It has been nearly two years since Datuk Lai Shu Wei made the decision to join the property industry.
Refreshed after a well-deserved Chinese New Year break, the father of one, spoke of how after 25 years in branding and marketing, he saw the immediate need to focus on the fundamentals of going back to basics in Sime Darby Property.
Datuk Shu Wei’s enthusiasm for his craft and passion for the brand was infectious. This permeated the conversation as he explained how he implemented his plans to take Sime Darby Property to the next level, culminating in winning the recent Putra Brand’s Marketer of The Year Award.
His wealth of experience is thanks to his background in the telecommunications and FMCG sectors. As winner of the Malaysian CMO of the Year 2019 Award, Datuk Shu Wei knew that some strategies and initiatives from those industries would work just as effectively in the property development game.
The first strategy he implemented was to use the RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) approach.
This framework helped define roles and responsibilities within Sime Darby Property and ensured that the right people were in the right place. It effectively helped streamline the sales and marketing process and made it more efficient.
“It was about putting fundamentals in place, going back to having the right people in the right role, and going for the right thing, the right structure, working with the right people and partners,” said Datuk Shu Wei.
The go-getter also wanted his staff to take more risks and speak out if they saw something wrong.
“I once asked someone about a particular process. I felt that it was not efficient. I asked the staff, ‘What do you think?’
The staff agreed that it could be better. I said, ‘If that’s the case, make the necessary changes, and I will back you’.
These guys are experts. When I raise concerns they immediately know the right solutions. But they must have the courage to execute and make the changes. He admitted that what he implemented was not rocket science.
That is why it is always good to have an open channel so we can talk about these things,” said Datuk Shu Wei.
“It sounds easy, but we had to find a way to work around the ‘problems’ we faced.”
By ‘problems’, Datuk Shu Wei meant Sime Darby Property’s success.
The company continues to grow with new township developments. This was where some of the ‘messaging’ regarding the brand became a little muddled.
Datuk Shu Wei had to attend meetings with over a dozen agencies involved in different projects. He then set a compass that defined the company’s direction.
This helped to focus the efforts of the sales and marketing teams towards achieving the company’s goals.
“We were highly decentralised with different sets of project teams working separately. That led to some bad habits,” said Datuk Shu Wei.
Each project team is different, and some would only promote their development. They lost sight of what worked – the Sime Darby Property name. There was no singular, unifying theme, with Sime Darby Property at its core. So, we would get standalone brands.
“The first thing I did was to craft clear roles and responsibilities, and structure the organisation accordingly.
That meant the tone and strategy were the same for all development projects to ensure a common message or theme.”
Among them are the five key moments to ensure customers enjoy a memorable experience throughout their home ownership journey, from buying, waiting for completion, key collection, feedback, and living in a Sime Darby Property township.
“We started these initiatives in 2021. We measure the customer experience using the Net Promoter Score (NPS),” he said.
“When customers collect their unit keys, they receive a handover survey to rate their customer experience. This data will be in our system and we internally consolidate the data into a live dashboard.”
He said the NPS result is important as it is one of its corporate scorecards (KPI). As such, the live dashboard is displayed across all digital screens in the HQ office and soon will include all project township offices as well.
The entire team can view the NPS score as it is updated in real-time.
“We heard our customers complain about house defects, and we launched this programme which aimed to rectify defects within 30 days, with good workmanship,” said Datuk Shu Wei.
“The customer experience teams work closely and conduct regular meetings with Township Community Service (TCS) and contractors to ensure defects are rectified.
“As part of this initiative, we also plan to start implementing NPS on our contractors to be accountable for driving the result together. We provide regular training to TCS and the contractor teams.”
The next step towards strengthening Sime Darby Property was the appointment of the right agency partners to externalise the purpose, vision, missions, and values of the company.
By appointing the right agency partners, Datuk Shu Wei ensured that the company’s message was effectively communicated to potential buyers.
“I want people who buy our properties to know they can trust us to finish a project and be responsible developers,” said Datuk Shu Wei.
“There are many projects out there, and it is important that we understand the customers’ needs and segmentations well.
“When they see the name Sime Darby Property, they know that it stands for something – quality, dependability, and an unwavering commitment to our customers … that the name Sime Darby Property has gravitas.”
We do not just build houses. We build townships and homes and businesses for the people and communities. There is always a balance between what we need to do, how we do it, and what we do thereafter, to ensure that the development is sustainable.
“Everything the company does is to ensure that the community prospers.”
One example is the ongoing effort to revitalize an existing park in Taman Subang Ria, Subang Jaya, situated close to the lake in SS12.
When the company began work, some residents assumed it was for another high-rise project, as it was on an expensive plot of real estate.
Residents were surprised but delighted to learn that Sime Darby Property was developing the area into a place where families and communities could gather. This was Sime Darby Property’s way of giving back to the community.
Those close to Datuk Shu Wei would know that he walks the talk and always puts people first. Sime Darby Property has always recognised that as an integral part of its business.
“This industry as a whole is very process-oriented. By that, I mean if your house has a defect, I have a set number of days to fix it,” he said.
“However, I know of cases where some buyers need to make numerous phone calls just to get an appointment with the contractor.
“Oh, this is not my area”
The problem starts when the contractor comes over and sees another issue, and tells the house buyer, ‘Oh, this is not my area. I’ll get someone else to come over to take a look’. The customer then has to make another appointment.
“This is considered acceptable in the industry. But I disagree with it. We must change that attitude. We need to be more results-oriented.”
He said if there was a problem, it was only proper for the company to fix it straight away.
“There is no need to have multiple parties sorting out one problem.”
Datuk Shu Wei’s hard work and vision were rewarded at the recent Putra Brand Awards, held in Kuala Lumpur. Sime Darby Property bagged two titles.
The first was for Property Development, which went back to what Datuk Shu Wei had wanted to build on – trust and responsibility.
Winning the second award – Marketer of the Year – was testament to how Datuk Shu Wei and his team had turned Sime Darby Property from ‘just another developer’ to one that had gained recognition industry-wide, and beyond.
This article was first published on MARKETING Weekender
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