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Funny Company Name September 17, 2007

Posted by psychobserver in Hong Kong, Snapshots.

Many small companies in Hong Kong are hasty when choosing their company names, especially the translation of the name in English. What of a restaurant called “Eat Well Restaurant” or “Lucky Restaurant”. Below, I just wanted to highlight an example that I find particularly funny.

Plan B Design Lab Hong Kong

An interior design company called “Plan B Design Lab”… “Plan B”!!?? Does that mean that you need to have tried another design company first and then you can ask for their services if the first designer failed and messed up your apartment?


Manpower website August 15, 2007

Posted by psychobserver in Snapshots, Usability.
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Obviously, as I am currently looking for a job, I spend a lot of time on recruitment Web sites. Overall, I find them quite intuitive, but today one stood out from the rest. It stood out not only because it was not usable, but also because it made me “upset”.

I put quotes around  “upset” as it may be too strong a word. In customer experience everything is about emotions, and feelings that experiences trigger. In this case, a simple confirmation page did the trick. I felt treated like a batch of files to process and almost teased at. (See picture)

Manpower Confirmation Page

I registered my profile and uploaded my resume on Manpower. After submitting my information, here comes the confirmation page: “Congratulations, Preferred Candidate!”

Everything in this line is wrong:

  1. I just submitted my personal information and I am still referred as a “Preferred Candidate”. Why don’t they use my name?
  2. The word “Preferred” is somewhat strange, as every single candidate registering on the Web site is “preferred”. What value does that provide me?
  3. The word “Congratulations” is really too much! My task, my aim is to look for a job. I get congratulated because I created an account? What’s to be happy about that? Just get over that account creation and show me some job openings. Or should I be contempt with the fact that I created an account?

Just in one sentence, the company manages to show very clearly their disconnect with candidates and the fact that candidates are treated just like files and not people, which maybe is what Manpower is about in a way.

This is just an example of a problem on their websites. I could go on with the “Next page” button on top of the page when doing a search ( it took me three searches to see it), and the lack of posting date for ads in the search (an information crucial to the candidate).

Customer experience is sometimes (often?) created out of the small things. Especially when your customer is carrying a heavy luggage into the experience (for example, candidates may be quite low as their job search drags on and are quite sensitive), tone and phrasing is very important in order to build a positive experience.

Starbucks – The four sizes trap August 14, 2007

Posted by psychobserver in Customer Experience, Hong Kong, Snapshots.

Having four sizes (Short, Tall, Grande and Venti or “小”, “中”, “大” and “特大”) is not new in the US, but it is rather new in Hong Kong and China. What is newer still is the way barristers consistently try to trick customers into buying larger cups. It has been twice for me to face the problem in few days. The conversation goes like this:

Starbucks cup sizesCustomer: “I would like a tall latte.”

Barrister: (Showing three cup sizes on the counter and pointing to the middle one) “You mean you want this size?”

Customer: “Well, I want a tall one. If that one is a tall one, then yes, I want a tall one.”

Barrister: “Okay then, I give you this one.”

The result if the customer does not check the price is that he just paid for a “grande” instead of a tall coffee. Try asking for a “short” size, the discussion goes on even longer.

The trick is even worse when using chinese. Asking for a “tall” coffee in Chinese is “中”, which means medium. If the staff shows you three cups, pointing to the one in the middle, and asks you to confirm you really want this one, you will end up with a Grande every single time.

For a company that is supposed to strive on customer experience, it feels really pathetic to face this kind of situation.

A lamp? A lamp as a logo? July 4, 2007

Posted by psychobserver in Customer Experience, Snapshots.
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Bossini LogoSome time ago (I guess around 6 months ago) Bossini went through a rebranding. When I first saw their new logo, the word that came to my mind was: “Lamp”. The logo looked definitely like a lamp (fact tested with other people). And Bossini being a clothing chain, I kept on wondering why their logo would look like a lamp. I first thought that they just did not realize their logo aimed at looking like a “B” actually looked like a lamp, but the resemblance was too striking… So could it be that they wanted to move into home accessories?

Today I have my answer. Browsing on their corporate website in the brand image section there is an explanation that, firstly, confirms that the logo is indeed a lamp; and that, secondly, explains why it is a lamp. Below is the copy from the Web site:

“Our signature lamp icon signifies that we are always looking out for and taking care of each and every family member.”

Now, the good thing about this logo is that people can identify that the logo is a lamp. But then we may wonder if people seeing a lamp will guess the true meaning it has. It is good to develop brand messages, but it is even better to develop an image that clearly carries that message…

Unbreakable! January 1, 2007

Posted by psychobserver in Customer Experience, Hong Kong, Snapshots.
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Following the Earthquake in Taiwan last week, the Internet as well as roaming and IDD services have encountered very serious disruptions. I personally could not access the Internet for almost four straight days…

When I say I could not access the Internet, there are a few exceptions. Of course I could access Web sites hosted in Hong Kong, but more surprising was the resilience of all Google Web sites. While Yahoo and MSN “networks” were entirely down, it was still possible to access most Google Web site like Gmail, Blogger or YouTube. Of course, downloading videos was not working on YouTube for example, but the interface was loading fine. Especially Gmail was working rather smoothly and offered a pretty useful option that allowed using the Web site in simple HTML mode.

Gmail Slow Connection Message

It is in time of crisis that we can differentiate the best from the others… once again it is thumbs-up for Google.

“Mr. Egg… Please Show Me Your ID!” December 14, 2006

Posted by psychobserver in Customer Experience, Snapshots.
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It is not one day in Hong Kong without getting a warning on TV about poisonous food. Sometimes it is fish, sometimes vegetable or some other fake products, and they all come from China. As a result a brand new market opportunity has been created for “certified good” food. China even created the “Edible Farm Product” label that they grant to brands with strict quality control of their production.

While I was at the Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo, I chatted for a while with Mr. Tony Sin the project director of De Qing Yuan (Website only in Chinese) a Beijing company that is entering the Hong Kong market. Armed with the Chinese Green Food label and a strict process control, they aim at introducing their product – eggs – in Hong Kong by positioning them as the safe option to other brands. Their pricing would be in between normal eggs and “organic” eggs.

Another difference with these eggs will be that the date of production instead of some expiry date will be stamped on the egg itself. Those expiry dates really mean nothing to me as they are so remote in the future (at least in Hong Kong supermarkets), but having the production date on the egg could be scary depending on the speed at which the supermarket can empty its shelves. Although I got used to seeing these expiry date, I don’t know what would be my reaction to seeing eggs with a production date long in the past…

In short, there is huge market opportunity here, but isn’t it a bit scary that maybe not long from now, while shopping, we will have to choose from the following two sections:

1. Reasonable price, BUT EAT AT YOUR OWN RISK
2. MORE EXPENSIVE, but safe to eat

41st Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo December 12, 2006

Posted by psychobserver in Snapshots.
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The expo is definitely not what I expected. With a name like that I expected some kind of display of Hong Kong best brands that would promote themselves. Nope Nope… The expo is actually a gigantic market where you can buy whatever you want from brands that are or not from Hong Kong. Food is the main item, but products span from beauty stuff and Chinese medicine to clothing and furniture (photo album on Flickr).

The expo is still interesting to understand what makes Hong Kong consumers buy…

Rule #1: Product demonstration always attract crowds
Rule #2: Display discounts all over your booth
Rule #3: Get a loudspeaker louder than your neighbor’s


Get ready for a looonnnnggggg day

When Will They Get It? November 15, 2006

Posted by psychobserver in Snapshots.
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Around 2 months ago, my Internet connection stopped working. It took me plenty of courage to get myself to go through the PCCW hotline and solve my problem (I usually prefer going to a store rather than trying Call Centers). As I was on the phone, the support person told me my Now Broadband TV subscription was almost over and that he could propose me some good deals to renew it. He said he would call back two days later.

Time passed…

… and passed…

And two days ago I decided, seeing one of these PCCW Now booths in the street to go and check for myself. I discovered that my contract was already over and that they just had continued to charge the service as usual. Well, I consider myself lucky that they did not start charging more without telling me, so that’s fine.

Then the guy started to enumerate the different options I had to renew. Of course all of them were forcing me sign a new contract for 12 to 18 months, even though I have been a customer for more than 18 months. After some negotiation, he told me that there was a way for me to get a nice subscription and 3 months for free. He just had to treat me as a new customer, come to pick up my current set-top box and replace it by a brand new one.

Reluctant to sign for a long contract, I asked him what would happen if I was switching subscription through the DIY (do-it-yourself) TV system they have. He told me: “Well, you would pay full price and get no discount.”

To summarize, if as a customer I change my subscription I use the way that costs the least to the company, then I will pay the most (that’s DIY). And if I ask the support person to stop my current contract and come to my place to exchange the hardware, then I will pay the least for the service. How could a company do something more mind-bending than that?

Well… This kind of things happen of course everyday, but I just had to write about it!

The Solution to Branding November 11, 2006

Posted by psychobserver in Snapshots.
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Last week-end, as my dad was visiting, I went to Shenzhen to show him the difference between Hong Kong life and China life. Sure enough, you cannot summarize China by looking at Shenzhen, but you see a big difference with Hong Kong right when you cross the border. Colors are paler. It is dusty everywhere because of the continuous construction going on. People look tired. You can tell you are not in Hong Kong anymore. You can tell you are in a country that is developing and in a city that is still struggling to find its identity.

On one of our errands, we saw a celebration in the street. A Hong Kong jewelry brand was celebrating a very important event. That brand had joined the exclusive circle of “CHINA FAMOUS BRANDS” as the certificate that they were showing off explained (see picture on the right).

That got me thinking… How can a certificate, be it from the most important government body, give you the status of a famous brand. Aren’t the people supposed to decide which company is famous and which one is not?

Now, I am reading “1 Billion Customers” by James Mc Gregor right now (a book that I recommend to anybody with interest in doing business in China). In the book he explains how the Chinese government when there is a lot of money at stake will find ways to benefit more from it.

To me that example could be one of these. Branding, advertising and marketing in general are great sources of revenue. So, what if the government could issue a document that decided whether you were famous or not, whether your brand was a valuable asset or not, wouldn’t that be a great power in the hands of the government?

Targeting the niche November 10, 2006

Posted by psychobserver in Snapshots.
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Going mainstream gets harder and harder by the day. Significant behavioral differences and increasing expectations among customers makes it near impossible to develop a message that will reach every consumer. As a result targeting niche segment can become a more and more valuable option. That is one option that the Telecom provider Smartone is following in Hong Kong by targeting explicitly the Filipino community.

Smartone brand is usually red and white, but this store closed to a Filipino hotspot in Hong Kong Causeway Bay has been totally rebranded to fit the community taste and even displays Bahasa language instead of English or Chinese. Shops assistants are of course Filipinos as well. With a huge Filipino community, dedicated Filipino shops are not uncommon in Hong Kong, but it is very uncommon for a “big” company to recognize the fact and spend the effort to research the needs of that community. With no other company following the example as thoroughly, Smartone surely has a huge lead in a community of several hundred thousands.