim Haworth and Terry Pharr to save the loss in the beginning of the year and changed the company's Chinese names. My only words to the Jim and Terry: train your people to be customer-centric, instead of rule-centric; or everyone will stop going.

I have to spend 73 rmb in the store today, and will never pay them a cent in the future. Will go to Carrefour though it is a bit far.

If Lotus has a stock, definitely go short.

happiness can be contagious

Happiness can be contagious, even happiness from strangers. so how about an idea of happiness social network?

From New York Times:

How happy you are may depend on how happy your friends’ friends’ friends are, even if you don’t know them at all.

And a cheery next-door neighbor has more effect on your happiness than your spouse’s mood.

So says a new study that followed a large group of people for 20 years — happiness is more contagious than previously thought.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Reform Chinese media just like reform banks?

It's a shame for English media to miss this interview in Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly.Liu Binjie, the director of General Administration of Press and Publication in China, said the state-owned media organization should be restructured in the way as banks did. This is a strong signale on an incoming big reform in China on media organizations, and also a sign that Chinese press and publishing industry have to reform in order to survive.

If people, can remember, Chinese banks did restructure itself a few years ago, while the big four already or are going to list in the stock exchange, making the organizations more transparent.

If what Liu said is true, the impact will be huge on the media industry. For example, the newspaper industry in China prints over 44 billion pieces of newspaper every year; if each piece costs an average 2 rmb, it's gonna be a US$12 billion industry just by selling newspaper, not to mention advertising and so on.

For the book publishing industry, Liu said it will legalize the private capital's role in the industry. This means the private capital can directly publish books in the future, which will make the book publishing market more efficient, and I expect more innovative content will be generated.

Liu also talked about the plan to set up three big media groups with annual revenue over $10 billion. This is an easy part, since right now there are already three including CCTV, SMG and Southern Daily Group. This may not be a good thing for a media start-up, but at least their operation will be more transparent when they are listed.

Hope emerges amid the global financial crisis.