What kills me about China’s Internet companies, even listed, well capitalized companies, is their lack of attention to details. For example, today I called Beijing based travel agent e-long to book a ticket from Shanghai to Hong Kong using the company’s “In Mainland China Number: 400-810-1119”
Here is my conversation with e-Long’s travel agent:
Ymer: “Hi, I would like to buy a ticket from Shanghai to Hong Kong”
e-Long: “Are you calling from Beijing?”
Ymer: “No. I’m in Shanghai…”
e-Long: “I’m sorry, you can’t use this number to book a ticket from Shanghai, you can only use it in Beijing…”
Ymer: “So, why, on your website does it inform customers in mainland China to use 400-810-1119”?
e-Long: “I don’t know…”
Ymer: “Don’t you think that is a little strange? I can’t be the first person to bring this up…have you ever asked your manager why this is the case or made a suggestion that customer service should try and clarify this?”
e-Long: “…(silence for 30 seconds and then there was laughter and a gulp)…do you want the mobile number of my boss to ask him yourself?”
I get it that people in Shanghai like to talk to other Shanghainese (strange phenomenon in China), but this is easily solved by using a web based PBX software – there really isn’t any excuse for this sort of service.
At the very least there should be a feedback loop from the front line agent to her immediate boss whereby suggestions are made and executed upon. Japanese automotive manufacturer, Toyota, did this famously, whereby they called it Jidoka:
…It refers to the ability to stop production lines, by man or machine, in the event of problems such as equipment malfunction, quality issues, or late work. Jidoka helps prevent the passing of defects, helps identify and correct problem areas using localization and isolation, and makes it possible to “build” quality at the production process.
Maybe we need to come up with a similar process – we can call it “Zhong-doka 2.0” and start evangelizing it to China’s web-based community?