[HOT ITEM]Didja Hear the One About the Drunk Cockroach?

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[HOT ITEM]Didja Hear the One About the Drunk Cockroach?

It may make your skin crawl, but one of Korea.s most frequently visited Web sites is the homepage of an exterminator, Chunwoo Environment Service Co. Ltd., or CESCO. The nation.s only big exterminator, the company has more than 100,000 customers worldwide, including the Blue House.

The company manages its homepage in such an offbeat and amusing way that a fan club for the site has been formed. The site.s bulletin board is flooded with messages from people thanking the firm and asking questions. According to a manager of the company, Son Eun-seok, the site receives about 300 e-mails daily.

The key to the success of the company and its site is its philosophy of "for, of and by our customers." That principle is evident on the online bulletin board: One prankish person asked, "Among all bugs, I think lawmakers are the worst. Is there any way to crush them?" Any "normal" company would have peremptorily deleted the message, but a CESCO official replied: "Unfortunately, sir, we cannot give you an instant response, but if you send samples, we will use the latest scientific methods to devise a solution."

Another: "My mother always yells at me and says I'm nothing but an insect. Is it true, and if so, could I be exterminated?" The response: "There are two kinds of insects, useful and harmful. If you are indeed an insect, why not try to be the former?"

That human touch to its service has spread among its customers and fans by word of mouth, and now the site gets more than 70,000 hits a day. So has it become a bona fide marketing strategy? "No, we just do our best to satisfy the people who are interested in our company," Mr. Son said.

This philosophy is promoted by the company's CEO Jeon Chan-hyeok, whose father, Jeon Sun-pyo, was known for his knowledge and skill in killing rats. The senior Mr Jeon established a national "rat-catching day" in the 1960s when rats were rife and a menace to public health. When the junior Mr. Jeon, who says that he spent his 20s chasing pests took over his father's company in 1997, he modernized its culture and information system began treating the employees like experts. The junior instituted a special three-month training course for the company's 1,000-odd employees to raise their morale and friendliness. The course stresses good manners and behavior as much as extermination techniques. And the niceness has paid off: Chunwoo's customers include 90 percent of the nation's hotels, hospitals, department stores and restaurants.

With good manners comes a good name. A manager of a local Vietnamese restaurant who recently became a CESCO client said, "Though I can't say I've seen a dramatic reduction of insects, our customers are very satisfied to see the CESCO sign in our restaurant."

by Chun Su-jin

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