Europe 18 June to 1 July 2017

lts been a while since I visited Europe. Even then, it was mostly for work and there was always a local host looking after us.

This time round, I took my family for a 12 day holiday to Amsterdam, Paris and Zurich. It was indeed a pleasant experience and we enjoyed it thoroughly. Of course there were moments of joy as well as moments of exasperation. Luckily, there was more joy overall.

As Alexis is only 10, it was great for her to see and also learn a few things on culture, behavior and mannerisms of people outside of Asia.

Firstly, on language. In France today, we are pleasantly pleased that the French we encountered in places we went spoke English. They understood us and were very helpful in giving us guidance. Though it will be nicer if they did it with a smile. Somehow they seemed moody and sullen.

The myth that the French spoke little English or ignored people who spoke English to them – does not seem to be true anymore. However, they do seem impatient and stern with an air of arrogance when giving answers (avoiding eye contact as well) : which I felt was rude.

We could see Pullman Hotel employs people from other countries to be at their front desk and breakfast area. Everyone was helpful and could cater to tourists from China, Korea and Latin countries, hence speaking in languages other than French whilst serving foreigners.

However, it was indeed contrasting when a low level receptionist was  helpful and polite but instead the captain of the hotel simply refused to answer us a simple question ; but insisted that we spoke to the concierge instead. And he (the captain) was not even busy.

I was making a joke to my wife  that perhaps this captain’s English was not so great and hence there is a defense machanism to divert me to someone else, instead of loosing face in case he did not understand me or could not answer me accurately. Or is he “looking down” on people who are not in “suit and tie” ?

The key point here is language. On our end, when we are in another country, it would be great if we spoke a little bit of their language. And on the French people’s end, it would be great too if they recognize the importance of English and other foreign languages today  ( I HOPE THEY DO), especially if they want to host the Olympics in the near future.

Now, on the other side of the coin, we happenned to be sitting beside a middle age American couple who thought that their American language was most superior in the world. They ordered coffee and made a scene comparing milk vs. cream and complained that their coffee was “burnt” and tasted awful, when infact I guessed they were just not being accustomed to the strong taste of black European coffee. Thats fine – if not for the fact that they complained that the waiter was bad and did not understand English. Hello,  you are in France, Mr. COWBOY who drinks only “light watery coffee” and light Budweiser !!

It would be like me (a Chinese) expecting the waiter to understand Mandarin and wanted tea to taste like Chinese Oolong tea and compalined that Mint Camomile did not taste good and was too diluted ???!!

Note – I am only too aware that not all Americans are like the ones I met here.

Again, the point would be on “language” ; and we should never assume that our language is the BEST in the world and that everyone else should understand it. Shame on us if we do.

Second observation  – cost cutting !! I was surprised that today KLM and AirFrance have adopted the Air Asia way (or was it vice versa).

Checking in and printing of boarding passes can only be done via an automated touch screen machine. Any checked in baggage will cost 35 € and the machine accepts credit cards too. In CDG Paris and Zurich, the luggage tag is even printed out from the machine and we have to tag our luggage ourselves. Then when we went to the check in counter, there was no person there. We had to scan our ticket ourselves as well as our baggage tag too and then push our luggage into the conveyor system. Wow !! Zero personnel needed for the whole check in process. Tickets are printed on cheap paper. No more ticket cards.

In Asia, Air Asia is regarded as a budget airline. Now KLM and AirFrance too ? Seems like everyone is cutting headcount and cost. It is indeed inevitable. 

Observation point – if one is not familliar with touch screen features, computer illiterate or uneducated,  one will have challenges with these machines. We saw many passengers fiddling with the machines – obviously confused and lost. Sadly, there were also very few AF personnel available to provide assistance. Language was again another barrier here ; as foreigners had challanges communicating with the AF personnel. 

Some autommated machines do not even accept foreign credit cards. (Not very ready on globslization, are you ?).

And with 35 € for 1 piece of check in luggage, everyone should travel light. Oh dear, we had 3 luggages to check in. Really … really ….nothing is for free anymore.

And it may be VERY WISE  to check in early to avoid “timing stress”. With the queue and the confusion, it took us 1 hour 15 minutes to finally reach our boarding gate. The normal discipline of checking in 2 hours earlier may not be enough (unless of course you already know all the steps and procedures).

I am happy though to note that we no longer need to pay a 1 € coin to get a trolley cart. Years ago, I felt this was so ridiculous. Not so much of the amount of the money –  but more of “how many foreigners would have a 1 € coins in their pocket ready on standby to get a trolley to bring our huge luggages ???”

Transportation in the city – we noted that it is so easy, comfortable, clean, inexpensive and efficient to travel by train. Every major cities are connected by rail and going from place to place was a breeze. Hence, it is important that one stays in hotel that is near the city central station. These stations are huge and had many lines, built years ago. Hello Indonesia, why oh why did we not learn this years ago ?

However, taxis are pretty expensive. In Paris and Amsterdam, some taxis have a fix rate of 50 to 55 € from the airport to any hotel in the city centre and vice versa. Of course, there’s always “thugs” who would prey on ignorant tourist and have their mileage meter switched on resulting to passengers having to pay 10 to 15 € extra. One thug even offered us a “traffic free route” for 85 € flat. Luckily, we refused.

On our last day, we were so lucky. Our taxi driver was polite, kind and honest. Told us directly when we boarded that the rate is fixed at 50 €,  googled for us for that the Garuda check-in gate was at row 31 and when we arrived at the airport, he automatically helped us to get 2 trolley-carts for our bagages. All done with a friendly smile. Wow. How can I not give him a good tip !! Europe is wishing us a pleasant flight home.

Well all in all, we learnt so many things in our days here.

Personally, I would have preferred to be served with more smiles, humility and patience. It would be nice if they were more open and receptive instead of being defensive. They should listen better and not assume the questions we had and thus giving us wrong answers. It would be wonderful if they showed more care and sincerity for our well being.

We are tourist. Of course we would like to feel warm, welcome, perhaps even pampered.

Well what do I know ? Maybe Asians are spoilt when it comes to demanding for good SERVICE. Errrr … customer is king ? No ? Oooops who taught me that ?

Communication is always a  2 way street and perhaps some Frenchmen is also blogging away now on how we Asians cannot communicate well, being too demanding or having too many questions (asking questions does not mean one is stupid, mind you).

But hey Europe is Europe. One country differs from the other and obviously, different nationalities differ in their own respective manners and behaviors. Some do welcome foreigners with a smile whilst perhaps others may feel impatient on having to put up with aliens “invading” their country and perhaps their ego challenged for having to serve Asians ? Well,  how delussional, arrogant and ignorant can one be ?

For today, I simply believe everyone is equal and Mutual Respect should be a culture for all human beings regardless of race, nationality, color or religion. The world would be a more beautiful place to live in then.

Good bye Europe. We enjoyed the scenery, the good food, the wine, the history, lakes, beautiful architecture, paintings, the clean drinking water from the tap, the friendly Swiss-German ; and we ceratinly would come back here again. The challeges we went thru were pale in comparison to all the other great things we encountered and saw.

To top it all, we met SUPERMAN in Zurich. Hello Clark Kent ….

I am a patient guy, really.

I have been know to be impatient. If one were to ask my family, friends or colleague whether I am a patient guy, I believe all of them would say NO  in a jiffy.

I am impatient with bad services,  rude service providers, snail pace responses, some people’s lack of common sense and sometimes to people who do not see my simple point of view. Yeahhhh … I  know its not good, I admit.

Well, until as I was having my vacation in Paris recently with my family, I realized that living in Jakarta has taught me to be PATIENT in one area. The TRAFFIC.

I happpend to be in Paris on the 2 days (23-24 June) where they had a “demonstration carnival” in their push to bid as host for the 2024 Olympic Games. Roads were closed, sites were quardonned off and naturally traffic was in total chaos.

I rode in 2 taxis and they told me they have not experienced such “bad traffic” before. I could see them being frustrated, honking, driving precariously as they tried to not give way at all to whatever that is in front of them. Braking, accelerating, jerking. Geez it was really an unpleasant ride. Their body language showed annoyance. They seemed to be uttering words which I believe are some curse words in French.

Yes they were really VERY IMPATIENT. They told me that a normal 20 minute ride has now taken them 40 minutes and they are PISSED OFF.

I looked at my wife and smiled. Besides the jerking, we were completely at ease with a 40 minute ride. Ha ha …. we are from Jakarta, monsieur  !! Our normal car rides would be 1-2 hours on average.

I even guided the taxi driver using google maps and asking him to avoid all the “red stretch of roads”, with a smile and some humour. He was impressed at my cheerfulness and PATIENCE.

We arrived at our destination finally after a 20 minutes delay. We were calm but our driver was fuming mad, cursing the govt for not thinking of the public and he could not understand why or how an Olympic event can be organized in Paris. He dropped us off at 4 pm and he told us that he is going straight home and he will be home the next day too. 

” It is stupid to be out here” he said.

I turned to my wife and told her smugly  ” Dear, I am not so impatient after all, am I “

A picture paints a thousand words

Selling ….

Words, accompanied by visuals  – makes it more convincing. Shouldn’t one have a collection of visuals to share with one’s customers ?

Words like warmth …….. space …. rustic beauty …. random artistry, simplicity …. tonality variation, inviting ………. all articulated by the sales person precisely understood by the customer.

Dreams can be shared ………clearly.

True “LOVE” to sell

A true Passion to Sell 

Is like finding love and falling in love
You believe in it, you pursue it  

It’s non manupulative
There’s no deception, no coercion
It has to be of free will

You act, speak and smile with your heart
Your action match your words,  pure and sincere

You serve, you simply do your best to impress
You get the sale, you take care of your customer
You hope for a long term relationship

Is selling your passion ?
Are you selling right ?

Passion to sell

When we speak 

When we present

When we try to influence someone 

We must “FEEL”  deeply for things we say


We must be sincere

There should excitement

There should be enthusiasm

Only then can our proposition move our audience and make them emotionally connected.

Touch their hearts 

Serve their needs

Show them WHY our proposition is important and meaningful.

Only then are we adding value and knowledge to our audience.

A well informed customer will be our good customer.

Communication when in crisis

Challenges will occur. Crisis will happen.

Here is where EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION is needed. Like it or not specifics on corrective actions and deadlines need to be given.

Angry customers do not like vague answers. Today, every customer is a SMART customer and can smell poor excuses a mile away. Lastly, I cannot agree more that in today’s world “sorry” is simply NOT good enough. It is just a word.

An organization needs to demonstrate in clear actions how a “sorry” can compensate a customer who has suffered.



The disastrous IT failure at British Airways (BA) that ruined travel plans for more than 75,000 has sent the company’s reputation and share value into a sharp dive, and its poor communication is surely not helping.

The airline’s parent company, International Airlines Group, saw a drop in stock of more than 4% on Tuesday; it finished the day down 0.41% on Wednesday.

Analysts at Citigroup estimated that the IT problems could cost British Airways around EUR 100 million.

According to YouGov Brand Index, which measures consumer perceptions of brands, BA’s “Index” score, which is a combination of metrics including quality, value and reputation, has also plummeted. It dropped by a statistically significant 9.5 points over the past week on a list of the UK’s 28 biggest airline brands.

The chaos all began when the airline’s computer systems went down on Saturday(27 May 2017) and there was no functioning back-up. UA cancelled all flights and only managed to resume full version Tuesday(30 May 2017), with thousands of passengers now still without their bags.In response to the turmoil, Alex Cruz, the chief executive and chairman of British Airways, said sorry a couple of times through three videos BA released on social media as well as its online press-room, yet he has refused to be publicly questioned and declined calls to step down.

According to The Daily Mail, he had even emailed staff members, urging them not to comment on the meltdown as the company “are not in the mode of ‘debriefing what happened’ but rather ‘let’s fix this mode’.

…If you do not want to get involved or cannot get involved, I would kindly ask you to refrain from live commentary, unless it is a message of support to the thousands of colleagues that love BA as much as you do.

– Cruz in his letter to the UA staff members.

Angry Twitter comments revealed that unclear organisations and explanations had left thousands of passengers stranded in airport terminals. Many waited hours for just a Twitter response, and some passengers were unable to call its customer services centre, or were directed to a phone line that costs at least 50p (HK$5) per minute when called from a mobile phone.

Adding fuel to the fire was the airline’s announcement on Monday, which said passengers who gave up on waiting in airport queues or on hold to the call centre were not entitled to the airline’s coverage of the cost of additional tickets.

The airline has now reportedly soften its approach, saying it will look “on a case-by-case basis”.

BA should announce a timeline to let customers know “when to expect”

“It’s safe to say the airline hasn’t handled the crisis very well,” said Alan Casey, partner at Prophet.

In the first place, Casey said the information released by BA is believed by many to be incomplete, yet customers expect full transparency when a problem occurs – how long the problem would last, why it is happening, and the structural changes that the brand would made, both operationally and culturally. Casey said users expect the brand to explain how they would get back in control as soon as possible.

Although the brand explained the cancellation was caused by a worldwide IT systems failure, people familiar with IT will know it’s not usual to experience such destruction in a well-established company like BA. Such suspicions will destroy trust fundamentally, Casey explained.

“Either people would question if it is something else, for example, if the system is being hacked, and that BA is forced to shut down the whole IT system; or they will suspect BA had over-cut its IT budget. These two suspicions lead to concerns: could BA’s quality and maintenance be affected by the IT meltdown?”

Trust is fundamental, especially when it comes to an airline company. Customers do not want to fly on a system they believe is not safe or trusted.

Vincent Tsui, chief marketing officer at Next Mobile Ltd, agreed that BA should clarify speculations as soon as possible. “It would solve many problems if they could clarify that the chaos has nothing to do with BA, and they have yet to formally respond.”

However, Tsui said it is understandable for Cruz to refrain from being publicly questioned, and asked front-staff to keep silent.

“The larger the corporate is, the harder it is and the longer it takes for the CEO to understand which part went wrong in a catastrophic event,” Tsui explained. “It’s better though, if the chief can give a clear and concrete timeline on the steps that BA will take. For instance, he could say they will undergo a deep investigation on the issue and report two weeks later, so concerned customers and investors know what to expect.”

Furthermore, Tsui suggested BA explain its compensation through an FAQ on social media as soon as possible, as it would answer most of the passengers’ inquiries and help lift the busy customer service team’s burden.

Saying sorry is not enough

“Going forward, people will still take British Airways, but it would be harder for the brand to charge a premium, with customers no longer feeling inclined to pay extra for the airline’s claim of quality,” said Casey. “The two remedies they should take now is to be over-communicating and over-compensating: being especially open on the information they have and the time BA would need to get the problems resolved, and make it up to the people most affected.”

“Sorry would not be enough – BA will have to invest in showing they are taking the crisis seriously.”

Drawing reference from Toyota’s vehicle recalls controversy between 2009-2011, which demonstrated a change in both culture and production line, Casey advised BA to show they are revamping its leadership and customer services to prove it is still a world-class airline brand.

Be pushy and have “no mercy” on “time”
As “time” has no mercy on us

Do it now
Do it quick
Why wait ?
Why tolerate those who waste our time ?

Should we not increase our expectations on others to speed up ?

Once the MOMENT is lost
We will NEVER get it back.

Let’s not miss the chance
Nor live our lives with regrets

And fail because we have been slow
Due to others
Or from our own behavior


When presenting or selling, one must understand the BEHAVIOR of our customer (besides his needs). Every customer behaves differently and our presentation/proposition must be “custom-made” tailored to the “BEHAVIOR” of every customer.

ONE presentation or selling proposition  DOES NOT fit all.

Today, in the tile industry, product differentiation gaps are small. 

The human touch, the attitude, creativity, knowledge to share and services are KEY to add value and influence customers’ inherent BEHAVIOR.

A customer NEEDS tile. But what and where  he ends up buying, how much he spends – will depend on how we have aligned ourselves to his BEHAVIOR.

Be GREAT in everything we do.
Our personality is equally important as our technical knowlege.


It’s MY FAULT ….how can I make it up to you ?

When one has the courage to say sorry and apologize sincerely,

one can dramatically change the impression of a “customer”.

A mistake is normal.

We are only human.

It’s the the way we “resolve the mistake ” that differentiates  a  “Champion” versus a “Nobody”.

Be accountable.

One becomes a better and trusted person by the way one corrects his/her  mistakes to make things better.

Customers respect and appreciate this if it’s done sincerely from the heart.

Strong bonding and relationships are built through challenging situations.

When everything is smooth, there is NOTHING to prove.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: