Customer Service, Chinese style.

china-passport-control.jpgAnother flight, another blog. I have been wanting to post this one for sometime now. Immigration officers world over are known for their surly attitude. Russia and India will perhaps vie for top honors here. With the Olympics approaching China is polishing up its act. The immigration counters at Beijing airport have an instant customer feedback mechanism in place, since at least April.

As you can see from the picture you press one of the 4 buttons (with smiley faces corresponding to the rating) to rate the service received from “very satisfied” to “very unsatisfied”. Importantly you can do this only after getting your passport back (so no risk of giving a bad rating and getting detained with uncomfortable questions). This seems to be having some effect as I have consistently recieved a smile, a hello and ultra quick service over the last 4 months, everytime I have travelled.

 The feedback is unique to each officer as their employee code flashes on the screen when you press the button. Presumably at the end of the shift they (or their bosses) can see how many rated them “excellent” and how many rated them “poor”. I am not aware of how the authorities are using this, but whosoever came up with the idea needs to complimented. In a society where “face” is very important, being publicly lauded or shamed is a great incentive for shaping up.

The message I get out of this as a foreigner is, China means business. Every minute detail is being looked at to make a positive impression during the Olympics. Not everything may come off perfectly ( e.g.Beijing pollution control is still a challenge), but it will not be due to lack of effort and focus. I hope the organisers of Delhi Commonwealth games in 2010 and Sochi (in Russia) Winter Olympics in 2014 are paying attention.

 If I were to distil a marketing thought out of this, it would be that the use of “behavioral science” can help in enhancing customer service (in public as well as private sector).

Another recent example of this approach: Errant Thai police officers being asked to wear pink “Hello Kitty” armbands. This one had to be abandoned due to protests from the staff as well as Hello Kitty fans. More on that here.


2 responses to “Customer Service, Chinese style.

  1. Nice.

    Face saving is one reason why the Chinese are making this effort but there is also national pride associated with hosting the olympics. Significant (sporting) events are opportunities for nations/ cities to re position themselves… e.g. Germany’s effort at the Football World Cup last year to be seen as innovative but more importantly hospitable.

    It comes down to whether the event can galvanise mass pride in the citizens of the city / nation enough to make the re-positioning work. In recent visits to Delhi I noticed sporadic campaigns to encourage hospitality to tourists but have to say have not noticed any mass pride associated with hosting the Commonwealth… having already ranked amongst the rudest cities to visit, I hope they really are taking notice of the good work done elsewhere…

  2. I experienced this customer service when I flied from Beijing to Tokyo three weeks ago. Before I experienced the high level service in Japan, I thought our Chinese custom officers did improve their attitude towards the passengers. So I pressed the satisfied button at that time. However, when I arrived in Beijing airport from Tokyo, I could not cheat myself that I could still press the satisfied button. Compared to Japan, the service in China is not that satisfied, the obvious one is no any smiles shown on staff’s faces. We could argue that maybe it is because Japan and China have different culture which causes different service level. However, I just want to say, there is a long way to go if we want to provide high service level when we hold the Olympics. We can buy advanced machine from Japan or other advanced countries, we can improve the public transportation and the environment, but we can not buy people with hard working attitude, high self-disciplined, and high service level. Same as an organization, people is the most important asset.

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