June 20, 1996 * Vol . 6, No. 4

Grad Profile: Raymond Ng

Understanding the customer from afar

Business and management consultant Raymond Ng didn't plan on becoming a specialist in cross-cultural issues. In fact, when he completed his undergraduate science degree in the 1960s, the area he now specializes in didn't exist. It's one of the reasons why Ng is an advocate of life-long education. "Every time I take a different degree I learn to look at the world from a different angle," he explains. "The more you explore, the more you realize what you don't know."

Exploration brought Ng to SFU for his third master's degree, this time in business administration. On his way from science (he worked for two years in cell biology research) to cross-cultural issues, he's picked up master's degrees in education and in arts. With a business background in real estate and import/export, and his cultural heritage (he came to Canada from Hong Kong 29 years ago), he's well placed to offer companies advice on how to serve B.C.'s fastest-growing customer group, Chinese immigrants.

It all began in 1994, when BC TEL enlisted Ng's help in reaching Asian consumers. He developed a seminar called "Customers From Afar", which proved enormously successful and mushroomed into a whole new career for Ng. He's since trained hundreds of employees in different companies on how to conduct business across cultural divides.

"Many Caucasians are at a loss with Chinese people," he explains. "Sales people complain they can't read Chinese customers, because they don't provide the facial expressions the way other customers do. In fact, there are signals, such as pauses in conversation and other subtleties, they are just not expressed in the way you would expect."

Ng has now turned author, documenting his experience in a practical, hands-on guide called Customers From Afar: Your Key to Serving Chinese Consumers.

"When I was researching the area I found little in the way of resources," Ng explains. "Since I had gathered all this information anyway, I decided I may as well write a book."

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