December 31, 2013

The Customer is Not Always Right (but Should be Treated with Respect Nonetheless)

I am writing this post from Las Vegas, Nevada, where I am planning to attend the 2014 AT&T Developer Summit and 2014 International CES. I arrived in Las Vegas on Dec. 18, 2013 to spend the holidays with my mom in Boulder City, Nevada. I spend a large amount of my time working from the Boulder City Library, which is a nice facility with ample space for reading, working or performing research. Unfortunately, I had a bad experience with a staff member during one particular visit. This experience serves as a reminder the importance of good customer service even when the customer is not right.

In short, I was rudely scolded by a library employee for possessing a cup of coffee contained in a paper cup inside the library. While I recognize that I was wrong for bringing a beverage inside the library (food and drinks are prohibited), the staff member should have pointed out my error in a more polite and professional manner. Very loudly and rudely, she ask me what was in my paper cup and when I responded that it was coffee, she informed (scolded) me that my beverage is not to be allowed in the library. Given the quiet atmosphere of the library, I was terribly embarrassed for being treated in a manner that I have not endured since I was a small child.

The Boulder City Library also has a no cell phone policy. While I have never violated this policy, I have witnessed the way certain staff members have scolded patrons for talking on their mobile phone inside the library. I recall one experience when a boy of elementary school age was doing some computer research for a homework assignment. With his cell phone, he proceeded to call his mom asking a couple of questions about his assignment. While talking on the phone, a library staff member approached the boy and loudly scolded him for violating the library's no cell phone policy. The boy endured great embarrassment.

In each situation, the boy and I were wrong in our actions. However, staff members should be trained to handle these situations with more professionalism and politeness. It is important to note that I have encountered staff members who are very polite and professional.

The customer is not always right. If any customer or subscriber of ROI3 has a problem with our service, however, please know that my colleagues and I will do our best to resolve the problem. Regardless of the problem, I promise that you will be treated with respect and dignity. Always feel free to contact me directly at or +1 (206) 552-9601. Thank you and Happy New Year!!

[Disclosure: I am a property owner in Boulder City, Nevada, which allows me to possess a Nevada Library Card.]

Aaron Rose serves as President and CEO of ROI3, Inc., a Seattle, Wash.-based company that empowers people in emerging economies through innovative, technology-based solutions. He is also the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

December 18, 2013

Optimistic about China Despite its Slowing Economic Growth and Rising Costs

On November 20, 2013, I attended an event in Seattle, Wash. entitled "Update on Issues in the US-China Relationship," which was co-hosted by the Washington State China Relations Council and the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle. Erin Ennis, Vice President of the US-China Business Council (USCBC), a Washington, DC-based organization representing approximately 220 US companies selling American goods and services in China, focused her presentation on the USCBC 2013 China Business Environment Survey Results.

According to a press release dated October 10, 2013, the USCBC "surveys its member companies each year to gauge China's business climate and assess the top challenges faced by companies doing business there." The press release explains, "As China's economy has slowed over the past year, USCBC’s survey results indicate that companies face business and market access issues in an economy that for the past five years has been a rare bright spot in a difficult global downturn."

Ms. Ennis noted that the growth rate of China's economy is slowing and cost increases are the most significant challenge of member companies. Reading from the report, she said, "Fewer companies in this year's survey report that their profit margins in China are better than that of their global rates, and fewer companies report double-digit revenue increases compared to previous years."

Ms. Ennis said competition with Chinese companies in China is listed second among the ten challenges identified by member companies (see list below). The report's Executive Summary explains that "most multinational companies in China contend with other foreign competitors as well as both state-owned and private Chinese companies. Survey respondents expressed concern over the benefits that Chinese companies (both state-owned and private) receive that are not available to foreign companies."

Interestingly, while intellectual property rights (IPR) are a regular topic in the U.S. media, IPR enforcement is listed fifth among the ten challenges identified by member companies. The report says, "Problems with licensing occur at the central, provincial, and local levels and affect almost every aspect of doing business in China. Licensing issues often overlap with other issues in the top 10, including uneven regulatory implementation, lack of national treatment, and insufficient transparency in government rule drafting and decision making."

While my colleagues and I at ROI3 recognize the slowing pace of China's economic growth, we continue to remain optimistic about the opportunities to monetize our mobile software-as-a-service in the world's second largest economy and one of the world's largest mobile telecommunications market. As outlined in previous posts on this blog, China currently has over 300 million 3G subscribers and will see smartphone shipments exceed 460 million units by 2017 including 440 million 4G users by 2017. We are committed to producing localized mLearning apps and content that will empower smartphone and tablet users in China to improve their lives.

The top 10 challenges cited by USCBC member companies are:

#1  Cost increases
#2  Competition with Chinese enterprises (state-owned or private)
#3 (tie)  Administrative licensing
#3 (tie)  Human resources: Talent recruitment and retention
#5  Intellectual property rights enforcement
#6  Uneven enforcement or implementation of Chinese laws and policies
#7  Nondiscrimination / National treatment
#8  Transparency
#9  Standards and conformity assessment
#10  Foreign investment restrictions

Aaron Rose serves as President and CEO of ROI3, Inc., a Seattle, Wash.-based company that empowers people in emerging economies through innovative, technology-based solutions. He is also the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.