Penny-wise HK Telecom wages war on costs

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 March, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 March, 1997, 12:00am

Hongkong Telecom is offering its entire workforce the opportunity to take part in a renewed effort to cut costs - this time asking staff to do extra work on the way home.

Under a trial scheme, Telecom employees are being encouraged to deliver telephone bills around their neighbourhoods to reduce the company's mail bill.

Telecom is reputedly paying the 'volunteer' employees 14 cents or higher per item they deliver.

The mail delivery proposal is part of a business strategy Telecom calls Operation Excel, in which staff are asked to contribute ideas about how the company can pare its costs. A Telecom public relations officer said: 'All the staff know we are in a very competitive situation.

'If we all get together we can be a more effective force.' The mail delivery system - praised by Telecom's chief executive officer Linus Cheung at the company's annual spring dinner earlier this month - is being tested at selected residential areas like Taikoo Shing.

The company hopes to spread it Hong Kong-wide in the near future.

The Telecom spokesman said the extra cash given to participants was not seen as pay but rather 'a token of thanks'. Another Operation Excel initiative is the 'mobile referral programme' started just over a month ago.

This sees staff being given an incentive for 'promoting' mobile phones to their friends and acquaintances.

For every mobile phone sold as a result of their referral, employees are given a phone card valued at $68.

Those employees who recruit enough customers have their name placed on a board of successful sales people.

Topping the list is a member of the customer service staff who has managed to peddle more than 40 phones - which adds up to more than $2,700 worth of phone cards.

Analysts described the two policies as 'wacky', but not surprising in view of Telecom's drive to cut costs.

J P Morgan Securities Asia telecommunications analyst David Barden said: 'They would love to be perceived as one of the most innovative cost-control companies in Asia.' An analyst with a British securities house said: 'After all, this is the company whose chief executive officer said he will not travel first class any more when business class will do.' One concern analysts have about the mail delivery scheme is whether the confidentiality of the mail will be safeguarded.

'I just hope employees are not tempted to peek at their neighbour's phone bills,' one said.