Splash, a US based Non-Profit found that being based in the USA and having workers in China could prove problematic if your technology is not fit for the job. Find out how we solved their communication problem in this case study.
Who are Splash?
Splash are a non-profit organisation committed to providing clean water for children all around the world in a sustainable way.
They have been working in China to provide clean water filters at all government-run orphanages. Their aim is to ensure that the project is sustainable, providing clean water in these homes forever.
What they found in practise though, is that they ran into unforeseen operational issues due to:
- time zone differences,
- language barriers,
- and cultural differences.
If they were to remain in operation, doing the good work that they do, they needed an entire systems overhaul.
Dealing with a communication problem
Splash is based in the United States and the work they are carrying out in China was proving difficult for them to monitor from afar. There are over 1,300 sites where work is being carried out and the time zone difference left a very small window of opportunity for contact.
Many local workers do not speak English or even standard Mandarin so any form of verbal contact proved challenging. This made communicating via phone a near impossibility.
They tried to use an email ticketing system also, but found out too late that email isn’t as widely used in China by non-business operations either. In fact, hardly anyone in China uses email at all.
Splash need to communicate with Chinese offices and workers regularly to give them the training they need to understand the water filtration system they will be installing and repairing.
Splash didn’t want just anybody ordering spare parts for filters either; this job needed to be done by a verified person and a system needed to be in place for that too.
The charity had no idea how to progress, but luckily we did.
Expert local know-how was the key
Thanks to our expertise within China we were aware of a solution that many from outside of the country would not be aware of – WeChat.
WeChat is a very popular messaging platform within China. It has surprisingly not achieved success outside of the region and has 889 million active users, 90% of whom are Chinese. Almost everybody, even labourers, have access to the app in some way or other.
WeChat app allows users to send text messages and make video calls to one another. It can be used to share photos and can also be integrated with social media apps such as Facebook.
At Eggplant, we provide dedicated WeChat development and marketing services, and knew exactly how to leverage WeChat to create our own custom-made app to solve the problem. This would enable certified workers to log in at any time using their own unique ID in order to order parts or communicate directly with Splash in a secure way. Every user would be verified, ensuring security, and all messages and logs could be checked and responded to in the US during business hours.
Creating a cross-cultural WeChat app for the project
We were confident that WeChat was the perfect solution to Splash’s problem and we set about creating a platform which fulfilled their needs, enabling them to monitor the Chinese situation whilst providing their partners the support they needed for all aspects of the water filter system installation and repair processes.
We also needed to ensure the system was functioning at peak performance on the Western side, so we integrated WeChat with the Salesforce database, which is Splash’s preferred tool to maintain their global site data and contact and maintenance history.
By integrating our custom-made app with Salesforce, it meant that not only could the US based team continue using the technology they are already accustomed to, but it also made the whole system more secure. Only registered engineers who exist in the Salesforce database could order parts, thereby eliminating the risk of unauthorised people attempting to order parts. To double down on security, an accurate record is kept of who ordered what at what time, so errors can be traced if necessary.
A perfectly tailored solution
When using WeChat, each message or call is made by a registered user and so those at Splash would know exactly who was communicating with them rather than just receiving a message from a random number they may or may not recognise.
Our expert knowledge of communication in China informed us that most Chinese use their smartphones for almost everything, and almost every smartphone user has WeChat installed.
This made things much easier for the workers in China who are often unfamiliar with Western support systems and methods of practice.
On top of this, using direct messaging as a format fixed timezone issues, as work in China is often conducted outside of US business hours. The technicians in China can send a message when a problem came up, and staff at Splash are now able to check and respond to the messages as soon as their working day begins. This ensures a smooth operational flow and happy staff, as they are working on their own time zone.
Success thanks to our innovation
The feedback after our system was integrated has been nothing but positive. Due to the better communication now in places many orphanages have maintained the water filtration system who otherwise might have abandoned it due to difficulties. Instructions, training and maintenance standards have all improved thanks to our app.
Splash have also reported a decreased workload as they are able to deal with their partners more effectively, including using WeChat to send automated messages and reminders.
Could your business or organisation benefit from help entering or thriving in the Chinese market? If so, Contact us today to discuss the possibilities.