Career Advice HR Focus

Esprit de Servcorp

Serviced office provider’s criteria for staff are as rigorous as those it sets for meeting clients’ needs

Entering a serviced office, usually all you see is a couple of receptionists and a tea lady occasionally washing used cups and tidying the pantry. One cannot imagine the amount of work, organisation, training and management that goes behind the scenes to enable the company to run, locally and globally.

Servcorp, set up in 1978 on a floor of Sydney's MLC building, has developed into an international serviced office provider with more than 140 premier locations worldwide. With its own global IT network, flexibility and transparency to support clients' businesses, it aims to offer the world's finest serviced offices.

The challenge for such a global company is how to safeguard the brand and ensure the highest standards and consistency of service in all its locations by getting the support and buy-in from everyone working for the company.

"The best way to ensure that staff provide the Servcorp level of service is to educate them on the company's mission and vision - a practice that is understood and lived by every single employee irrespective of position," says Wilma Wu, Servcorp's general manager for Hong Kong.

The company has a clear positioning: to be the finest serviced and virtual office provider in the world. Staff are trained to have a strong conviction about offering the highest standards in the industry with a clear understanding of why certain processes are done in certain ways.

The requirements are demanding and extend to minute details such as the dress code. A simple action such as making tea is detailed for them: the teabag should be removed from the cup before serving and the milk must always be served hot. Managers must also walk through the offices three times a day to ensure everything is in spectacular condition.

The objective is to help clients' business succeed. Saving on office-space costs can only get one so far. What really helps is generating revenue, and Servcorp wants to differentiate itself from the competition by not only helping clients to save cost, but also giving them every assistance so that they can boost their bottom line.

"We offer the best addresses in the world, allowing business owners to have the confidence to seize opportunities. We offer the best technology, developed with an investment of US$50 million. Clients join an international platform that is highly efficient, productive and allows businesses to conduct operations quickly," Wu says.

Ensuring global service standards starts with global recruitment standards. Fresh hires all have three months' probation, regardless of position. Servcorp is focused on those three months, as expectations are set.

After general training, employees embark on a two-year training programme, gaining an insight into recruiting, accounting, finance, administration, customer service, sales and IT. Sales training, for example, starts from the basics of making a presentation, such as the handshake (or the correct way of bowing in Japan), eye contact, how to talk clearly and concisely, among other practices.

Servcorp Campus, the web-based training tool can be updated and adopted to cultural differences. Wu says this is Servcorp's training gold mine: a library of policies and procedures equivalent to three big box files, and a sales blog where best practices are shared. There is also sharing by senior management, including current videos on hot topics.

The yearly appraisal and test also conform to international standards. "You can see the global average and you know where you are vis-à-vis the company's standards," Wu says.

There is also opportunity to work in other offices or help open new offices and train the people there. The training is also supported by an incentive scheme and generous rewards for long-serving employees.

The programme gives employees experience of human resources, client management, financial statements and IT; they will have business discipline and might have international exposure by then. In a nutshell, they know how to run a business.

"Servcorp prepares staff to be young executives and they appreciate that. Those who have left the company have joined headhunting firms, worked in HR or set up their own firms. Apart from our clients, we also want to give team members a chance to succeed," Wu says.


HIGH LEVEL OF SERVICE - AT ALL LEVELS "Whether they are at manager level or the tea lady, employees are repeatedly told - and encouraged - to reach the highest level of service. This belief is embraced by all employees globally and impacts every process."

NO COMPROMISE "The objective has to be clear: high standards are very important and must be maintained without compromise to ensure global marketplace leadership."

CLIENTS' BUSINESS PARTNERS "We have to be passionate, transparent, honest and reliable and, must exceed expectations to assist our clients in growing their businesses in the cities and countries where we are present."

LEADING LIGHTS "Our local teams are like leading lights for clients, helping them to save time and effort in developing their business."