‘People might talk about a good CX, but they talk ten times more about a bad one’



Seth Adler
02/21/2018

In this week’s podcast, the Chief Marketing Officer of IHH Healthcare/Parkway Pantai talks about delivering a premium customer experience that matches expectations.  

EPISODE OVERVIEW:

Alvin Neo is the Chief Marketing Officer of IHH Healthcare/Parkway Pantai. In this week’s podcast interview with host Seth Adler he shares that his organisation is the second largest private hospital operator in the world by market capitalisation.

They service the middle class and above; those people who can afford, have the desire for the best clinical outcome and appreciate good patient experience. Service and speed is important to them on top of the clinical service.

One of the ways the company achieves this is by combining what you expect from a hospital with what you expect from a hotel; visually and in terms of the actual experience.

“Whenever you go for something private or premium you do expect a better experience; smoother, faster, less friction and more delight.”


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TRANSCRIPT:

Seth Adler: From IHH health care Parkway Pantai, Alvin Neo joins us. First some supporters to thank, and thank you for listening. This episode is supported by CX network. CX Network provides expert commentary tools and resources developed by customer experience professionals, and industry insiders. With a growing membership and global portfolio of events, CX network ensures you keep your finger on the pulse by delivering practical and strategic advice to help achieve your business goals. Wherever you are on your customer strategy journey, join the CX network's global community today, go to www.cxnetwork.com for more.

This episode is also supported by the Chief Customer Officer Exchange. CCOE discusses approaches on driving a profitable customer strategy at all levels of the enterprise. Join the only event focused on bringing together innovative cross industry chief customer officers November 5th through the 7th in Miami, Florida. Benchmark on improving customer, experience establishing customer centric strategies, and producing more valuable customer insights. Go to CCOExchange.iqpc.com for more.

The CMO of IHH Healthcare/Parkway Pantai, Alvin Neo, joins us from CEM Asia in Singapore where he shares his organization is the second largest private hospital operator in the world by market capitalization. They service the middle class and above. Those people who can afford, have the desire for, and beyond the best clinical outcome, appreciate good patient experience service. Service and speed spec is important to them on top of the clinical service. One of the ways the company does this is by combining what you would expect from a hospital with what you would expect from a hotel, visually and in terms of actual customer experience. Alvin dives into the myriad other means as well.

Welcome to CX Network on B2B IQ, I'm your host Seth Adler. Download episodes on CXNetwork.com or through our app on iTunes, within the iTunes podcast app in Google Play, or wherever you currently get your podcasts. Alvin Neo.

Alvin Neo: Parkway Pantai Limited.

Seth Adler: This is the second largest in the world.

Alvin Neo: It is by market cap right. Second largest by market cap.

Seth Adler: So I was surprised to hear it of course that employing American ignorance. Right. But tell us a little bit about the company. We have a lot of listeners from Europe, from the U.S. So just in case we don't know. Right.

Alvin Neo: Okay. So we're the second largest hospital operator in the world, private hospital operator in the world by market capitalization. So we're an illicit company obviously listed in the Singapore and Malaysian Stock Exchange. So the dual listing. Right now we've been growing really fast year and year since we listed in 2012. So right now we're up to about 52 hospitals globally, and we keep adding more and more every year through either through acquisition or through greenfield construction building, and we really focus on I would say high quality premium health care, but with a special focus on the emerging markets and why? It's because that's where we identify the gap between the demand and the supply of quality health care to be having the largest need or gap.

Seth Adler: Now you mentioned premium health care, and I wonder how you thread the needle on premium health care in an emerging market.

Alvin Neo: Well, in an emerging market, as in every market, there are different segments of the population. There's the broad mass, which make up most of the population, but there's also the middle class, upper middle class, and so on. So we would be addressing I guess middle class, and above. Those people who can afford private health care, who have the desire for it, and also want to make sure they not only get the best clinical outcome, but that they also appreciate good customer and patient experience. So for them the service and speed aspect is important on top of good quality medical clinic outcomes. So that's where the customer experience part of it comes into the mix because whenever you go for something private or premium you do expect a better experience, smoother, faster, less friction, more delight. Yeah.

Seth Adler: All good concepts for a premium brand. How could that be in a health care brand? What would that look like? You were describing kind of walking into the lobby almost of one of your health care facilities.

Alvin Neo: Yeah, our newest hospital in Singapore, we have many around the world obviously, but the newest one in Singapore Mt. Elizabeth Novena, which is a younger sibling of the original Mt. Elizabeth, which is in Orchard Road. This is in Novena. It was built with the concept of combining a hospital with a hotel ambience. So if you step into the lobby it's marble, it's really quiet. There's a concierge. There's lots of space. It's relatively quiet. You never hear the clanging of a gurney or even very seldom see anyone even in a wheelchair being wheeled around in a patient garb. That's because it is designed kind of like a with a hotel concept of service in mind where there's a division, there's a difference between front of the house and back of the house. So in this particular hospital, Mt. Elizabeth Novena, they are, if I'm not wrong, four banks of this, four different sections of this.

One is for guess, as in for visitors. One is for patients to be transported around. One is for all the back room stuff like food, and laundry, and all that to be moved around. Then the last one is for, if I'm not wrong, for VIP's. So you won't come as a visitor ever come across someone being wheeled around in a gurney sharing the same lift as you when you go visit your friend in a room because they will be using a separate bank of theirs. So there's that quiet, there's that piece. There isn't that extra stress fullness of seeing, I guess being very aware of other sick people nearby. It's almost like being in a hotel. So we are trying to create, the concept there is to create a healing oasis, a healing environment that is quiet, that is peaceful, that is conducive to getting better.

Seth Adler: I would never think that I would want or need this in my health care experience. I wonder how you came upon this as a solution or as a brand.

Alvin Neo: I think because we are in private health care we used to differentiate ourselves. We really go for the segment of people who want the best or the better end of every key aspect of health care as I said. Both the top clinical capabilities and skills from the doctors and the nurses. Best equipment, but also the best experience. I guess comparatively if in comparison rather you might compare it to, at least in the Singapore context, a lot of people go to a government hospital, which are very capable in and of themselves, but they're very crowded, and so you may end up having to wait a fairly long time. You may end up being seen a lot of times by a doctor who is in training et cetera, et cetera. So the experience is adequate, but if you have the means and all the insurance coverage you might want to choose a better experience.

So again, it comes back to those who are seeking that better experience, and who have the capability to access it.

Seth Adler: Yeah, of course, but again in health care how and why would I know that I want that? You brought up the concept of Joe Public when we were speaking earlier. Right?

Alvin Neo: That's correct. So we differentiate Joe Public and Joe Patient, although not directly linked to kind of the concept of whether it's premium private health or regular health care in government hospitals, but Joe Public and Joe Patient two concepts that we, from a marketing standpoint, we leverage a lot. Joe Patient is at any one time out there walking around on the streets. Only makes about 5% of the people are actually in Joe Patient mode. As in they are not well or they think they are not well or they are former patients, and they have to keep taking care of themselves for the rest of their life because they have chronic illness or whatever, but at any one time that's only about 5% of the people walking around there who we may classify as Joe Patient.

The other 95% of the people walking around on the street are what we call Joe Public. So these people are not sick, at least they're not feeling sick today right now, and therefore if you hit them with very hot call medical terminology communication that kind of thing number one they will ignore it probably, number two it might even turn them off because health care's is funny that way that if I'm not sick I really don't want to hear about anything about getting ill.

Seth Adler: I don't want to think about it.

Alvin Neo: I don't want to think about it because it just feels like, "Oh man," that's kind of superstitious right. Let's just stay away from talking about anything because I'm not sick, so let's not talk about sickness. The moment you think you have something wrong with you or you are ill it goes 180 degrees to the opposite direction, and you become fanatic about figuring out what's wrong with you or your loved one. Finding the best treatment, the best hospital, the best doctors, you go opposite. Right. You go into beast mode in terms of finding a solution, but from a private hospital standpoint when we want to make sure that we are the preferred choice when people do need our help, need health care services. We want to make sure that we start planting or start influencing the top of mind, and the awareness, the consideration, the preference. Even when they're Joe Public, and not wait until they're Joe Patient to try to convince them that we are the better option to take care of their health care needs.

Seth Adler: How can you go about doing that?

Alvin Neo: That's really by looking at ... You can't sell something to someone that they don't find relevant or they don't want to tune into. So for Joe Public, we try to find things that they like. That they find meaningful. That they don't find icky or yucky or things that they won't avoid. Things that they welcome. So for example, it's what I call kind of a Trojan horse, Trojan Horse marketing approach.

Seth Adler: Sure.

Alvin Neo: So embed your actual desired message in something, in a wrapper if you like, that is attractive to the target audience. In this case it's Joe Public for example, if you're trying to engage parents of young kids, and make them prefer us or consider us, maybe even be loyal to us. We want to engage them even when everybody's fine, and healthy, and all that, and we've done that through running educational events for the kids where they can do role play as doctors in a section of our hospital, which we set aside on the weekend. They can come in and role play in the operating theater, in the emergency department, in the nursery maternity ward et cetera. So it's inspirational, it's educational. All that good stuff, and this mechanism was one of the very few reasons we could find that people actually would willingly bring their kids who are not sick to the hospital because otherwise why would you?

If your kids not sick., why on earth would you ever bring a kid to the hospital for fun? You wouldn't, but this is for fun, and this is for inspiration, education, all the rest of it. So this is one example of why we used this approach to engage Joe Patient, sorry Joe Public. There are the means of course. Let's say for orthopedics, we would engage the sporting community. People who run a lot, who cycle a lot. Marathoners, triathletes, and all that. When they are well, but we engage them so because at some point in time, in fact quite frequently, their bodies do need fixing or enhancement or repair, and so engaging them when they are still well and in training we become trusted, we become preferred. So [crosstalk].

Seth Adler: How do you engage them when they are well?

Alvin Neo: Well, we collaborate with them on when they do their running clinics. We might bring one of our orthopedic surgeons in to give a talk on how to manage the wear and tear of the joints because athletes obviously have heavy usage.

Seth Adler: Sure, preemptive medicine.

Alvin Neo: Preemptive medicine. How to manage the, yeah like I said, wear and tear. How to build up strength in a sustainable manner and not obviously taking shortcuts and steroids and whatnot. So all these kinds of things. So the athletes or these weekend warriors would fine our value, but it's like an easy way in. It's a very palatable way. It's not wishing them ill or that they will get sick, but in fact it's the other way. It's preventative, it's sustaining, it's strengthening. So all these good things, so I believe in this approach of doing well by doing good. So we help others even when they don't really need our actual services, but we help them in other ways, and then for the day that they do need help we'll be on their speed dial. We'll be their preferred.

Seth Adler: That's it. Yeah.

Alvin Neo: So I think that's the way because consumers nowadays they are very savvy. They're very empowered with Google and social media and everything, they know a lot of stuff, and whatever they don't know they can search and find really quickly.

Seth Adler: Absolutely.

Alvin Neo: So we have to be very, as a brand, as a business, be sincere, authentic, generous, and build that trust, and once you have that then everything flows from there.

Seth Adler: Everything becomes much easier, right?

Alvin Neo: It is easier because you, in a world where there's so many messages coming at you, there's so much clutter in the media, you actually fall back on things and people that you trust.

Seth Adler: Sure.

Alvin Neo: So if you're one of the brands that someone trusts, you actually have an disproportionate advantage in terms of retaining their loyalty and advocacy.

Seth Adler: Now that's a double edged sword though, right? We're talking about the positive side, which is if you are trusted you're gonna benefit from that, but if you're not trusted exactly it's going to be a whole lot worse isn't it?

Alvin Neo: That's why customer experience is one of the key areas of focus for all marketers nowadays, and if they don't focus on it they're going to be in big trouble right. So and as a CMO, ideally, we control the whole I would say customer journey. Have control over the whole customer journey from the web searching, from the traditional the advertising company [inaudible 00:17:47] PR, down to the call center, to the concierge guide. The concierge that greets you at the lobby at the hospital, and helps you when you discharge to get a taxi, a cab et cetera, et cetera. So from beginning to end, and beyond, CRM right. So the loyalty program, keeping in touch. All those touch points are critical lever's that we we need to pay attention to. You can sum it up, I guess very broadly yes, the customer experience, which is what we're talking about CX right?

Seth Adler: Yep.

Alvin Neo: So good CX people, because of social media and whatnot, they'll talk about it. Bad CX they'll talk about it ten times more, right? They'll just share like crazy because they're pissed, right? You don't ever want to get people so pissed that you can't recover it and they just go public with it.

Seth Adler: That's it.

Alvin Neo: So we've seen too many of that on social media, Twitter, and whatnot so. So having a tight hold on the customer experience, and that patient journey, the customer’s journey from beginning to end, and even back home. So this brings me to another important concept, which is in the past, at least in health care, oftentimes, at least for hospitals, our engagement with the customer was episodic. That means if you're sick you come, and if you're not sick well see you.

Seth Adler: See you [crosstalk]. Right, yeah.

Alvin Neo: You hope never to see us again.

Seth Adler: Exactly, exactly.

Alvin Neo: But now it's different because we want to make sure that we look after you, not only when you're sick, but we want to look after you when you're well, so that you can prevent or minimize the chances of getting sick or that you get stronger and stronger so that you can achieve the things that you dream of in life, for example, if on your bucket list is to run a marathon, to hike up to Mt. Everest base camp or some a little bit more extreme than normal.

Seth Adler: Sure.

Alvin Neo: You need to be stronger than average. We want to help with that.

Seth Adler: Yeah

Alvin Neo: Because that's part of us taking care of you, both in sickness in health, and in wellness. So in sickness and in health we want to be your partner, and I think that's the way that you built that relationship, that experience, and that trust that will keep you with us in terms of being in the family our care, in the circle of care for the rest of your life, and that's where we would have the lifetime relationship with that patient is where, from a business standpoint it's got huge huge benefits and dividends as well.

Seth Adler: Absolutely.

Alvin Neo: Because that loyalty is sustained as opposed to in and out, and then you've to go market again, and we don't want to do that. Actually, the best marketing is when you have loyal, and you thank patients, and you have fans. When you have advocates. People who are so crazy about your service and what you help them with that just tell everybody.

Seth Adler: I wonder, when you say something like that, I wonder have you always been in health care or do you have experience in other industries?

Alvin Neo: Actually I have quite a varied background. So prior to health care I was ... I actually started off in FMCG.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Alvin Neo: Procter and Gamble, and then-

Seth Adler: Great big company. What were you doing for them?

Alvin Neo: I was in [inaudible] management, so I handled like shampoos, Vidal Sassoon, Head and Shoulders, Pantene. Rejoice, we call it Rejoice here, it' called a different name in the U.S.

Seth Adler: Okay, but familiar brands nonetheless.

Alvin Neo: Pert, it's called Pert in the U.S.

Seth Adler: Oh, sure I remember Pert and Pert Plus.

Alvin Neo: Pert and Pert Plus, the two in one.

Seth Adler: There you go.

Alvin Neo: I've handled Pampers. I've handled Vicks. I've handled nappy [inaudible 00:22:12]. I mean all good brands. So FMCG background. I've also worked for Gillette, so I handled Oral B for Gillette, which is oral care. I've also handled Crest toothpaste, toothbrush, oral care, and all that.

Seth Adler: What's the trick as far as brand management, when you mention all of these different brands, what do they have as a through line? What is similar?

Alvin Neo: Customer is always the boss. So you start and end with the customer. Never forget that. So you build your program, you build your offerings, you build the experience around the customer, customer comes first. That's something that sometimes people may forget. They get so caught up with the product, and the bells, and the whistles, and the shiny new things that they want to add to the product that they may forget the customer, him or herself, the customer himself, and what they really need. Suddenly for customer experience that's key right. You don't ever get caught up in how cool your stuff is if it ends up being not very relevant to your target audience.

So that's really one thing that FMCG has taught me, which is to start and end with the customer, with the consumer, and always have them in the center and you can't go wrong then. So if you have customer first, whenever you're in doubt or whenever you have a debate with a colleague about should we go A or B or C option, you just ask so what does the customer say? Let's check with them, and probably the answer becomes a lot clearer then.

Seth Adler: Yeah, you'll always know. Exactly.

Alvin Neo: You'll always know, and they'll tell you if you ask in the right way.

Seth Adler: Yeah.

Alvin Neo: Exactly.

Seth Adler: Procter and Gamble, can you take us through the philosophy there? It's a global brand, a strong brand, and one that is a holding company of many, many, many brands.

Alvin Neo: Correct, correct.

Seth Adler: Is there a governing philosophy at Procter and Gamble?

Alvin Neo: Again, for P&G, it was a company that actually developed the concept of brand management as opposed to product management. So they are one of the great brand builders of the world.

Seth Adler: Certainly.

Alvin Neo: At least in the traditional sense.

Seth Adler: Certainly.

Alvin Neo: Since then of course you've had all your Googles, and your Facebook's, and your Uber's, and whatnot come up. Right. A bunch of great brands managed in a very technically, sound and data driven manner, I would say. So P&G is very data driven. Almost everything is well researched, there's logic, there's precedent, there's discipline there. So the discipline and one of the disciplines is always to have the customer in the center, the consumer in the center. Now having said that, so great brands, still a great company, but looking forward into the future, even today, the market, whether in consumer goods or every industry actually is so dynamic it's because of technology digital and whatnot things are just changing all the time.

Seth Adler: So quickly.

Alvin Neo: Every company, I would say bar none, is constantly struggling to keep up with our consumers because consumers are now so digitally empowered. They are on social, they are on mobile all the time, but companies are less agile in changing. For a company to retool itself is billions of dollars, and a lot of time for. You and me to buy the latest iPhone is just a swipe of a credit card.

Seth Adler: That's it.

Alvin Neo: We can change platforms just like that, but companies take a lot longer, and that's why there's this constant catch up game, and because of there are so many startups nowadays they are pushing and Kickstarter, and all that pushing cool new concepts into the market all the time. So consumers are really spot for [inaudible 00:26:40]. If you wanted to you could change your phone almost every few months. There's always something new to try out.

Seth Adler: Absolutely. That goes for marketers as well, there's always a shiny new-

Alvin Neo: Oh, of course. Before it was programmatic.

Seth Adler: Right.

Alvin Neo: Right now is chat bots.

Seth Adler: Sure.

Alvin Neo: And AI, artificial intelligence.

Seth Adler: Of course.

Alvin Neo: There's IBM Watson, and all the rest of it. So I'll tell you it's like you're running on the treadmill, and you gotta keep pumping because if you stop you just get whooshed off that treadmill, and hit the back of the gym.

Seth Adler: Where did you get on the treadmill, where are you from?

Alvin Neo: I am from Singapore.

Seth Adler: So born and raised.

Alvin Neo: Born and raised in Singapore. My first job ever was with P&G.

Seth Adler: Here? And then you went to Gillette after that?

Alvin Neo: Yeah, in between I actually I had a interesting career path because I was at P&G, and then I got a little bit bored with all the classical stuff, so then I learned from a good friend about the world of strategy consulting because he was applying after B school. So I applied to McKinsey, to Bain, and to BCG, Boston Consulting Group.

Seth Adler: Sure.

Alvin Neo: I got offered by two of them. So I decided to join BCG, so I was a BCG strategy consulting for three years.

Seth Adler: Interesting.

Alvin Neo: So that helped. Actually I find that the BCG training, the strategy consulting training, really helped me develop my skills in framing situations, framing problems, defining and articulating patterns, and-

Seth Adler: Giving it a scientific approach almost.

Alvin Neo: Framing something because you can have a lot of data out there, you can have a lot of things going on, but until you see the patterns and you put some law and order into it, it's hard to deal with because it's so much of it there. So one of the skills of a strategy consultant strategist is to actually organize the world.

Seth Adler: Sure.

Alvin Neo: So that we can decide okay, which part are we going to focus on?

Seth Adler: Right.

Alvin Neo: So it's a framework that's used by a lot of people. We call it where to play, how to win. First you have to decide where to play. Once I decide okay, we're going to focus we're going to prioritize where to play here.

Seth Adler: Yeah.

Alvin Neo: And then I figure out how do I win in that segment that I just prioritized. So, as a strategy consultant you learn to think in that way. It's like automatic. So that three years it was really hard work. You work like 100 hours a week, but so intense, but you learn so much. Then after that I spent two years in a startup. So I did a startup as well.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Alvin Neo: Tech startup.

Seth Adler: What kind of company was it?

Alvin Neo: It was actually a tech builder. So we actually built digital, things digital assets for big companies, [inaudible]. We build a digital supply chain or a knowledge management system, or front end shopfront. That kind of stuff. So whatever the company needed, we'd go in, we'd do a business needs analysis with them to shop and what they actually wanted, needed, and then developed a digital strategy, and then build it for them. So that was cool. That was great exposure in working and functioning in a more dynamic environment, and really moving fast, and moving and making decisions even though you don't have a lot of the answers. Even if you don't have a lot of the data that you would ideally want, but it's just not available. There's just not enough time to get it together.

Seth Adler: Where was that?

Alvin Neo: It's a company called Net Decisions. It's a U.K. based. We're U.K. founded.

Seth Adler: Were you there or were you here?

Alvin Neo: I was in this part of the world. So they actually expand it into Asia. So I and other friend of mine were recruited to manage their operations in Asia Pacific. So that was a good experience for two years.

Seth Adler: So you mentioned where to play how to win.

Alvin Neo: Yeah.

Seth Adler: Right?

Alvin Neo: Yeah.

Seth Adler: We're here in Singapore, we're at the Customer Experience Management Summit for Asia, and I went to the Singapore museum, which told me all about the history, and how in 1965 they had to start this country, and they had to kind of figure out how to start it. I was struck by the fact that well no there's no natural resources really, so we're going to have to be about economy, and there was one of the kind of foundering kind of guys said, "There's nations that are big fish, and they eat the nations that are the small fish. The nations that are the small fish eat the shrimp, and we as Singapore have to be a poisonous shrimp. This is how we will win." And they said, "We have to immediately join the U.N., and get all sorts of friends, and it's all about the friends that you have."

Alvin Neo: Yeah, exactly.

Seth Adler: I wonder as you were growing up what was it like here as a kid in a relatively new nation or explicitly new nation?

Alvin Neo: I think when you're growing up in that kind of environment you realize that we've always known that we were small. So when you're a small guy, you're always thinking about survival, and you always realize that there's no safety net. Not really, maybe a small one, but not really a good safety net.

Seth Adler: Not big enough essentially.

Alvin Neo: Not big enough to carry you far too long. So you always have to be on your toes, always leaning forward, and really coming to terms with the fact that you probably have to work harder than most people to secure your stability to keep up. You're always having to reinvent yourself. You always have to be more disciplined than others in implementing and executing, and being as good as you can be. So, there's discipline, there's focus. Being willing to make the trade offs in things you would ideally like to do, and things that need to get done. So you would just be very pragmatic. I guess is the word I'm using.

Seth Adler: Yeah, sure.

Alvin Neo: So you learn to be pragmatic. You learn to be focused, you learn to be disciplined, and you do whatever needs to be done when it needs, you just get on with it. You can see the results. Obviously, the country has prospered. I was just speaking to Jacqueline who used to head customer experience at the Changi airport, which is for several years now, the number one airport in the world.

Seth Adler:Right.

Alvin Neo: And Changi airport is kind of one of the fruits, or the examples, of all that Singaporean whatever I spoke about attention to detail, quality, execution, focus put together, and that's what you get. Constantly, I think it was ... Who was it? Andy Grove who said, "Only the paranoid survive." That's us.

Seth Adler: Yeah.

Alvin Neo: We're so small we're paranoid that any time anybody could just cut off our water supply, cut off our power stations, and we'd be helpless within I guess 48 hours. We'd be on our knees.

Seth Adler:  Yeah, that's it.

Alvin Neo: So you always make friends, as you say. You always surround yourself with friends. Be useful to them. Be valuable in yourself, stay ahead of the game, reinvent yourself. Some countries might say, "Oh, but you guys are really not sentimental about preserving all things, and all that." It's not that we're not sentimental, but we have to be pragmatic about it because we only have so much, so many things that you can play with. You have to trade off, and you have to make sudden calls, sudden decisions in order to remain relevant, and stay afloat.

Seth Adler: That's it.

Alvin Neo: So that's it. It's very pragmatic. It's very pragmatic. On the other side of it, I think there's a tremendous pride I think in being part of it as well, and the one great thing I love about Singapore is that it truly is a melting pot of so many different cultures. We are predominantly Chinese ethnic, in terms of the population mix maybe 65, 70% Chinese, but we've had Malay presidents, Indian presidents, Chinese presidents, Eurasian presidents.

Seth Adler: Right.

Alvin Neo: It's crazy right. So it's really baked into the DNA of this little island, this society, that everybody is truly equal and everybody has a chance, and it doesn't matter we respect every race, every color of skin, every religion that preaches good things obviously.

Seth Adler: In that way it feels like New York. I'm from New York, and it's essentially it isn't about any of that. How do you pray? Okay. Yeah, great fine. Go ahead.

Alvin Neo: Yeah, exactly.

Seth Adler: What's your heritage? Okay, fine. Great. Go ahead. We're all just in this together type of thing.

Alvin Neo: Same thing.

Seth Adler: Let's just get done with the day here.

Alvin Neo: Just get on with it. Get it done. I mean I'm quoting from Chairman Mao, who is from China [inaudible 00:37:27], I think Lee Kuan Yew really learned quite a few things from him in terms of principles, and one of them was that I don't care if it's a black cat or a white cat or a gray cat or a brown cat, if it catches mice, it's a good cat. Right. It's about what you can do, what you can bring to the table. What you can help others with. That's the value, that's you. It's not about your religion, your race, what you believe, whether you are straight, gay whatever. It doesn't matter as long as you're a good person. You pull your weight.

Seth Adler: Get the job done.

Alvin Neo: Get the job done, and that's it. We're good. Then keep peace, right? Keep the peace with everyone else. Don't be too much of an ass.

Seth Adler: That's it.

Alvin Neo: That's it. That's it. Because just like, in a way like New York, we're all crammed in on this little boat off of a country.

Seth Adler:        

That's it. You could literally drive around it in less than a day. [crosstalk 00:38:32]. Much less than a day.

Alvin Neo: Much less than a day. A couple of hours. Because that's all that we have, we take real good care of it. You have to take real good care, and you have to keep peace with your neighbors because if this island where an apartment block, that's all we have.

Seth Adler: Yeah.

Alvin Neo: There's nothing else. So you don't have the big desert or the prairies or the rolling fields of Montana, Wyoming are all this good stuff. So you appreciate what you have, you take good care of it, and you appreciate the fact that the plus part of being in this village that everybody's kind of close together is the richness, and the diversity just like New York, and you really ... The upside, a plus side, is you really enjoy that. You really enjoy the fact that you can have friends of so many races, and you can tease each other about each others [crosstalk 00:39:29].

Seth Adler: Being who you are essentially.

Alvin Neo: Even the quirks of your race, but not take offense. You know what I mean? We're all just friends. I can talk rubbish to my Malay friend, he can talk rubbish back to me, and it's all cool.

Seth Adler: It's coming from love. It's coming from love.

Alvin Neo: It's coming from love. It's coming from a place of friendship, and we know that it's just-

Seth Adler: Silly talk.

Alvin Neo: Silly talk, and it's just human talk.

Seth Adler: Yeah.

Alvin Neo: But don't take it personally. That's it. If you take everything so personally then people are so careful, and so PC, politically correct, and then you stop speaking the real truth. You just speak in niceties, in polite language, but what you feel inside maybe something different. So I like the frank-

Seth Adler: Yeah, you're almost disconnecting what you're saying from what you're feeling.

Alvin Neo: Totally, and then it's like, "What? I never knew you felt like that. Well, I never dared to tell you," but here I think we are like ... So, for example, it's like in Singapore Asian culture if you ask me, "How are you doing today?" And if I'm really not doing too good that day I'll just say, "Well, so so." I will never say great, but I have an American boss before, whom I love a lot. He's a good friend of mine, but he had this thing about. Hey, how are you. And I said typically, "I'm okay." And then he said, " What? Just okay? Just okay? You should be great. You should be awesome." And I said, "But I'm not feeling too awesome today, so I'm just okay."

Seth Adler: Yeah.

Alvin Neo: Can I be with that? Then he was like, "Yeah, oh fine. Whatever." I'm not judging, but it's just that we just say it right. If you're not feeling great just say, "I'm not feeling great today."

Seth Adler: That's it. And also if you're-

Alvin Neo: So then people will know then to back off.

Seth Adler: Again, with all due respect to him if you're asking the question be careful you might get an answer.

Alvin Neo: You might get the real answer.

Seth Adler: Yeah, exactly.

Alvin Neo: Instead of the polite answer and say, "Yeah, I'm great. Yeah. Like my dog died, but I'm still great." I'm half joking, but-

Seth Adler: Of course.

Alvin Neo: It's actually true. It was a true story, but again I'm okay with that. I mean it's to me it's just accept each culture, each style, each approach of every different society around the world for what it is. Don't get to judgey about it. Don't, "Oh, that's wrong." That's not wrong that's just the way you like to do it, someone else does it, another way a German guy would do it. Yet another different way et cetera, et cetera. A Chinese guy from China would do it totally different as well.

To me the beauty of life is just dancing with that right, and not imposing your views on another person, but just saying, "Okay, well you have your way, I have my way. We're cool, peace."

Seth Adler: The dance of life, right?

Alvin Neo: You just dance with it. Otherwise you're going to be butting heads with everybody, and pissing everyone off, and it's not going to end up anywhere good I think. So that's what I think. Yeah.

Seth Adler: Alright, so I've got three final question for you.

Alvin Neo: Sure.

Seth Adler: I'll tell you what they are, and then I'll ask you them in order. What's most surprised you at work? What's most surprised you in life, and on the soundtrack of your life, one track one song that's got to be on there, but first things first. Along the way in your career what's most surprised you at work?

Alvin Neo: What's most surprised me at work. Nothing really, no I'm just joking. What surprised me at work I guess, especially when I was younger, is how much I could actually push myself beyond what I thought was possible.

Seth Adler: Yeah.

Alvin Neo: I never thought I'd get there, but I am yeah. So if you asked me when I was 25 and you say, "Oh, what do you want to be?" I say, "Well, I want to be a CMO, Chief Marketing Officer one day," but I never really thought I'd get there because I thought, "Okay, well that's an aspiration." Just like wanting to be president of the United States or whatever.

Seth Adler: Sure right.

Alvin Neo: Or Prime Minister of England or whatever. So, but somehow along the way I had good bosses who pushed me beyond me, believed in me, pushed me, gave me opportunities, and never ever limit yourself to what you think secretly are your own limitations, and just go for it. Try, if you fail well, at least another way that doesn't work. You try another different way. That's okay for me. So that's one of the things that I really learned, and appreciate it. The second thing to add to that is skills are really transferable. Now I've changed different industries. I worked in FMCG. I worked in strategy consulting. I worked in a startup, tech startup. I work in health care. I mean fairly diverse in a way.

Seth Adler: Certainly.

Alvin Neo: And a different companies. I worked in different companies. A lot of MNC's, local companies, U.K. British companies, Asian companies, and I'm just surprised myself that I realize I'm pretty adaptable.

Seth Adler: There you go.

Alvin Neo: To just fit in and get on with things, right, in the New York ways get on with it.

Seth Adler: That's it. Just get on with it.

Alvin Neo: Just get it done right. So, I think that's good. Second question again.

Seth Adler: The second question again is what has most surprised you in life?

Alvin Neo: What has most surprised me in life? The resilience of human beings. I thought I'm reasonably adaptable, but to be very honest I haven't had a very unduly difficult life.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Alvin Neo: I've come across people, who are now my friends and acquaintances, who've gone through the most difficult childhoods, and difficult adulthood's, bad marriages, health problems whatnot, and they just like power through and they bounce back. I mean they are damaged, but they've kind of pick themselves up and keep going, and they're good people. Despite all of that they still keep their values. They still keep their optimism. They still keep their humanness, and all that, and that's what really surprised me beyond what I've never thought it possible because for myself if I were in their shoes I always think, "Shit, I would have given up halfway." Right?

Seth Adler: Yeah.

Alvin Neo: Way early. I would have just lay in my bed and said, "Life's not worth living," but they just bounce back. I've friends who have had aneurism, and stroke, had a stroke and kind of half paralyzed when they were like 35, and 15 years later they're still chugging along, they're managing. They found a way et cetera, et cetera. So I think the resilience of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me ever, and I'm always inspired by whenever I'm having a bad day I know that so many people have gone through so much more, and they're still chugging along. So I just shake it off. and just keep on marching.

Seth Adler: Right, if I think I have problems forget about it let's go. Come on. Right. Refocus.

Alvin Neo: No, I mean seriously, seriously. This is nothing.

Seth Adler: Yeah.

Alvin Neo: What we probably go through is nothing compared to people who, I mean to the extreme. There's this lady who's in town or going to be in town soon, Jennifer something she's born without arms, and she is a licensed pilot. She can fly a plane with her feet. She's a certified scuba diving instructor, and she drives herself to work every day, and she has no arms. She does everything-

Seth Adler: And you think you got problems, right?

Alvin Neo: Exactly. Like the proverb says right I complain because I had no shoes until I met someone who had no feet. It's a version of that. I'm just full of respect for her. Then this other guy Nick something he goes one better, he has no arms and no feet. No, legs. He does, he serves, and he's a motivational speaker and all that. If I were any of these people who are so courageous I keep thinking I would have given up a long time ago.

Seth Adler: You said that twice. I don't believe that after talking to you for now, we spoke a couple times now. I don't believe that. I think you're one of the strong ones.

Alvin Neo: I don't know man. I hope God doesn't test me. I pray for.

Seth Adler: Fair enough, fair enough.

Alvin Neo: I think it's important to be grounded. I think it's important to be humble, so always know that even if you're top of the hill doesn't last forever.

Seth Adler:  That's it.

Alvin Neo: Even if it sustains, always think of the other people who need your help. We are here on earth for, I always personally believe, not for ourselves only. We're not just here to have a good time for ourselves or even for our families. It has to go beyond, and we have to have an impact, and really it sounds corny, but make a difference in someone else's life. Help them, uplift them in whatever big or small way that we can. We should do it because we are all not perfect either.

Seth Adler: Right.

Alvin Neo: But we try. As long as you keep trying, it keeps you grounded. The moment you think that you know everything, and you're the best, and there's no one better you're in big trouble man.

Seth Adler: That's not a good place.

Alvin Neo: And you're not going to be very happy either because I've seen those people there. There's-

Seth Adler: Something missing.

Alvin Neo: Something missing inside them, and they're always searching, and they're always doing these crazy pushy things, and chest beating things, which it's like why are you doing that? Like come on. That's one thing I realized about life right. I counsel people who tend to be this way. They're good people, but I say, "Don't be so inwardly focused, be outwardly focused. The moment you are too self-involved, even if you are I know you're a good person, but you're always about how it will affect you. How it makes you feel, whether you like it or not and all that. Come on suck it up." Focus outwards, you'll be a lot happier, and you'll be very expansionary. That's mean you are a person who has your arms open to the world, and that creates energy, that creates newness, creativity, and all the good stuff comes from there. So that's my belief.

Seth Adler: On the soundtrack of your life, one track one song that's got to be on there.

Alvin Neo: Oh my God. So many good songs.

Seth Adler: So as you're going through the Rolodex then. It doesn't have to be the perfect song, it doesn't have to be the most appropriate song, but just a song that would be on the soundtrack.

Alvin Neo: You're putting me on the spot. There's one of my favorite singers is, she's kind of a Singaporean gospel singer, but she's based in LA. Her name is Corrinne May.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Alvin Neo: I love her songs because it has a lot of meaning, even for people who may not be so religious or from my faith. I'm Catholic so is she. So she has one of her songs from one of her albums is called Five Loaves and Two Fishes, it's from the Bible verse.

Seth Adler: Sure.

Alvin Neo: It has a lot of meaning because it's a story about what little you have, just offer it up to the world, and it will multiply. It will have more impact than you can ever imagine. If you paint yourself as small. I don't have a lot, and I'm not very talented. I'm not a genius, so don't expect too much from me. That song tells me that don't let yourself off the hook so easily. Whoever you believe made you, your creator or the universe or whatever is for a purpose, and you have talents, and you have a responsibility to share what. Whether you're talented big or small you have the responsibility to do something with it beyond just for yourself, and that's the parabola of the five loaves and two fish tells me, and that's what's in a song. That you never know the multiplier effect of what you can achieve or what impact you can have if you don't try, and if you're just going to be protective and conservative and keep it to yourself you will never know the full potential of what you can touch in the world. How much of the world and the people you can touch.

So that's kind of, if you put me against the wall, that's one of the ones that I like.

Seth Adler: That's a pretty good one for being put on the spot, for being put up against the wall.

Alvin Neo: Yeah, I was gonna go for a song from the Fray or the Cure or one of my favorite groups, but I decided to go with that.

Seth Adler: Alvin, this has been an absolute pleasure. I really appreciate talking to you man.

Alvin Neo: Thanks sir.

Seth Adler: There you have Alvin Neo. Whenever you go for a premium experience you do expect a better experience, smoother, faster, less friction, more delight. So the concept is to create a healing oasis environment that is quite, peaceful, and conducive to getting better. Very much appreciate Alvin, and his time, and everything that he shared with us. Thank you for your time. Stay tuned.