Email of the day on Chinese customer service
Comment of the Day

September 26 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Chinese customer service

My first experience of Shanghai customer service was in 1987. One afternoon we were bussed around the local Friendship Stores to spend money; but, I was having no more of it and took my camera to get some shots of real locals rather than Communist Party guides! My broken Mandarin got me an invite to join some locals at a table for food and beer. I politely declined the offer of food but said I would indulge in a beer. Unfortunately, the glass had a viral bug on it which 2 hours later caused my anatomy to require plenty of boiled eggs to help reverse my problem! We were staying at a hotel on The Bund. At 5pm we asked for room service and requested lots of boiled eggs on toast, only to be told, sorry, we only serve eggs at breakfast time! 30 years ago, Customer Service was unheard of.

Eoin Treacy's view

Thank you for sharing you experience which gels with my own, at least until this most recent trip.
The Chinese authorities must be feeling pretty happy with themselves. They are combatting counterfeiting, weighing on the black market and gaining greater monetary control by rolling out online and mobile payments. They must feel vindicated in curtailing internet access considering Russian interference in the US election; using Facebook to enflame racial and religious differences. The rollout of online shopping and competition between sellers has created, out of nowhere, a true customer service experience to rival what is on offer anywhere. 

Emboldened by these successes, facial recognition software is being rolled out in law enforcement branches across the country while Alibaba has installed a smile to pay function at KFC. Considering the sector has gone from a standing start at the beginning of the year facial recognition has a wide number of potential applications in China. I expect to see some form of announcement at the Party Congress in October relating to Xi’s plan for a social credit score. If access to social services, schools, pensions, loans, mortgages, car financing etc. is influenced by how well one obeys the nation’s laws and gets along with others we can expect either revolt, compliance or both. 

Libertarians will, justifiably, writhe at the thought of such outright social conditioning and parallels with Orwell’s 1984 abound. The rollout of Alexa-type home assistants represents a further iteration of this kind of surveillance and conditioning. The Communist Party, after-all spent a good part of the Cultural Revolution trying to replace familial bonds with loyalty to the Party. Altogether it suggests tighter government control over just about areas of society and the economy are more likely than not.      


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