• November 5, 2001

WTO Membership Will Accelerate CRM Presence in China

This article originally appeared in
GreaterChinaCRM.org, the first ever CRM portal to focus on Greater China - Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

China's induction into the World Trade Organization (WTO) will expose the country's banking, finance and telecommunications sectors to greater foreign ownership and competition, creating a greater need for CRM service and solutions providers, according to Tim Zhou, Country Manager of Altitude Software's People's Republic of China division.

China's WTO membership will drive customer service initiatives in line with international standards, said Zhou. The entry of new players into the market will increase the demand for new technology and improve business practices, greatly benefiting organizations and customers alike, said Zhou.

China's four state-owned banks currently control two-thirds of the Chinese financial sector. However, Zhou predicts this will change over the next few years as international trade increases and controls on foreign ownership are relaxed.

"In the past, competition was not all that critical, but once global organizations are allowed to begin operating in China it will introduce international standards of business practice including the concept of customer relationship management (CRM)."

Although the Chinese call center industry is a fledgling one, Zhou said an improved telecommunications infrastructure is likely to lead to a much larger proportion of business being conducted over the phone to service China's geographically diverse population.

"Today there are some 300 million phone subscribers in China and more than 120 million mobile phone customers. This represents a huge increase from 1989 when there were only seven million phone users and hardly any mobile phone services."

Zhou said that under a more deregulated environment, companies in the services sector will have to consider how to attract, retain and serve customers in more efficient and competitive ways.

Altitude, a global eCRM solutions provider based in Lisbon, Portugal, was quick to recognize China's potential in the CRM space, according to Zhou. "Altitude Software has long recognized China's strong market potential and is one of the first multi-national customer interaction management (CIM) software companies to translate their solution into Chinese characters."

Although just beginning to develop its technology infrastructure, Zhou believes that China has a huge opportunity to "leapfrog" some of the earlier developments in neighboring countries.

"China's entry into the WTO will do a lot to introduce modern CRM approaches which have not been practiced by government-owned banks, telecommunications and utility sectors in the absence of outside competition," said Zhou.

"Although it may take some time for the effects of increased competition to be felt, those that [implement] efficient systems of handling customer service now will be well placed to survive and flourish in this developing market."

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