By Arthur Tam
Ringo Ng, managing director of HKT’s Consumer Group, wants to change how we live. Ng is trying to integrate smart home tech into public and private spaces through HKT Smart Living. The goal is to make Hong Kongers in all facets of society aware of advancing technology that can improve their livelihood. To do so, Ng has implemented his “Dialogue with Ringo” sessions to rally his team together on ways how to move the plan forward and improve the experiences of customers. The Mag spoke to him about these innovations.
We’ve noticed that you’ve already collaborated with Swire Properties and installed EV chargers in the carpark of PCCW Tower. What is your vision for expanding the Smart Charge service in commercial places across Hong Kong?
Globally there are countries like the UK, China, France and India working towards banning diesel and petrol cars. So it’s not even just how I see it; it’s happening in the near future. The question is if this is the trend, how can we help Hong Kong people embrace the trend, how can we convince building management offices to change the whole infrastructure of their carpark to accommodate EV chargers.
Of course, the investment will be huge initially, but imagine if your building already has the infrastructure to provide EV chargers in a matter of days, then people will be at ease when they are considering purchasing an EV. EVs are powerful cars now, and from an environmental point of view, it's clearly cleaner.
What are the major challenges ahead?
There is so much resistance from individual residential buildings. Today only two percent of cars in parking spaces are EVs. We want to educate the public and let them know how nice it would be when you get your charger for your car, like a personal charger for your phone. Let’s embrace it now because people are going to be lining up for EVs.
What are your plans regarding the expansion of HKT Smart Living services?
Imagine Hong Kong with the best coverage regarding broadband services. Under HKT Smart Living, we have various solution for home and lifestyle, for instance we are providing the best possible home Wi-Fi solutions regarding needs for speed and coverage. When you have good Wi-Fi, you embrace the world of IoT (Internet of Things). When I get home, I don't take out my phone anymore. I talk to smart speaker "Echo" to turn on the lights, then it’s done without pressing any button. In the future, AI technology will allow me don't even have to be talking to the system, because it learns my habits. There should be a sensor that triggers what lighting and temperature and which TV channel I always prefer. So that’s the aspiration of HKT Smart Living.
What do you think is the main value of HKT Smart Living?
Convenience definitely, but we even extend this to more meaningful causes like taking care of the elderly and handicapped. There is one case where one customer of ours cannot move his body below the neck. After using HKT Smart Living devices and solutions, he told us he feels a lot less reliant on his family, as he can turn on the lights and the TV. These are basic things we take for granted, but for him it's a new life. So HKT Smart Living can go beyond convenience, enjoyment and style. We are already working with a number of community centres more catered towards rehab as well as elderly community centres. HKT Smart Living can also be helpful when it comes to young children. At kindergartens, we already have equipment installed at the front gate to check for attendance and body temperature. This just goes to show how different demographics can benefit from HKT Smart Living.
We heard that you hold “Dialogue with Ringo” sessions to gather insight from your team. Tell us what it is and how you came up with the idea.
To ensure I make good and accurate decisions, I have to listen and know exactly what's going on. But I have a team of almost 5,000 people and there are almost one million engagements with customers a month, so I had to figure out the best way to get information. The best way is to talk to front-facing agents, who talk to the customers. So, I started having chat sessions with about 25-30 employees, a reasonable size, and I encouraged their supervisors not be there. At the first three sessions, no one spoke because they didn’t know if they would say the wrong thing, but gradually they started feeling comfortable to talk about anything with me. I’ve spoken to about 2,000 people now, and they feel very at ease and voice their concerns. They know that I’m listening to them because I have a few colleagues taking down the action steps, and I always follow up if it’s something I can’t answer at the moment.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned from the sessions?
Never assume that we know everything. As a matter of fact, let’s assume we know nothing because the customer need is changing. We’ve been serving Hong Kong for almost 150 years, so it’s natural that some of our policies are obsolete. I’m sure there are a lot of policies that made sense 15 years ago but not now. So I’m using this opportunity to listen to the front line. On the one hand I learn, on the other hand I also have the opportunity to explain why certain policies have been put in place for big picture strategies that they might not be aware of.
What I’m particularly proud of is how quickly we can change policies. If I hear something Thursday, we can implement changes over the weekend. By Monday, a policy that might have existed for the last 15 years is now gone. Now my staff is comfortable enough to tell me what is needed to make the best decision, and I appreciate that. It's very rewarding.
Can you give us an example?
For example, there is a policy about account name changes for people who are deceased. My staff, of course, extends their condolences to family members calling in and then would proceed with verification by asking for a death certificate. But, asking a weeping widow for a death certificate of her husband at that moment comes across as insensitive, and that’s what I was told. So we made a change. Now, we will make the name change on the account first and then after a few weeks have the customer provide the document. This is very basic, but without senior management listening, these changes are difficult to be made.
What advice do you have for employees at other companies trying to implement change?
If you face a certain difficulty in your job, make sure you bring it up with your boss and expect them to give you an answer. If they can't, ask your boss to ask his or her boss and then the next boss if necessary. That’s what I have been pushing for in the last six years, because you know in a traditional, local company it’s not the culture to challenge the boss. But ask the questions you need answers for.
To find out more about EV charging services and HKT Smart Living go to hkt.com, smartcharge.com.hk and smartliving.hkt.com.