Hong Kong: Wireless but wired to the customer

Event venues are also judged by their “soft factors”. The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre has achieved a lot in this area over the last 25 years.

Unlike other convention and exhibition centres, the HKCEC has not outsourced its catering to external service providers. (Photo: HKCEC)
Unlike other convention and exhibition centres, the HKCEC has not outsourced its catering to external service providers. (Photo: HKCEC)

If you want to achieve something, you need to be flexible and think outside the box. Because organisers urgently required more space, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) now simply transforms car park areas into exhibition spaces whenever required. “The car park conversion made an extra 6,996 square metres available for those really big shows at the HKCEC,” explains Monica Lee-Müller, Managing Director of the HKCEC’s operating company HML. This space first came into use in April 2006 and is now known as the “dual-purpose” Expo Drive Hall. Although these exhibition capacities are only used temporarily, exhibitors don’t need to do without the usual amenities such as easy escalator access, a comfortable lobby, relaxing lighting and air conditioning systems. The latest in data communications technology is available – just like in other parts of the HKCEC, where the technology is continuously adapted to the latest standards. This includes both Internet broadband and wireless connections – 5,000 users will be able to use the free wifi network simultaneously there as of autumn 2013. 

Despite going wireless, the HKCEC still remains wired to the customer. “We treat every client as unique,” Monica Lee-Müller affirms her policy. To get first hand customer feedback, two e-questionnaires are sent to organisers: “One is sent out right after the venue booking is contracted,” explains the HKCEC boss. “And another after the event is completed.” Areas being evaluated include the booking process, on-site customer service, security arrangements, technical equipment, cleanliness, and food and beverage service. Every e-questionnaire is shared with senior management. This is to identify jobs well done as well as service gaps or necessary facility upgrade and staff training measures. The questionnaires are really worthwhile, for fiscal 2012/13 Monica Lee-Müller achieved a customer satisfaction rate of 98 per cent.

HKCEC Managing Director Monica-Lee Müller: "In the last 25 years we hosted over 42,000 events and over 80 million visitors." (Photo: HKCEC)
HKCEC Managing Director Monica-Lee Müller: "In the last 25 years we hosted over 42,000 events and over 80 million visitors." (Photo: HKCEC)

Food and beverages are a fundamental factor of customer satisfaction – according to the motto that the way to a customer’s heart is through their stomach. Unlike other exhibition and convention centre operators, the HKCEC has not outsourced its catering to external service providers. 

“We have our own 300-staff in-house F&B team,” points out Monica Lee-Müller. “With award-winning chefs, experienced service staff and professional event managers to assist organisers in planning banquet events.” Event organisers not only hold gala dinners and cocktail receptions. They also have the opportunity to offer something creative and extraordinary, which is not to be underestimated for recurrent exhibitions. “Our chefs use their creativity and trendy ingredients,” says Lee-Müller, “to offer guests a different experience every time.”  

 
 
 
 

To gain additional returns for the HKCEC, first incentive schemes were created for organisers just one and a half decades ago. For example, organisers can enjoy attractive terms if they hold their events in the less-frequented low season. New exhibitions and the expansion of current fairs are also encouraged. The increase in these measures has definitely contributed to the strong growth of the exhibition and convention business at Victoria Harbour. Every year 50 organisers have recently staged 115 fairs and exhibitions at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Since its opening in 1988 it has hosted a total of 42,000 events and attracted over 80 million visitors. Plus: The constantly growing community can now communicate in social networks and click “like ”– since 2013 the HKCEC has had its own fan page on Facebook.   

Hard to believe: The Expo Drive Hall is a car park that is used only temporarily for exhibitions. (Photo: HKCEC)
Hard to believe: The Expo Drive Hall is a car park that is used only temporarily for exhibitions. (Photo: HKCEC)

Intensive communication is also key internally among staff members. This is part of the company’s culture. “We have established various communication channels,” reports Monica Lee-Müller. She cites the Chit Chat Talk programme as an example, where “directors talk to different staff groupings,”.  Further communication media include a monthly e-newsletter and the iKnowledge download. The latter comprises various websites and videos on the Intranet. For the HKCEC nurturing employee skills by various training and education measures is a top priority. In addition, a programme has been developed to give senior staff feedback on their leadership skills and management qualities. This work in the soft skill department will enable the venue, which has just turned 25, to weather all storms both now and in future. Just like its curved roof withstands the typhoons that arrive every summer (www.hkcec.com).  

 
 

Author: Peter Borstel

This article was published in TFI issue 5/2013

 
 

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