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Thank you for keeping me going.
I attended a travel fair two years back.
At the fair, I met a lady from Philippines. She works for a hotel in a small city and it was her first time to Singapore.
She commented that Singapore is very beautiful and clean. Then she said "I don't see any beggars or poor people. Are there any poor people or beggars in your country?"
Well, of course there are. Just that the areas she visited and saw were what was portrayed to the world by the government. What she saw was the prosperous, clean, green and beautiful side of Singapore.
Likewise, I used to think that Thailand is less developed and its citizens' standard of living and purchasing power are lower than us.
That is definitely not true. Take a walk at Siam Paragon and you can see people all decked in branded products. The expensive restaurants and cafes are packed with its own people. Even in suburban malls, the purchasing power of its people is amazing.
On the other hand, you'll also be wrong to think that this is how the average Thai lives. A trip to Thonburi area reveals a different kind of lifestyle.
In your business, do you see what you see? Or do you see what others see? Or do you see what others do not see?
Six days before the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry regulation takes effect on 2nd January, the commission came out with an exemption that allows companies to continue sending text and fax messages to existing customers even if their numbers are registered on the registry.
This effectively means that you all will still be receiving telemarketing messages from your credit card companies and banks.
However, you have the option to unsubscribe from them by contacting these companies individually.
The move came in light of ambiguity on the type of "in service" messages that would be considered as telemarketing messages. Another reason quoted was that some consumers may wish to continue receiving such information despite having registered with the DNC Registry.
The spokesperson went on to emphasize on "having an ongoing relationship" by explaining that a one-off transaction is not sufficient to establish an ongoing relationship.
Isn't it irony?
They came out with a regulation and then add in an exemption which literally reverse the whole thing back to its original state.
How do you differentiate between one-off transaction and ongoing relationship? Doesn't all ongoing relationship started off with a one-off transaction? I go into a shop to buy something. The business owner keeps in touch with me. I go in a second time to patronize the shop.
Let's talk about credit card companies and banks. What is the definition of relationship? Do you consider that a relationship is established just because someone holds a credit card from this company? What if the credit card holder never ever use the credit card to make payment?
Well, if you are running a business, this is a relieve to you as you can still continue sending marketing messages to your existing customers.
But think about it. Why do consumers hate receiving these messages?
Most of the times, these marketing messages are irrelevant. How many times have you receive SMS offering you a housing loan which you have no need for? Or receiving sales information of a store that you do not patronize?
So stop spending money sending useless mass telemarketing SMS to your customers and pissing them off. Don't depend on the exemption clause as an excuse to continue
Concentrate on finding and serving those who are most likely to buy. And make sure you have something worth saying and an irresistible offer.
I wrote about my experience in re-contracting my internet and cable TV subscription with StarHub recently (click here).
After so long, the issue is still not resolved.
To be fair to them, they replied to my email and asked me to check out their promotion on the website. I clicked on the link but couldn't find any information after clicking around. So I gave up.
Then I was away for 10 days for my Bangkok trip.
When I came back, I followed up with them and they said they can arrange to get a sales consultant to contact me. So I gave them specific instruction on the time and days to call me. After waiting for a few days, I decided to go down to their shop as there's still no reply.
I took a queue number and waited for one hour and forty minutes before my number was finally flashed. By then, I'm already late for my next appointment and did not have the time to re-contract my subscription on the spot.
Yesterday, I received their reply expecting them to inform me that their staff will be contacting me.
But this is what I got.
Yet again, they are asking me to settle my outstanding bill. In addition, this time round, they are even asking for my proof of payment for the bill before they will get someone to contact me about their promotion.
I've already blogged about this (click here) and they are back again pissing me.
Seriously, I wonder why it is so difficult for them to just arrange for their sales consultant to call me and let me know about their current promotion.
The worst case situation is not to allow me to renew before I pay the outstanding bill.
I am seriously considering terminating my services with them.
Are you doing the same in your business?
Forget about everything you know for a day.
Forget about your experiences for a day.
It's Christmas Eve and the season of giving and wishing as we approach the end of this year and the start of a new year.
You probably have received gifts from your business associates if you are an important customer. For the rest of average customers, you're more likely to receive an email greeting instead. The cost is close to zero and there's no limit on the number of people you can send to.
I've never bother opening such emails as I know they are standard mass email the rest are also receiving.
Instead of sending such email greetings to your customers, why not get all your staff to each write a greeting card and mail it to customers (picked randomly)?
Six stations of the new downtown line are opened.
I had an opportunity to take the service from Bugis station to Telok Ayer station today.
Businesses located near these new stations are hopeful that with opening of the stations, there will be more crowds and with more crowds customers. While more crowds potentially will brings more customers and more business, it would be foolish to bank on it. The chance that landlords raise rent is probably higher. So one could ends up with 10% increase in business but not enough to cover the 20% increase in rent.
And more traffic does not necessary translate directly to more business. The reverse my be true instead. Just look at businesses in high traffic locations which have failed.
Do you have a plan to attract customers or unique selling proposition to differentiate yourself from the nearby competitors?
Photo Source : Todayonline
Too late for anything?
There's still eve of New Year's Eve.
It's such a pity to see this news.
Laksania, a local social enterprise is facing the fate of closing down due to poor business.
The owner has sold her house and sank in over $2 million into the business. She has got advice from a F&B entrepreneur who runs a chain of pastries shops and restaurants that I blogged about (click here and here).
So why did the business still failed?
As mentioned in my previous blog, the advisor recommended changes to the business overall packaging and operations. But nothing was mentioned about customers.
Firstly, why select Laksa in the first place? Is there demand for Laksa? How big is the demand? Is there a demand for Laksa from different countries? Is there demand for Laksa served in different styles? How much are people willing to pay? Would people pay the kind of price for the Laksa? If there's a demand, is the price right? Are you providing solution to an unmet need? Are you providing an alternative?
And product is definitely not KING.
So what if you make the best burger but there's no demand for it? Or the demand is not large enough to sustain your business for the price you are charging?
By focusing on areas like design of menu, creating public relation events, getting bloggers to write up to gain exposure, marketing the product are feel good activities that makes one feels that you are doing things to improve your business. But one that does not add much value.
You can have the most beautifully designed menu, the most creative marketing plan, the biggest budget for public relation events and marketing activities. Ultimately, customers want to satisfy their needs and wants. If you cannot fulfill it, it doesn't matter how professional your menu is designed, how many bloggers write about your business, how many events you create and how much you throw into marketing your business.
Instead of deciding what you want to sell, think about what problems your target customers are facing which are bothering them. In other word, what keeps them awake at night? Find a product or service that will solve their problems.
And if you already have a product or service, how you can tailor it to solve a problem that your competitors are not providing?
Photo Source : The Straits Times
Superiors appraise subordinates.
How about subordinates appraising superiors as well?
It's almost two weeks after the riot in Little India, Singapore.
I was in Bangkok when it happened. When I checked my Facebook, my first reaction was "Another exercise by the government."
After all, the word riot has disappeared from my dictionary for as long as I could remember.
Singapore is well known of its political security and a safe country to many people.
I did not exactly follow the news as it did not really concern me. And I'm on a holiday. When I'm back, I did not take any particular interest in the news and what happened subsequently, expect knowing some people were caught and repatriated and sale of liquors was banned over last weekend. There were also news about giving flowers to these foreign workers at Little India to show our appreciation for their contribution, how and where these people are spending their weekends and how businesses in that area were affected by the ban in liquor sales.
As usual, the government set up a committee to look into the matter and recommend precautions for the future.
I've heard news about residents staying at Little India complaining of these foreign workers getting drunk and creating problems during weekends, where they have their off day. It seems these people were making a din and disturbing the peace of the residents, fighting at times, urinating and defecating in the void deck of flats.
There's news that the ban in sales of liquor will continue for another six months.
Many businesses that depend on sales of liquor to these foreign workers are hard hit as business from this item can make up 80% of their total sales.
Some of them intend to diversify their product range by selling more non-alcoholic items while some contemplated moving to other places.
Of course nobody expected a riot to happen.
But if you hear of negative news about foreign workers behaviors, isn't there cause for concern?
If your business is not located in Little India, is it business as usual for you?
Doing business the same way, treating your customers the same way, selling the same product or service?
Let's not talk about something as serious as a riot.
What if a business opens up two doors away and snatches away 50% of your customers?
And in this connected world, your competitors do not need to open next to you to be a threat.
So start thinking about these:
How can I add more values to my existing customers to make them come back?
How can I attract more new customers by offering more values?
How can I make my customers think of me immediately when they think of the kind of product or service I'm selling?
Are you following the competition events at the 27th SEA Games?
Looking at Singapore's team performances, there are some hits and misses.
The swimming team did not perform as well as the last games. On the other hand, there are events where we clinched medals for the first time in many years.
One event that left a deep impression was rowing.
Not because we won the first ever individual gold medal at the SEA Games, but because the winner, Saiyidah Aisyah, has been funding her own training and competition expenses throughout the year. There is no funding from the government as it was cut to zero in the middle of the year.
Was the funding cut because there's no budget? Was the funding cut because there's no results (in terms of win) from this sport? Was the funding cut because the officials thought that funds could be put into other sports that have higher chances of winning medals in international competitions?
What can you learn from this?
Like most businesses, we often put funds and resources into products and services that have the highest possibility of success. We kill and remove products and services that are not making profits. That is logical and makes business sense. But are you too focus on results that you are unwilling to take a chance? Are you too afraid to make mistakes and to fail?
What if you know that what you are going to do is going to fail but you still do it?
Secondly, like Saiyidah, do you have something that you believe strongly in? Do you have belief? She is proof that with belief, no mountains are too difficult to surmount. Do what you believe in and not what you think will give you a
There's a railway station made famous near Bangkok because it passes right through the middle of a market.
It's in Samut Songkhram, more commonly known as Maekhlong Railway Market, or Talad Rom Hoop to the locals, which means "Umbrella Pulldown Market."
The train passes through the market eight times a day. Each time it passes through, the stall owners, with their fresh vegetables, fishes and meat all laid out on the track will clear them for the train to pass through. The umbrellas and shelter will also be retracted as well. Thus the name for the market.
Since it was shown on TV, the place has becomes a tourist attraction by itself.
Hordes and hordes of tourists go there just to watch this unusual scene for that few minutes of action.
And of course, that is not the only attraction there, though the main attraction.
You can visit the huge wet market selling all kinds of vegetables, fruits, snacks and dried goods. You can pop into one of the eating places for some delicious noodles. There are the old shop houses for you to explore. And there's a temple nearby as well.
During my last trip there, I was at the market doing some groceries shopping (yes, you hear it right) of dried seafood. As I was walking toward the market, I saw a little boy walking in front of me.
The whole market looked like his playground. He was walking from stall to stall as if he owns the territory. And all the stall owners were cuddling him and talking to him as he walked nonchalantly.
Then he fell and sat on the wet and dirty ground. Immediately, he went to wash his hands at his grandma's stall that sells desserts.
I stopped to play with him but he was a little reserved because of language difference. Someone who looked like his dad asked him to "Wai" and wave to me. Then he ran back to his grandma's stall, sit on the table and drink his milk.
He's so adorable and I took a photo with him.
Later, while I was having lunch, I thought it'll be nice to buy him a little present. So I went off looking for a toy shop and bought a blue ball. It was 59 Baht but the lady sold it to me for 55 Baht without me bargaining. Walked back to the market but he was not there. Passed the ball to his grandma and she was so happy and appreciative.
But I was even happier to be able to make someone happy.
This proves that giving is better than receiving.
To the skeptical, they may think I'm crazy and stupid for spending money on a stranger. But to me and many of you, such happiness can never be measured.
The next time I'm going there, you can be sure I'll be visiting this little boy. And if you ever go there, please show them this photo.
Eat lunch with your left hand if you are right-handed and vice versa.
Have you ever wake up one day without any idea what you are going to do?
I found myself in this situation three days before the end of my Bangkok trip.
There were a few things I have to buy for my friends and family but those can be settled the next day. Anyway, I decided to go Yaowarat Road (Chinatown) first then to Siam Paragon to settle all the shoppings for them. Or we could go Siam Paragon first before going Yaowarat Road.
So off we went on bus number 40 on the main street of the hotel. We bought the tickets and could get off Siam Paragon first if we decided to as it passed there before going Yaowarat Road. And the fare price for both destinations are the same, 12 Baht each.
While on the bus, I suddenly had this thought.
"What if we do not alight at Siam Paragon and Yaowarat Road and see where the bus takes us?"
We really had no idea where the bus will head to after Yaowarat Road.
It sounded fun and cool. We might find some new places different from what we see. So we continued sitting on the bus.
The bus passed through Yaowarat Road. Then we saw lots of Indian and realized it's the little India. I've been reading from guide book and saw on the map. It passed through the famous flower market, Pak Khlong Talad, which we've been to previously. Then we crossed a bridge over Chao Phraya and into what is known as Thonburi, where you can catch a glimpse of the past and actual life of the Thais.
The bus made a right turn at a junction and we saw many students. Not that we've never seen students in Bangkok before but this was slightly different as they were all walking into the small lanes (soi).
We alighted and look what we found?
Totally no sight of tourists. Nothing that caters to tourists.
Now, what if I boarded the first bus that came by instead of bus 40? What other surprise treasures will I find?
Do it and I'm sure you'll be hooked.
And do it with an open mind and no expectation.
I participated in a mystery shopping last month for the fun of it.
But it sure was no fun.
There's a while lot of things to do, to ask, to observe and to note. To make matter worse, the mystery shopping company's questionaire was vague and ambiguous.
Anyway, I just did to the best of my ability.
One thing that surprised me was that none of the staff of the businesses I visited ask me any question at all.
I just go in and ask for a particular model of their product and they just assumed that I just want this model, that this model suits my needs, that this model is best for me.
Well, I know there are customers that know what they really want. But it definitely does not hurt for you to find out.
You probably could sell him something that meets his or her needs better. And make some extra dollars.
But that is besides the point.
Ask ten why questions for things unrelated to your work.
The man came out of the driver's seat, opened his car boot and looked at a lady with two luggages just in front of us.
The lady seems to be together with another two persons who were getting onto a taxi. But she's not following them.
The man thought she is taking his cab but she just stood there.
And so we walked toward the man.
Upon seeing us, he walked back to his seat. I loaded our luggages, closed the boot and went into the cab after my cousin.
As my cousin was stepping into the cab, I heard he said "Uncle, Bedok North Road."
Before I could make myself comfortable, the man "shouted" in a loud voice "Go where?"
My cousin was fuming by now and repeated "Bedok North Road."
The driver took off and sped like he is in F1 race. Cutting lanes and overtaking cars in a dangerous manner.
After we got off, my cousin commented, "Not happy such short distance, then don't accept the business."
Oh yah. I've heard that taxi drivers hate passengers from the airport who are going nearby areas. They prefers passengers going to city as they can make more per trip.
But then, they are not allowed to reject customers right? Whether it's true or not, we still meet taxi drivers who refuse to go to our destinations, don't we?
It's really a bad experience, especially coming back to one's own country. And more so after experiencing the good services in Bangkok.
Could it be due to the driver's education level that made him rather crude? Or he met an unreasonable passenger earlier? I doubt so.
If education level is the cause, then I would have expected worse service from Bangkok's taxi driver as they don't even understand basic English. This man is definitely more educated.
During my trip, I took a cab in Bangkok to my hotel from three BTS stations away. The taxi driver don't understand English and cannot speak the language. How I know? He didn't even demand for a fixed rate like what most other drivers do. I said the destination and indicated "meter" and he just nodded his head. He couldn't even ask me which is my hotel as he turned into the soi my hotel was located. He just drove and I just pointed to him to go on.
When we reached, I just said "OK OK."
The fare came up to 56 Baht. We gave him 70 Baht as we do not have 60 Baht.
Although he was expressionless during the whole journey (cos he couldn't communicate with us), he showed us one of thr moat genuine and appreciative smile when we told him to keep the change.
What a great difference in attitude. One is so appreciative of the business while the other acted as if we owed him a living.
What a third world service in a so called first world country.
I was at Siam Paragon Gourmet Market last week.
While browsing through the shelves, I saw a group of people removing the metal railing (those that prevent displayed items from falling off the shelf) on one of the shelves.
Did something stuck on the shelve? I thought to myself.
On closer look, a parents with two daughters were trying to take a whole box of 10 packs Pretzel out of the shelf.
I saw the father counting before putting the whole box into what was already overfilled with things. Then I heard the man saying to his wife, "Buy so many how to bring back."
I looked at their trolley again. Half of it was filled with local snacks. The other half was filled with snacks that are available in Singapore. Snacks like Pretzel and Lay's potato chips. In fact, they got 4 boxes of Pretzel of 10 packs each. You could almost see them smiling as if they've just struck lottery.
After they are gone, I was curious why they buy so much and took a look.
Ok. The item is on promotion and each pack is only 10 Baht (40 cents). I'm not sure how much is a pack in Singapore but it could be 200% more. It seems they have more flavors too.
So I guess either the family loves the Pretzel so much and are buying those flavors not available in Singapore. Or it's so bloody cheap that the family must buy them for whatever reason. Be it for party or as present.
But Bangkok is slightly different. A lot of Singaporeans travel there frequently for short getaway. So they buy things back because they are cheaper there, not necessary they are not available in Singapore.
So you'll see them buying Dunkin Donuts (previously) and Krispy Kreme (now), seaweed, instant noodle, potato chips, all easily available in Singapore but cost more.
There was once when I came back from Bangkok and while waiting for my luggage, I saw a crashed carton revealing packs of seaweed inside.
I know these items are light, but aren't they too bulky and troublesome to lug all the way to the airport? And does one really save that much?
All customers are irrational. We are all irrational.
Read a comic instead of the newspaper.
Watch a cartoon instead of the financial news.