Hong Kong

DRM stupidity

A year ago we arrived in Hong Kong with no TV, but a Mac Mini, broadband connection and a stack of DVDs from the UK.  When the DVDs were all watched we turned to the local video shop to hire or buy DVDs.  Only they would not work. Hong Kong is in a different region to the UK.  The DRM of dinosaur logic does not allow you to be an international traveler.   If we wanted to buy new DVDs in Hong Kong we would have to make a decision to effectively throw away our UK DVDs.  And it was then that we really discovered Bit Torrent…

I was just a humble consumer wanting to do the right thing but was denied this by the entertainment industry and their flawed business model.  (Indeed rather than preventing piracy DRM encourages it).  Now our own Prime Minister has experienced the same thing after being given a collection of Region 1 DVDs by Obama that he cannot watch because they are unplayable on his Region 2 DVD player.

“Maybe this experience will help the British government understand how many of the entertainment industry’s efforts to strengthen intellectual property controls do little more than irritate legitimate consumers.”

On doing business in Hong Kong…

…there are two things that are essential, the business card and the company chop. Every business meeting starts with the customary exchange of business cards, after a year in Hong Kong I have amassed a mountain of them that lined up end to end would get me a fair distance. And no official document is official without a company chop – ink stamp in any other language. Probably a remnant from British bureaucracy, a signature is not sufficient, no document is complete without a chop. The fact that you can get a chop made up at any stationers doesn’t seem to matter. In fact you’d probably get away with a potato print as a chop if you were that was your thing. The chop and the card are de rigueur, if there was something else I might add it would be the fax machine. It is not unusual to suggest correspondence via email to be told to send a fax instead.

Day trip to Shenzhen

Day trip to Shenzhen from Hong Kong. Most nationalities can now get visas at the border (why do us Brits get screwed with such expensive visas?), but be warned, you have to pay for them in RMB. Once you’ve cleared immigration Hong Kong side there is no ATM, so if you’ve got no Chinese money, you are at the mercy of the folk in no-mans land. There’s a counter by the visa office that will change money, but the rate is truly lousy.

Where are the missing floors?

Lift panel with numbers missing

It is fairly standard practice in Hong Kong for buildings to have no thirteenth or fourteenth floors. They are considered unlucky numbers. Not sure what happened to the first, second and fifth floor here. And back-to-front button numbering that is neither in the telephone format nor the phone format. There’s a couple of lessons to learn here; when designing human-technology interactions consider cultural norms and existing design stereotypes. (Sorry, its the Human Factors conditioning in me that notices such things).

How to keep magic moments magic

This is rather sad, I was thinking about this post in the shower this morning.  The past few weeks I’ve been going into the same Starbucks on the way to work.  After a few days the barista saw that I am a creature of habit and no sooner had I walked in was she preparing a small black coffee.  The first time that happened was a real magic moment (via Experience Zen).  After a while though, that magic moment becomes the norm.  What delighted me at first I now expect when I walk in.  So in the shower this morning I was thinking about this and wondering how do you keep magic moments magic.  But before I come to that, as I went into Starbucks today the barista asked me my name and introduced herself (this isn’t the US, a Cantonese local asking a stuffy Brit their name breaks social conventions I think!)  So now we are on first name terms.  That’s a magic moment of sorts.  But after a while that too will become the norm.  The real lasting magic moments are going to be those that randomly delight me.  What if one day she says “don’t worry Marc, it’s on the house today”.  That would be unexpected, random and special.  Like being offered an upgrade on a flight without asking for it.  What can you do today to randomly delight your customer?

Cross cultural considerations at the Sandwich bar

In their paper Content preparation for cross-cultural e-commerce: a review and a model, Liao et al. conclude that (1) Westerners pay more attention to information about product components or contents than East Asians and (2) East Asians pay more attention to information about price… than westerners. This is in the context of eCommerce in “present[ing] appropriate information content to facilitate consumers’ decision making”.

A practical example of this in the bricks and morter world can be seen at this Sandwich bar in Hong Kong.

Sandwich bar counter

Clearly modeled on the western way of buying sandwiches, the counter layout supports the customer selecting the product (sandwiches and fillings on display) moving on to the cashier at the end of the counter to pay.

This isn’t the way things are done in Hong Kong where money comes first before the product. “Please place your order at the cashier”… before dwelling in front of the display cabinet. This results is congestion around the cashier counter and poor workflow and a slow and tedious customer experience.

Sandwich bar or internet offering, consider cultural differences before transferring the concept and content.

Chinese immigration – how did I do today?

Today is one of those days. A meeting in Zhuhai at 11am. Take the 08:40 ferry from Hong Kong, no problem. I’d researched the ferry times, got to the ferry port with loads of time to spare and went up to the ticket counter. “Ticket to Zhuhai please”. Suddenly there was an earlier 8am ferry leaving in five minutes, if I run I could catch it. “You’re sure this goes to Zhu…” I started to ask, but the man behind the counter cut me off. “Yes it goes to zhunzen, now hurry!” but I didn’t hear him correctly, I was focussed on a boat leaving earlier than expected, and that would definitely get me to my meeting on time. Communication Breakdown. It was only as the ferry left Hong Kong and turned right rather than left I realised my mistake. I was on the boat to Shenzen.

But that is not the purpose of this post. Arriving in China, when going through passport control, under the glass window there is a little box with three buttons on it, inviting you to rate your experience – green for perfect, yellow for satisfactory and red for unsatisfactory. Capturing customer feedback at the time of the experience. Howe much more valuable is that than asking customers to complete a lengthy questionnaire some time later, after the event. I think that websites could learn from this. Rather than a pop-up inviting customers to complete a questionnaire of a number of pages (often this appears just as you start your experience at the site), why not get customers to “rate this page” or “rate your experience” as a simple thumbs up or down (as you might Digg comments). This will provide instant feedback, maybe not qualitative, but quick and simple quantative data.

And if I had the ability to rate today? Right now, as I sit in a dingy cafe waiting the two hours for the next ferry back to Hong Kong, with a rapidly flattening laptop battery, I’d have to press the thumbs down, unsatisfactory red light on my current experience.

Forty five grand to line your trolleys up?

Trolleys lined up at Hong Kong MTR station

They’ve thought about the customer at Hong Kong airport. At every MTR station on the express route to the aiport, the trolleys have been lined up so that they are in front of the passengers getting off the train. No hunting for a free trolley – they are waiting for you! Nice!

But stop to think about that. Someone is employed to line up the trolleys. Given the hours the station is open (18 hours) it is going to be more than one person every day, more likely two; three to cover shifts across the whole week. Trains arrive every 15 minutes, so there will be other tasks for this role to do, but if they are offering a consistent customer experience then the focus will be this role.

So let’s work a UK equivalent, we need to employ three additional employees at, say, £8 per hour. Once Employers National Insurance is factored in (and not including sick pay or any benefits) that’s about £15k for each individual, or an optimistic £45,000 pa for the customer experience of having the trolleys lined up.

Justify that to the beancounters…

Missing planes

Reminder to get to the airport on the the right date.  flight is post-midnight

After a month living out of a suitcase, circumnavigating the globe I’m homeward bound. I’m flying with Oasis… going to be interesting how the words “budget” and “longhaul” reconcile with each other. So far the experience is promising, a nice touch with their e-ticket (the date which I have subsequently changed). The plane flies at 00:50. BA fly back from Hong Kong a little earlier; on their e-ticket they don’t make it clear that the flight is a post-midnight one. Last time I did this trip I arrived at the airport on the Sunday night beleiving my flight was late on Sunday. Only it was a few minutes after midnight… on the Monday morning. I’d missed my flight by 24 hours. An easy, and expensive mistake to make. Oasis have gone out of their way to help me not make this mistake.

What does red mean to you?

I’ve recently been in Hong Kong and ran a really quick retrospective with the project team. I handed out red and green post-it notes and asked the team to write down things that went well and things that went not so well. They then stuck the post-its on the board, red “not so wells” on the left and green “goods” on the right. Only it didn’t quite work like that. In my western mind I’d assumed that green is good and red is bad. Not so in China where red is an auspicious and lucky colour…

Red and green post-its confused in a project retrospective.  cultural differences were forgotten

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