Career Advice Successful High flyers’ story

Ensuring customer satisfaction

Appointed as managing director of Ngong Ping 360 in July last year, YT Li plays an integral part in promoting Hong Kong’s tourism sector. He oversees the operations and marketing of the 5.7 km cable car system that runs between Tung Chung and the theme village at Ngong Ping, carrying up to 4,500 guests per day.

Li began his career as a trainee supervisor with the MTR Corporation in 1978. At the time, he operated works trains used in building the first MTR line and, later, joined the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation as an assistant passenger services manager in 1984. There, he took charge of railway infrastructure and train maintenance, in addition to looking after safety and the planning of new rail lines. Li became the KCRC’s senior director for transport in 2003 and was appointed deputy operations director of MTR COPR after the two local railway companies merged. He holds both a BSc and PhD in sociology from the Chinese University. He talks to Jan Chan.

What does your current role involve?

My major responsibility is to operate a safe and reliable cable car service and provide an unforgettable experience for passengers. To achieve this, I need to get involved in a large number of promotional and marketing activities, especially those designed to attract tourists from the mainland and overseas. Largely because of that, I have to attend many meetings, both internal and external, with colleagues, government departments, travel agencies and delegations from other countries. One of the broader aims of the job is to let as many visitors as possible know about the other side of Hong Kong – its beautiful countryside and great scenery.

Which early lessons in business have proved most useful?  

Knowledge and experience I gained in the railway business is definitely useful in my current position. It has helped me understand the importance of listening to customer feedback, getting the fundamentals right, and paying attention to detail. What we do is all about putting the customer first. That starts from the moment someone steps through the gate and extends to every contact they have with any of our colleagues. We believe that every detail counts and that each point of contact can influence the customer’s impressions and overall experience. Of course, we also plan for the macro things very meticulously, but that requires a different kind of attention.

Has your leadership style changed over the years?

I prefer a participative style of management and expect colleagues to get fully involved in any discussions. However, I understand there is still a need to lead the team and give clear direction. A leader must be decisive and responsible. Once I set a goal, I push colleagues to ensure they achieve it. Of course, every leader has to understand where individual strengths lie and make full use of them for the company’s advantage. Over the years, I have come to see what it takes to work with younger people and how to motivate them effectively. I’m still learning about when more encouragement is needed and letting people see that company cares about their welfare.

What are the hardest parts of your current role?

It is not easy to keep coming up with new ideas and innovative products to attract more tourists and repeat visitors. Recently, though, we launched the crystal cabin, a night ride for the mid-autumn festival, and a cable car exhibition, giving people the chance to experience something different and exciting. Our aim is to promote our cable car to the world and make it one of the “must visit” attractions in Hong Kong. To find inspiration and be more creative, I think it is important to make occasional overseas trips to see exactly what they are doing in other countries.  

How do you want the business to develop?

My goal is to maintain the company’s environmentally friendly image, and a second target is to offer a greater variety of entertainments for guests and tourists. A number of new attractions for Ngong Ping Piazza and Po Lin Monastery are already on the drawing board. We are sure they will provide new excitement and interest when they are unveiled.

How do you keep things in perspective?

Although my daily schedule is usually packed, I’m fortunate to be working somewhere where you can feel quite close to nature. At Ngong Ping, we have the mountains and the sea nearby, and I find it is even possible to relax a little bit when riding on the cable car with guests. This is one way I am able to maintain a work-life balance.

How do you pass on your experience to the younger generation?   

I’ve been running marathons for many years and have learnt a lot from the training process. I like to use this experience to help young people understand the importance of physical exercise. Regular training is the best way to ensure good health and, besides that, it strengthens the desire and persistence needed to achieve success. I take any chance that comes up at work or at social events to pass on this message and, on a practical level, the company also organises a lot outdoor activities such as hiking, jogging and tree planting.

In other respects, I will sometimes invite junior staff to attend meetings with me, so that they get a better understanding of what goes into strategic planning and making key management decisions. I also make a point of adopting an open-door policy, so that colleagues feel free to come in at any time and discuss their opinions. If there are any particular problems, they know I am there to work things out together.

Top tips

  • Li tries to find time to go jogging every day, no matter how busy his schedule is
  • He believes that paying attention to customer feedback is the key to business success
  • Li encourages young people to serve society