Many Chinese companies that I meet make good products or deliver good services. But a lot of these companies don’t understand the concept of marketing them, or dealing professionally with potential customers. This sadly not only applies to small start-ups, but sometimes even to 5-star resorts. A typical example is the upscale Fuchun Resort in Hangzhou.
On Sunday I was in Hangzhou and decided to make a detour to Fuyang to take a look at the Fuchun Resort there. I had seen the resort in several glossy magazines, and also received a brochure the last time I was having dinner at T8 in Xintiandi. The pictures looked fantastic, and it seemed like a great place to spend a weekend. Prices were on the high side, with the cheapest rooms on weekends coming in at over RMB 2200 per night (with a minimum 2 night stay), but if the quality is right I am willing to pay that – even in rural China where people live a whole year on that amount.
We drove over in our car, and asked for directions from the phone directory service 114. That went fine until we were in Fuyang, where the directions they had given us led us to a dilapidated hotel with the same name next to the Party School. Not exactly what we were looking for. So we called the resort, and the girl on the phone asked if we had made a reservation. A reservation? No, we just want to take a look to see if the location is suitable for a conference. The reply: if you don’t have reservations I won’t give you our address! I asked for the manager, and was put on hold. After waiting for over 5 minutes I realized nobody would come on the phone and hang up. We called again, and got someone else on the line. This lady claimed to be the manager. She said she did not want to tell us the address either. If we wanted to take a look we should call on Monday. We told her we are potential customers and had driven over all the way from Shanghai. She literally said: “Bad luck for you. Go back to Shanghai and call back on Monday for an appointment”. My wife asked her name and if she would be willing to take responsibility for her actions. She told us her name was Huang Juli, and she had no problem taking responsibility for this. “Just go back to Shanghai, I won’t tell you where the resort is located”.
I still thought it was just the staff that was not well-trained. So I decided to find out the address of the hotel in another way. My wife stopped a few taxis and finally found one that knew the place. It was just a five-minute drive to the entrance. But there we were stopped again of course. This time it took us about 15 minutes to convince the guard to get the (real?) manager on the phone.
Her tone was extremely bitchy, how did I dare to drive up to the gate of the hotel? I explained her my idea to organize a 40-person VC conference here in September, but she did not really care. I should call on Monday to make an appointment if I wanted to take a look. I kept calm and explained that we drove all the way over, and that we were standing at the entrance road of the hotel. She told me the hotel was fully booked and that the guests ‘were just teeing off’ so we could not enter. I repeated that I was a potential customer and would only need a few minutes to get an impression. No, this was not possible. But I don’t give up easily and kept on asking her if she really wanted to send potential customers back on the 3 hour drive to Shanghai. Finally she told me she would make a one-time exception and we would be shown around for a few minutes.
We were indeed shown around, but not by the manager of course, but by a receptionist who hardly spoke any English. On our tour of the hotel we only saw two guests on the terrace of the restaurant, the rest of the place was deserted. Even the pool and hot whirlpools had no guests. I seriously doubt that the 70-room hotel was indeed full. I asked the receptionist how many members the club had, and she told me about 100. Not an awful lot of people for such a golf club resort. The place looks nice, but the location (very close to Fuyang city, and not directly on the river as they imply in their advertising) could be better.
Note: generally I tend to write quite positive about places that I visit or restaurants where I eat. If the experience is not good, I often just don’t write about it. I know the impact that a negative blog post potentially can have, especially when it’s indexed in Google and could end up high in the search results. But what happened here is something that I do not want to keep silent about. I am still flabbergasted about the way this resort is sending away potential big customers. The Fuchun resort is not a private club that does not allow any outsiders in, but a hotel with a golf course that can even be booked through discount websites such as Ctrip.
They have of course lost me as a potential client because of how they treated us. And I advise all my readers to think twice before going there – and if you go, don’t forget to make a reservation first 🙂 If you want a nice weekend with good service there are a lot of better options around Shanghai.
LOL, that seems like a blood pressure raising experience.
Anyone will be annoyed with such a bad service! The staff and so called managers should be fired.
I also heard and read of the resort many times from the mouths of people and magazines. It was said the scenary around the hotel is naturally beautiful. I guess the hotel might have been too much “bothered” by many random and low-end visitors who just want to look at the luxuary hotel, and thus the management makes the rule of “visitos with no appointment and no reservation are not allowed to enter the premises”. It is, if there is any rule like this made by the resort, an irresponsible and rediculous one, and it must have lost many potential clients like you. As a resort open to public, it shall by no means refuse the visit either by a real client or potential client or common visitor. If I were the hotel’s staff I would be more than happy with proud to show them. In China we have an old saying like this: Anyone who is in front of one’s door is always be taken as a guest. The hotel’s rule is not professional at all, and even very rude. They must be very fit for the positions of the guards of jails!
Your experience reminded me of my visit to the Vansallias (” fan er sai” in Chinese Pinyin, could be wrong spelling) the palace of IV X Louis,the French King, (The King of Sun), near Paris in 2002. After visiting the palace later afternoon, my wife and I felt physically tired and we found a chair for a break by one of the the main entrance of the garden. We saw a beautiful white architecture with several pretty flags waving behind the heavey green trees. It is a hotel ( I forgot the name of it, and it seems to me me that there are some brother hotels of it in China such as Hilton…We decided to enter the hotel for a visit, and before entering it, my wife and I consulted and made a strategy: we would tell the hotel we would like to buy some drink if we were decliend for the visit. With confidence, we approached the duty manager and spoke English with him by asking for a visit. The manager was very kind and asked one of his staff to show us around for 10 minutes. In return to their hospitality, after the visit, we did consume there…We became their real customer althought our cost for two cups of soft drinks was not high compared with room rates.
I recommend that you write a complain letter to their GM and I am so sorry that such things are just happening to our opening country, and to my native province that is one of the most market-oriented ones in present China.
I guess this experience might be one of the most common frustrations happening in China’s commercial life nowadays. It seems like they don’t take the logical thinking and make the right choice. Shinny buildings, fancy shopping centers, but with poorly equipped service staffs; this combination is certainly happening in urban life and increasingly irritating.
I think there are two major reasons for this. Capitalism grows very fast in China but at this moment, still very chaotic. Measures and regulations are in a major transitional period, and people tend to take very conservative move (such as not doing anything or simply rejecting) when they are scared of unknowns. I could say that a lot of people are confused, disorientated and do not quite understand what they are doing, especially those staffs at operational level. China’s current road is quite an elite-led movement; the elites are long-term thinking and intelligent, but they are very likely to omit the needs of including the bottom layer of the organization into their decision making process. Because in this way, everybody can feel motivated to learn what is really happening and how they should perform properly as a part of the whole process. This lack of transparency within the organization itself blocks the necessary communication, and thus the logical thinking process. A modern corporate culture might be the next big thing happening to China in business life; and this approach will most likely start from “complaining”.
I think another reason for that is the majority of staffs in customer service are less-educated immigrants from countryside. Still, people in China think “service job” is a less-regarded profession, which does not deserve much investment, especially in small business. As far as I
@anonymous 1 & 2: thanks for your insights and suggestions. I don’t want to send a letter to the GM at this point. I actually asked for his name and they did not even want to tell me.
For now I rely on Google. I just checked and the post was no. 21 for Fuchun Resort Hangzhou and no. 27 for Fuchun Resort. For Fuchun Resort blog or Fuchun Resort Weblog this post is even number 1. I think they will eventually find it themselves. If that is the case and they read this, they can get in touch with me to discuss about it.
Being a Chinese myself, I often encounter this kind of frustration that problems in China have to be solved by approaching a Western executive. I literally asked to speak to a foreign manager or get his/her contact number. But the hotel staff refused to help. We’ve tried hard enough to become their client. No more wasting time on their improvement (which may or may not happen). If the GM cares, they should make some efforts to reach us.
I must say, you showed a lot of patience and persistence. I would have given up on the Fuchun Resort a lot faster, too much trouble if even the staff doesn’t want to give out the address.:)
I doubt if ranking no. 1 for Fuchun Resort with your post will wake them up though. There’s a big chance they don’t keep track of their positions in the search engines. And if they find out, they probably just blame you for not understanding the uniqueness of their resort:)
Once I have set my mind to achieve something I don’t easily give up, Gemme. And keep in mind that we made a one-hour (one-way) detour to get here.
Not sure if the search engine result will wake them up (although I hope it will), but it can help potential travelers make a better-informed decision about going here or not. Today this post is already at number 5 in Google for the search query “Fuchun Resort”, so I am sure people will read it – and hopefully discuss it with the hotel management.
Hi Marc. Wow, that’s an appallingly bad attitude on the part of the resort staff. And I sure do admire your tenacity. I actually stayed at Fuchun for a few nights in December–company meetings–and found the surroundings (an old tea plantation), the amenities, the rooms themselves, and the F&B offerings to be first-rate, unlike anything I’d ever seen before in China. But the place bends over backward to maintain its aura of exclusivity–to keep the Unwashed Masses from wandering in for a look. There’s a gate at the front, and I remember being struck that even the airport pickup vans, printed with the resort’s logo, were stopped by security and had to hand over papers of some sort.
The manager–I don’t recall his name, Michael something if I’m not mistaken–was a German fellow, and was very chatty and hands-on.
Hope all is well with Tudou. Would love to meet up with you and/or Gary some time; I’m in Shanghai most of next week.
Hi there, again from Donald Dong who dropped the comment on the topic several days ago. I am pleased to see so many readers or Marc’s friends have made their serious comments.
If I were Marc I would have had even more reactions on the hotel.I might have written a compliant letter to local media such as Hangzhou Daily and Zhejiang Daily for their apology and improvement.
They were so rude and impolite to the visiting guests, let alone Marc had explained hard and even “begged” to them for several times — that they came here after several hours by drive from Shanghai was just want to look around the premises for potential meeting venue.
The Fuchun Resort might do have such “unwritten rule” to decline the random guests who are not going to stay there, and the junior staff such as the security and the manager might do “comply with” the rule for the refusal. However, their actions were not flexible at all to Marc’s case, and they were not tolerable at all either. Such kind of staff, although they obeyed the “company rule” but were very mechanically rigid. They might be afraid of being sacked by their senior and top management if they “broke” the rule. If it happened it would be the tragedy of both the top management and of the resort under the leadership of such management. The only thing that was worth consoling was that they finally let Marc enter throught for a while.
I very much agreed with the comment and in depth analyss made by the anonymous commentator regarding the “elite-led” model. I wish such model (even in other industries of the nation and the world) could be eliminated, as we are equal if measued by the service and being-served spirits.
I guess I have a different response — why should you feel entitled to “have a look around to see if the place is up to your standards”? Reverse the roles: you are in charge of an exclusive resort. Your number one priority is to take care of your guests, many of whom are persons requiring security. Some random person calls and says “you don’t know me, I’m not a guest, but I want to come take a look around to see if your hotel meets my expectations. I’m, like, some important VC guy, and I may want to have a conference some day.” Wouldn’t you tell that person to shove off? I would.
Look, I’ve never been to this place, and maybe they were rude to you. But your attitude is so entitled, frankly, it’s a little disgusting.
@anonymous: my first thought while reading your reply was “You should apply for a job at the resort”, because you would fit in perfectly with the non-service mentality they have there.
You ask me to reverse the roles, sure: If I would be in charge I would do everything to make potential future guests happy, and certainly not treat them like rubbish. That’s how you grow a business, not by acting superior to your potential guests. Be polite, and treat both guests and potential guests with respect. If someone has driven a long distance to see if a resort would be suitable for a conference, I won’t tell them to ‘shove off’. That would be the state-owned hotel attitude that is still prevalent in many hotels in this country, but a resort that pretends (or wants) to be high-class cannot do that. Maybe the resort is actually state-owned? I would not be surprised.
Everybody can book rooms in the resort online, so every random guy can show up there to stay in the hotel. If there would be ‘many persons requiring security’ (where did you get that idea by the way?) you should only allow pre-selected guests. Your argument therefore makes no sense.
To cut a long story short, I don’t agree with you at all. The management and staff feel superior to their potential guests (and therefore likely to their guests), which is the wrong attitude in every industry, especially in the service industry.
I wonder, are you really not the manager of this resort? You decide to reply anonymously, you have the same attitude as the management, and make a remark about ‘persons requiring security’ although you claim you have never been there. It’s probably the kind of reply I would write under a blog post if I would be the manager and hear about this blog entry from a guest. If you are, feel free to get in touch and try to convince me that this is the way you have to run an upscale resort.
I’m staying there in November, I’ll give you a better update nearer the time, but so far the person on reception has been nothing but helpful, offering me an upgrade because I’m staying midweek, giving me advice about travel arrangements etc. I agree it’s a bit silly reacting to you in the way they did though, would have been easy to let you in and then decide whether you were a timewaster.
Thanks for the heads up. I had been toying with the idea of checking out this place, but after your experience, I’m certainly not going to support the pathetic behaviour/attitude. Will spend my beans elsewhere 8)
(trust your judgment via niubi and suede)
Well through all the comments from all of you.
As I am traveling for business trip very often to Hangzhou, I went there to check it out!
The place was nice, but I was not really WOW, I have seen a much better unique boutique hotel than this pathetic behaviour!
I share the comments of everyone, it’s not worth to go there!
What a silly place!
Thomas, from Paris
I heard about Fuchun Resort a few years ago and when I did some cursory research, I either read on their own website (which now seems changed to have hardly any information at all) or on Ctrip, as those are the only to places I recall looking up, that the resort is open only to guests and does not admit visitors.
Fuchun clearly does not care about being inclusionary or populist, they probably don’t need the money.
Yes, it seems extremely poor business practice to bar potential clients from having a tour of the premises, but I do feel as some due diligence on your part could have been done to avoided the whole situation altogether, including the frustration and the waste of time. Perhaps even phoning ahead for the address before departing for the 3-hour journey and being informed then that you would not be welcomed.
The management of Fuchun obviously are not in the hospitality industry and
It’s easy for those in Western countries to feel as if the way they do things is the right way, but this has carried on to Westerners in China (as well as other countries) believing things should be done their way. Employees here tend to follow rules strictly, however irrational.
If we choose to visit or reside in China, then we have to accept the differences to a certain level and understand that China is a newly industrialized country. The concept of customer service is still in a nascent stage. “Approaching a Western executive” to solve an issue really does not get to the core of the problem.
Anonymous, an immigrant is someone who goes into a country of which he is not a native for permanent residence. Somebody moving from the countryside to an urban area is not an immigrant. The correct word is “migrant”.
I can’t speak for all cities in China, but from my amateur anthropological studies in Shanghai, I see less of an inferiority complex on the part of the migrant workers than a mentality of superiority from the locals. There seems to be very little camaraderie amongst Chinese people from different cities, provinces and classes.
But is is true that having a staff mainly comprised of people from rural areas at upscale restaurants, 5-star resorts, etc., may be partly to blame for what can be construed as “poor service,” as the impressions of service and luxury of the migrants are usually incongruous with those of the clientele. In tandem with more intensive training, respect probably goes a long way.