Interviewing entrepreneurs in China: practical tips on optimizing customer communication in China

Customer communication in China

China Paradigms interviewed Thomas Knoop, the co-founder of Livecom, to get a clue about the efficiency of customer communication in China. Livecom is an online platform for all-channel customer communication, with the helo of which companies can easily interact with customers on WeChat, website, email, and so on.

Thomas Knoop, an experienced entrepreneur talks about customer communication in China

Thomas Knoop is an entrepreneur with impressive experience in e-commerce, AI solution, and customer management. As a result, Thomas has founded several companies focused on these areas.

Thomas Knoop’s interest in customer service seems to take place during his education and is partly related to the activities in which he participated. Indeed, at Beeckestijn Business School in 2010, he took part in school associations and was in charge of customer experience and contact center management.

Customer communication in China
[Source: a portrait from Knoop’s LinkedIn page, « achieve efficient customer communication in China »]

2010 was also the year when Thomas Knoop moved to the Middle Kingdom and founded Livecom to manage customer communication in China. Before that, in 2001, he founded his first company named Benelux to implement and resell customer service software. It is fair to say that Thomas has always been insisting on customer service ideas. Nowadays, Livecom has become a multifunctional platform for all-channel customer communication in China and has built a relationship with many Chinese companies.

Livecom is a convenient and professional platform for all-channel customer communication

“When we started to build our first product. It was basically a website; Live Chat products were business owners basically could engage with the potential visitors on their website and that was the first version of Livecom in 2003.”

Platform for all-channel customer communication
[Source: the official logo of Livecom, « online platform for all-channel customer communication »]

Livecom started by providing website services for companies giving them the opportunity to interact with potential customers. Yet, shortly after that and as e-mail is a major tool for customer services in Europe, Livecom decided to offer a wider range of services and developed an e-mail channel for customer communication. In 2008, Thomas started to think about the live chat approach. In 2011, after Livecom moved into the Chinese market, it figured out that there were several local channels like WeChat, Weibo to build a connection with customers in China.

Livecom has now become a platform for all-channel customer communication and since companies have different channel preferences for customer management, Livecom is able to provide the most suitable channel for each company according to their specific needs.

Interact with customers on WeChat

As Livecom is a platform for all-channel customer communication, it couldn’t do without main China’s channel, WeChat, when it entered the Chinese market. According to Tencent‘s official statistics, the number of daily active users on WeChat has reached 1 billion, making it the largest user base compared to other popular social media in China.

WeChat can be used as a daily multifunctional tool with such functions as sending messages, make video calls,  read news and articles, buy tickets and much more. This fact explains why more and more companies are moving to this platform to set up official accounts, post soft advertisements, and interact with customers on WeChat.

 Since Thomas Knoop moved to China in 2010, he witnessed the fast development of WeChat from its very beginning, and the platform had obviously not such a big user base at that time. In 2011, Thomas got in touch with WeChat but was still not sure what it was used for, apart from its most basic chatting function. However, just within several months, WeChat was skyrocketing and everyone started to use the software as well as all possible functions:

“I had more and more people start to add each other on WeChat and it became more and more a real communication tool and it was basically a replacement for WhatsApp or maybe even SMS texting because that’s what you did back in the day.”

Therefore, WeChat has become the first channel that Livecom developed after they came into the Chinese market. With the WeChat elaboration, Livecom also developed conversational functions. Livecom has redesigned its product continuously and has finally managed to become the most powerful platform for companies to interact with customers on WeChat.

Customer care in the Chinese market, balance the importance of existing customers and new customers

It may sound strange that many local companies are looking for customer communication in China with the help of a foreign agency, but Thomas has given the answer to it:

“Chinese companies are not very well educated on customer service interaction and I see a lot of Chinese companies do not understand that it typically costs six times more to acquire a customer than to keep a customer because of the share volume in China.”

Livecom aims to boost customer communication in China and so they made the choice to target existing customers instead of trying to appeal to new ones. However, most Chinese local companies are under high pressure of market competition, therefore, in order to gain more market share, they are more likely to keep the price as low as possible to attract customers. Drawing on Thomas’ explanation, there is an obvious lack of customer care in the Chinese market, in comparison with the West market, which is more mature in providing customer services:

“They (Chinese companies) just can’t deliver the level of customer service that we are giving our customers because we come from the West; we know customer service because that is what we do.”

There is no doubt that with the development of various industries in China, especially for B2C companies, they will sooner or later attach importance to customer communication in China. There is an old saying in China that “getting rich is the easy part, staying rich is another story,”. Based on this, it is easy to gain a large customer base in the beginning, but it is way harder to keep the existing customers. A lot of companies in China become popular within a short time but collapse afterward all of a sudden. To conclude, customer care in the Chinese market has demonstrated the significance gradually in the development and transformation of the Chinese economy.


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