Lessons in CX: A trip to South East Asia – Part 3
– Hong Kong. Will we see our suitcases
If Singapore is a city seemingly built from the ground up to
be as effortless as possible to inhabit and Kuala Lumpur is
a city that exudes more of an unkempt charm, Hong Kong would
exist on a scale somewhere between the two.
Hong Kong was our third and final stop on a two-week tour of
South East Asia. A tour that aimed to share our observations
about global Customer Experience trends and discuss how
organisations in the region are affected by changing
customer needs across a diverse market. And we were lucky
enough to be hosted by leading national and international
businesses in every country, each a household name.
As it had been in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, we
couldn’t help trying to interpret the experience our
destination provided both residents and visitors and how
this potentially shaped the customer challenges of
companies we were visiting.
“Actually, I do fancy dim sum”. Navigating
around the city
Arriving on a weekend and with the luxury of a day to
explore, we headed out of the hotel for a quick walking tour
of central Hong Kong. Having proved itself invaluable in
Singapore, in our hand once again – and ready to guide
us around the city – was a free ‘Handy’
mobile device provided by the hotel.
In fact, the Handy was developed in Hong Kong by travel
start up Tink Labs primarily as a way to solve the
traveller’s problem of getting mobile connectivity
while abroad. The device has evolved since then and one now
sits in over 700,000 hotel rooms worldwide, each device
allowing hotels – and Tink Labs – to better
understand the needs and wants of visitors. The device now
seamlessly integrates with hotel services. One chain,
Westin, has gone as far as to remove in-room guest guides,
phones and room controls, using the powerful device to
provide all three for guests.
Outside of the hotel, the device’s search function
allows the company to learn more about the experiences users
are seeking in each city and tailor content (written by an
in-house team) and offers to this.
For example, the Handy knew it was nearing lunch time, and
knew we’d probably want to try dim sum (apparently,
when the Handy team started tracking their new search
function five years ago it prompted them to add more
suggestions about where to eat the city’s most famous
snack food). Rather than face the daunting prospect of
finding the best dim sum in a city of Hong Kong’s
size, we asked Handy to navigate us to a nearby restaurant.
It was offering us 15% off our meal after all.
Going up (and down again). Keeping Hong Kong
After our meal we asked our Handy to recommend a bar in the
city’s SoHo district, unaware that this would mean
boarding Hong Kong’s famous 800-metre-long Central
– Mid-Levels escalators, the city’s innovative
(when conceived in 1982) way to reduce traffic congestion
and help residents commute up and down Hong Kong’s
unique topography.The escalators didn’t reduce traffic
congestion, but they did come to serve the city’s
residents. New businesses opened up alongside the escalators
(with rents rocketing as a result) and each level quickly
developed its own unique character.
What had been conceived as a way to reduce road traffic has
now became a crucial artery of the city, carrying upwards of
85,000 passengers a day, including shoppers and bar hoppers
like us. 25 years later the famous escalators are still
solving the accessibility challenge Hong Kong’s
Once we’d embarked we couldn’t help but ride the
entire length of the world’s longest outdoor escalator
(or 20 individual escalators to be precise) all 135 metres
to the very top. And it wasn’t the prospect of the
view from the top that kept us on board, but the unique
insight each level gave us into a vibrant and multi-cultural
The Art of Mixology. A flawless customer
We ended the evening in The Old Man – an intimate, yet
lively, cocktail bar located down an unassuming alley not
far from SoHo.
From the moment we walked in it was clear the venue had been
deliberately set up to create modest theatre out of the art
of mixology. The counter, shaped unusually, like a capital
letter ‘I’ forces patrons to sit communally to
watch the Mixologist at work at the head of the counter.
Behind him, for an added bit of wonder – and to
encourage customers to order the one drink that stirs it
into action, is what can only be described as a shiny,
futuristic cocktail chemistry set.
Overseeing the proceedings is a giant portrait of the author
the bar is named after, Ernest Hemmingway – fittingly,
a man serious about his cocktails.
It’s easy to see why The Old Man recently made the
list of the world’s 50 best bars. The whole experience
is delivered with unpretentious, effortless finesse. And the
appreciation of witnessing the craft that goes into your
tipple makes you appreciate it that little bit more.
An orderly, effortless commute. Riding the MTR
Hong Kong’s subway system, the Mass Transit Railway
(MTR) is regarded as the world’s most efficient
transport system, running to schedule 99.9% of the time
according to the operator.In a bid to tackle traffic
congestion issues, not only has the government created a
transport system that effortlessly moves a population around
their city with minimal fuss, to make sure it’s
accessible to all prices have been kept low. A single
journey ticket costs a quarter of a ticket on The London
As we stood on the platform waiting for our train, handy
arrows on the floor subtly enforced passenger
alighting/boarding behaviour to discourage the ill-mannered
free-for-all that can often occur on underground systems
elsewhere in the world (London Underground, take note). Once
on-board our train, Electronic maps reassured us, as MTR
virgins, that we were travelling in the right direction.
Confident we’d be unlucky to find ourselves in the
0.01% of commuters we also knew we’d arrive at our
When will I see you again? In town check-in
A day (and four meetings) later we found ourselves back on
the MTR heading to its Airport Express station.
Hong Kong has eliminated the need for visitors leaving the
city to haul their luggage to the airport – the
physically demanding feat of lugging a case through
turnstiles, up and down stairs and on and off trains.
We wheeled our cases up to the ‘In Town
Check-In’ desks and handed our passports over. Three
minutes later we each left the desk 15 kilograms lighter and
with flight boarding passes in hand.
The check-in clerk had done well to reassure three
astonished (and somewhat cynical) Brits that they’d
not only see their luggage again, but they’d see it
eighteen hours later at Heathrow Airport.
With several hours until our flight, in town check-in acted
as an invitation from Hong Kong to spend those final care
free and luggage free hours exploring the city. And of
course, we were already in an MTR station ready to transport
us wherever we wanted to go.
The innovative idea, mutually beneficial to visitor and the
city, had made our last memory of Hong Kong a pleasurable
one. That pleasure continued as we breezed, luggage-less,
into the airport and straight through security.
And our luggage did greet us back in the UK. It was never in
The three cities we visited on our short, but insightful
trip – Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong –
all offered their own unique experiences. Whilst Singapore
leads the way in the use of data and technology in its
continual strive to create an effortless, frictionless city
to inhabit, all three cities taught us very different
lessons in how to deliver a memorable customer experience
– whether carefully planned, or a moment of
Note: This article is written by Eliot Sykes, Head of
Customer Experience at Ethology, a sister company of Splash.
Eliot and his team were on a 2 week visit of Asia,
introducing the Ethology offering to Clients of ours.