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Customer service upgrade
Published on Friday, 15 Apr 2011
Sino Group has hired two international consulting firms to train frontline property management staff.
Gordon Wu
Henry Cheung

It has become increasingly common for high-end residential projects and premium commercial buildings to give people the impression of being in a five-star hotel as they step into the spacious and magnificently decorated foyer.

In today's highly competitive business environment, real-estate developers and property management firms are doing their best to provide "exceptional and exquisite service" - the buzzwords in the property management industry these days.

One of the leaders in the sector, Sino Group, has gone so far as to hire two international consulting firms to train frontline property management staff for the launch of its luxury residential project - The Hermitage - in West Kowloon and to upgrade the service standards of teams working at other residential and non-residential properties.

"It's no longer just about providing security and building-related services. It's about hospitality management and creating an exquisite service culture to satisfy rising and changing client demands," says Gordon Wu, associate director of Sino Group.

The company believes great communication is crucial in delivering good services and has commissioned two renowned international consultants - Lausanne Hospitality Consulting, a division of Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne from Switzerland, and International Professional Security Association from Britain - to provide training for operational staff in different properties.

"We hope the consultants can take a fresh look at familiar work situations and provide different perspectives and raise awareness," Wu says.

The trainers shared their international experience with staff to broaden their horizons in customer and security service.

For example, a trainer used his experience at Scotland Yard and the Metropolitan Police to provide insights into the way people in another country think and work.

Like Sino Group, Hang Lung Properties believes that raising overall staff quality is critical to the long-term success of the company and that frontline staff can also help the company achieve its business objectives.

"It's understandable that tenants and clients demand meticulous customer services because the property management industry has matured over the years. Hence, we need to constantly upgrade our services and the qualifications of staff," says Henry Cheung Kam-ling, assistant director of leasing and management.

Cheung says Hang Lung Properties focuses mainly on managing commercial properties.

Recruiting the right people to suit changing market needs is a big challenge. The company noticed there was a serious shortage of qualified candidates in the industry five to six years ago. It then decided to train a new generation of property management officers with all-round skills.

Another challenge is changing people's long-established mindset and convincing them that managing properties is no longer a mundane, dead-end job but a proper career with exciting prospects.

The company has been grooming frontline people so they can take on more senior positions.

Cheung says mainland employees are still stuck in the past as far as the concept of property management is concerned.

"To them, it is still a job that provides security services so there is still a long way to go to make them understand that the job is very much service-oriented," Cheung explains.

To facilitate a constant exchange of knowledge and skills across the group, Hang Lung Properties encourages staff with different levels of experience and expertise to work in both Hong Kong and mainland offices.

"Property management is fundamentally an important segment of the service industry and it's about people, not just hardware.

"That's why we focus on nurturing talent across the company - from frontline, operational staff to the managerial level," Cheung says.


Earning their spurs

Relatively junior frontline staff at The Peak Galleria learn to hone their property management skills

One of Hong Kong's most popular tourist attractions, The Peak Galleria bears testament to the success of Hang Lung Properties' human resources management approach, according to Henry Cheung Kam-ling, assistant director of leasing and management.

It provides an opportunity and the right environment for a team of relatively junior frontline property management staff to learn how to run a commercial property independently, Cheung says.

"Being the frontline people who take care of tourists and local visitors, these staff members have learned to hone their property management skills to provide not just security services, but to cover the technical side as well. They have developed all-round skills and knowledge in property management by learning how to multitask."

The Peak Galleria serves as an excellent platform for staff to practise their property management skills. It also showcases the company's green initiatives while providing an opportunity for staff to reach out to the local and international community with the company's environmental and cultural projects.

The company launched its "Eco-Discovery" series in 2009 to spread the environmental message in a fun way. Its signature "Eco-Discovery Tour" introduced local primary students to the many sustainable features in its operations, such as the first Electric Vehicle Charging Station on Hong Kong Island, a wind turbine, a self-designed solar panel system, a sunlight sensor canvas, the Green Gallery, waste recycling facilities, a carbon monoxide sensor ventilation system, a rainwater collection system as well as photo-sensor lighting.

Furthermore, its frontline staff have designed and installed an automatic outdoor irrigation system which runs on solar power. This minimises the use of fresh water for irrigating the gardens and rooftop Green Terrace by using rainwater instead.