I love China, but does China love me?
This summer I traveled in China with my 16-year old daughter and 23 other great travel companions. From Beijing to PingYao, Xian, Chengdu, LiYang, Dali, Kunming, Pingan, Yangzhou and leaving the country from Hongkong. What a beautiful things we have experienced! Business is booming in China, many products we use come from China, but how do they score in Customer Experience? Is this topic just as hot as in the Western World?
I can answer that straight away. No it is not. I didn’t experience real hostmanship. The drive to deliver real service and go the extra mile for me or my travel companions was absent.
Two examples still strike me. I wanted to exchange Euro’s to Chinese Yuan in a bank in Beijing. It was 16:15 and I had fill out a form. Identified myself with my passport and was told to wait. I could see what happened behind the bulletproof glass and got a feeling of being in the television series “Toren C”. Bureaucracy, people passing papers, counting money, my passport going from one employee to the other, all dressed in the same androgynous outfit. After 30 minutes I started feeling real unease and asked how long it would take (my travel companions were waiting). I was told to wait again and at 17:00 they gave me back my euros and passport. The bank was closing and there was no possibility to change any money now. I had to sneak out the backdoor, the front door was already fenced.
In PingYao we went to dinner (with the whole group) in Sakura Café, a backpackers institute in China and even Laos and Thailand. We ordered food and drinks, but the employees were more interested in each other. They faced their backs towards the restaurant, let the dirty plates on the table for 2 hours and were never eager on filling up on drinks. What a waste of sales and service opportunities! This was no exception. Ignorance, loudness, drivers that smoked on the tour bus, rudeness and most of all no possibility to communicate because of a lack of knowledge of the English language.
The focus is on getting the job done
The lack of service attitude was something our Beijing tour guide recognized and felt bad about. She certainly did everything she could to make us feel welcome and happy. But she explained the lack of interest and drive to improve service. This lays in the upbringing of generations in the Cultural Revolution and the influence of the Communist Party. People had a job, did what they have to do and didn’t have to listen to customers. They are trained to follow the rules and most important: listen to their bosses. They are not encouraged to improve, learn and go from Good to Great.
There is hope. We finished our trip in HongKong. Now a special administrative region of China, where there is no censorship on social media and the service levels are Pico Bello. With a special mention of Aqua, a great restaurant/bar on the 29th floor with spectacular views on the HongKong Skyline. Let’s hope this service attitude of HongKong will spread across China.
Although the service attitude was lacking, the Chinese did love us. There was a large drive to take pictures and selfies with these long Dutch (strange) people to show at home, school or the office. We were greeted by people on the streets, monks, older ladies in the park that wanted to show their grandchildren to us. So yes, China loves me. Not in the Customer Experience way, but in a human way and I must say “It feels mutual”.
Do you recognize this service experience of mine, do you have other explanations or funny stories? Please share below.