What I Learned in Hong Kong

Americans should emulate the Chinese, who go out of their way to make customers feel special.

learn more about Bonnie Price

By Bonnie Price • Dec 27, 2007

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

During a recent trip to Hong Kong--the modern, high-speed, financial powerhouse of Asia--I was surprised to see the age-old fundamentals of business so clearly employed everywhere I turned.

I had been told that Hong Kong is a great place to get quality, decently priced prescription glasses. That was first on my agenda. Here is what I learned:

You don't need to be the only game in town.
We are told to develop our niche. As I walked down Granville Street, there must have been 10 optical stores within three blocks, some next door to each other. Yet they have all been in business for years. If this was true on one street, there must be hundreds of glasses stores all offering similar products. So clearly, niche or brand wasn't the critical point.

Doing business with you should be easy.
I was greeted at the door to the shop I chose, invited to sit down and asked a few questions. While happily showing me whatever frames I liked, the salesperson brought out two pair of frames that were perfect. He really knew his business and his inventory. I was gently offered higher-priced lens finishing, but with absolutely no pressure. I received warranties and careful explanations on best-care practices.

Provide great service.
The entire initial transaction took less than 20 minutes, with the promise of the glasses in 48 hours. The next day, I happened to be walking down the same busy street. My salesman was standing in the doorway, saw me and said, "Your glasses just came in." I couldn't believe he recognized me after we spent only 20 minutes together the previous day. Did I feel important? Absolutely.

Say thank you.
The salesman repeatedly thanked me, smiled frequently, made me feel appreciated and said, "See you next trip." You bet.

Here are two more lessons I learned while in Hong Kong:

Ask for the order.
It seems as though every 10 feet salespeople are trying to give you a piece of paper hawking their "copy" watches. They are clearly not candidates for membership in the chamber of commerce, but they do teach a basic business lesson: They ask for the order repeatedly, and they are persistent. One person or 10 who say "no" doesn't deter them.

You don't need the latest technology to be successful.
We stopped in a custom tailoring shop my husband hadn't frequented for many years. Yet as soon as he gave the proprietor his name, the man smiled and said it had been a long time. While they spent a couple of minutes chatting, the assistant looked in a dog-eared, three-ring binder. She found his name and the dates he had ordered, and she brought down three order books--from 1998, 1999 and 2002. She quickly found not only his orders, but also swatches of the fabrics he had bought. They were delighted to again be of service to an old customer. No elaborate computer program necessary.

It's All About Attitude
What has been running through all these stories is the most important quality of all--attitude. From the moment we boarded our Oasis Hong Kong flight, we felt the difference in attitude. Everyone we came into contact with made us feel appreciated.

Hong Kong definitely offers service with a smile. Nowhere did we see the sour expression, glum demeanor and indifferent attitude that are so prevalent in the U.S. Could that be one of the reasons the Chinese economy is growing? Its citizens want to do business, and they let you know it.

Bonnie Price

Bonnie Price, founder of Silver Vixen Enterprises, is a lifelong entrepreneur. She owns SilverVixens, an online membership community to connect and inform Women of a Certain Age. She also writes the After 55 blog.

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