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Uncompromising on Quality

December 2016 | Andy Ng, The Standard

Uncompromising on Quality

In the increasingly crowded market of serviced offices, the Australia-based international serviced office group of Servcorp has chosen to focus on adding real value, and not just another business centre operator that makes an arbitrage on the rent it pays.

With three office locations in Hong Kong – including IFC, The Hong Kong Club Building and One Peking Road –Servcorp insists on providing clients with 5-star CBD addresses. “This is an important consideration for many of our clients, especially from the Mainland,” observes Wilma Wu, Servcorp's General Manager Hong Kong.


“On top of a prestigious location, all our clients are assigned a dedicated and knowledgeable account manager who follows up on specific instructions,” Wu adds. “They have a local telephone number answered in their company name. They also enjoy the facilities of a superfast and reliable internet access, 24-hour interactive voicemail, a fully-equipped meeting room, plus a host of other helpful features,” Wu adds.


“We are able to offer this high level of service because we have over 100 IT professionals on our technical support team, providing clients with a cost-effective 24/7 service,” Wu continues. “They save with below-telco call rates with our global network, plus the flexibility of answering or forwarding calls from their smartphone, tablet or desktop.”


Wu points out that all their staff go through a very rigorous training program that banks on the group's global repository of knowledge. The program spans brand knowledge, sales technique, client management, IT, finance and marketing.


The emphasis on hotel-standard service requires new recruits to spend the first three weeks on grasping all the essentials of the company's Service Guide. The contents are so comprehensive that they go down to such practical details as how to correctly serve a cup of coffee, and how to open a bottle of champagne.


“We have the highest staff to client ratio in the industry,” says Wu. “We pride ourselves on being able to offer job opportunities to young women, especially in gender-discriminatory countries, and the commitment to our CSR and sustainability goals is not to be sniffed at either.”


Wu points out that another ‘unfair advantage' they have over their competitors is staff loyalty. They have an extremely low staff turnover rate, with many of the core staff notching up more than ten years of service. “They are our most valuable assets, and they are certainly appreciated by our clients for the advice and expertise they provide,” she adds.


Servcorp leads the industry in launching the Virtual Office, and has successfully trialed the new Professional Coworking concept in four key locations around the world. But in a high-rent city like Hong Kong, Wu says it takes them ages to break even.


“We gain tremendous satisfaction in playing the incubator role, and lending a helping hand to business start-ups,” she comments. “But we

tend to provide coworking space for grown-ups as opposed to start-ups who have yet to go through the trial-and -error phase, and generally register a very low success rate.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  


In analyzing the serviced office market, Wu notes that China is still going strong, albeit at a lower gear, and there is sustained interest from Japan and the Middle East. Hedge fund and equity fund companies, in particular, continue to find Hong Kong an attractive hub for their business.


One recent phenomenon that merits attention is the difficulty overseas companies face in trying to open a bank account in Hong Kong, says Wu. While she understands the rising concerns for compliance on the part of financial institutions, this stumbling block must be removed promptly to facilitate business development.


Wu underlines the company's steadfast commitment to superior standards and premium quality. “Ever since our IPO in 1999, we have maintained a strong track record of global organic growth. Last year, we continued to expand with a measured approach, adding 381 offices and increasing capacity by 7%,” she notes.


In the year ahead, Servcorp will be extending its footprint to Tri-Seven in Tokyo, Schuman Building in Brussels, and Barangaroo in Sydney.


Wu says that in a free economy, competition is inevitable, but Servcorp is not interested in waging any price war. “Our point of differentiation is our premium positioning in the market,” she says categorically. “The aviation industry may be filled with cheap carriers, but at Servcorp, we will not consider opening up a secondary brand in the serviced office market.”


 Interview by Andy Ng, The Standard