State Grid breaks down expats' language barrier

Pudong, where thousands of foreign-funded firms, R&D centers and manufacturing plants locate, is also where a great proportion of foreign residents in Shanghai live.
Ti Gong

Pudong, where thousands of foreign-funded firms, R&D centers and manufacturing plants locate, is also where a great proportion of foreign residents in Shanghai live. It means there are many extended functions for international living with a huge array of tailored services and offerings for expats.

The State Grid Pudong Power Supply Company, at 111 Pudian Road, is one of many Pudong-based public services that serve the expats.

A team of young clerks at the company, mainly women, speak English, German, French and Japanese and extend a warm welcome to the foreigners, offer details about power supply services and help them complete any application forms.

The Pudong power supply company and its business hall are only steps away from the core area of Lujiazui Financial City, where foreign-funded enterprises reside and overseas businesspeople work and live.

They usually visit the business hall to pay their bills and ask questions, such as details of the power supply policy and the rates.

The young clerks behind the counters always explain the policy and answer the questions in different languages patiently.

“Hallo, Sind Sie Fran Qu?” (“Hello, are you Fran Qu?”)

Qu Zhiyin, who once studied in Germany, answered the phone. She immediately recognized it was from a German woman who had visited her counter two weeks earlier.

The German woman had enquired about the amount of money she needed to pay and talked to her interpreter in front of Qu’s counter.

Qu then spoke to the woman in German. The woman was surprised to find a German speaker at the business hall, which led to a warm talk between the two and they eventually exchanged contact details. Qu arranged a meter inspection for the woman immediately.

After that the woman called Qu to say the meter was in good condition but she still thought the amount was too high.

Qu explained that the summer in Shanghai is much hotter than in Germany and long hours of aircon operation, while the windows were open, would lead to a large bill.

Qu suggested closing the windows while switching on the air conditioners for another month and checking the bill again.

“Danke! Danke!” (Thank you! Thank you!)” the woman replied, satisfied with Qu’s answer.

Qu’s colleague, Wan Jialin, learns Japanese at her spare time, which helps her communicate with Japanese customers.

“Hello, what can I do for you?” Wan asked a Japanese customer who studied his bill at the counter.

The Japanese man didn’t understand the amount on the bill, which involved three different rates. Wan explained to him in Japanese that Shanghai launched a tiered pricing for electricity in 2012 and there is a progressive increase in rates. The Japanese man’s bill revealed that his power consumption had hit the third tier and that was why the amount was higher than the previous two months.

The man expressed his gratitude to Wan in Japanese.

Qu and Wan are just two members of the multi-lingual team that also speak French and English. The team has since drawn up a table in English explaining the tiered pricing system to better serve expats who live in Pudong.

Ti Gong

The State Grid Pudong company speeds up infrastructure construction. The company has taken various efforts to better serve the expats working and living in the new area, which is home to thousands of foreign residents and enterprises.

The State Grid is also developing an English version of its mobile app. Meanwhile, the Pudong company has decided to send team members to work with account managers at Pudong-based industrial parks to better serve foreign-funded enterprises and startups there.

“From this month, they will visit companies door to door in Zhangjiang to provide them tailored power supply solutions and explain the policy,” said Qu Qing, vice director of the Pudong company’s sales department. “Lingang will be the next stop.”

What they are doing is part of the State Grid as well as Pudong’s effort to improve business environment.

Pudong has established a seamless integrated approval procedure for foreign investment approval certificates, business licenses, organization code certificates, tax registration certificates, pre-approved food circulation permits, customs registration certificates, and permits for stamping, casting and printing operations.

The Pudong company will extend its service to the stage to help foreign-founded startups get their power supply solution as early as the projects are filed.

“We hope our service will be integrated in the approval procedure so that we can offer our solutions at an early stage,” said Qu Qing.

As a consequence, Qu Zhiyin, Wan Jialin and their colleagues are expected to play bigger roles in the process.