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When Ban Hoe Seng Sdn Bhd was chosen as Honda Dealer of the Year in 2009, its Managing Director, Ignatius Chew knew in his heart that it wasn’t achieved overnight. “We’ve come a long, long way since we became one of the first Honda dealerships in Malaysia,” he says. “It’s good to see all those years of blood, sweat and tears come to fruition.”


Indeed, Ban Hoe Seng has a centuryold legacy which began with his grandfather, the late Chew Boon Juan arriving in Malaysia from China in the late 19th century at the tender age of 17 to work as a kitchen assistant at a tin mine at Kampung Kepayang, Simpang Pulai. Boon Juan, with his honesty and good social skills, was then made a cook. “As he had picked up some mining skills as well, Alma Baker, the owner of the nearby Gunung Lano tin mine, soon made him his assistant,” relates Ignatius.


“Being at the right place at the right time is everything and my grandfather was lucky in that sense.” In time, Boon Juan was asked to take over the reins of the so called “Golden Mountain” mine. With enormous wealth generated from the tin mine, he then began to diversify into other businesses such as sundry shops and properties as well as being a rice wholesaler and rubber planter/exporter. “Ban Hoe Seng was formed with the aim of handling the rice wholesale business,” says Ignatius who explains that the name means ‘very harmonious and successful’ in Chinese.


After World War II, with the looming communist threat, Boon Juan with the help of his two sons, Choon Siew and Choon Kok, decided it was safer and more productive to conduct their business in urban areas, and seeing a promising future for motorized transport, Ban Hoe Seng began selling European motorbikes and scooters. “It was tough selling these expensive bikes but the experience gained was invaluable,” says Ignatius. This soon led to Ban Hoe Seng successfully applying for the Honda dealership, becoming the main dealer in Perak. With the introduction of the revolutionary Honda Cub C50 in the early ‘60s, the business really took off. “Apart from being affordable, it had new gadgets like turn indicators, which were revolutionary for its time,” laughs Ignatius. By the late ‘60s, the company, now run by the reserved Choon Kok, became the main Honda car dealer in Perak as well.


“We initially sold the N360, Life and S600 models but it was only in the ‘70s with the arrival of the Accord and Civic that sales really shot up,” he says. Indeed, sales were so good that in 1984, Ban Hoe Seng sold a record breaking 92 units in a month. By then, the reins of the company had been passed on from Choon Kok to his son Ignatius.


And what has been his approach to managing the company? “The training in Bangkok under the charismatic Mitsuro Sato, president of Asian Honda Motor Co., Ltd. in the late ‘80s had a profound impact on me and everyone who attended it. It was a real eyeopener how he ran his brand,” says Ignatius who adds that entering Sato’s showroom was like stepping into a 5-star hotel. “He was a great teacher and we called him Superman.”


Inspired by ‘Superman’, Ignatius began to implement his teachings especially regarding customer service, whereby Ban Hoe Seng’s showroom and service centre were immediately given a facelift for maximum customer comfort. “We also began to focus on customer rapport,” he says adding that he had kept in touch with Sato after the training for extra guidance.


The results soon began to show with Ban Hoe Seng being awarded the first Honda Dealer Of The Year award in the early ‘90s as well as a string of other accolades over the years ranging from Customer Service to Technician and Sales Advisor awards, proving that they were on the right track.


“Another indication that our customers are pleased is that 90 per cent of them come back for insurance and road tax renewal,” he says. However, Ignatius feels that the sales pitch has changed over the years. “Those days it was all about hard selling but these days it’s more about gentle persuasion and being inquisitive about the customers’ needs.


Customers love to buy instead of being sold to,” he opines. What is the secret to their success? “Our employees of course!” he says. Many of the company’s 80 personnel have been with them for over 15 years which gives them a good

balance of experience and eagerness. “A customer doesn’t ‘belong’ to any one salesperson. When a customer walks into the showroom, several sales advisors are on standby to assist them. The customer chooses the one he’s most comfortable with,” he says.


And what does the future hold? “We intend to focus on after sales support as it directly affects future sales,” he says adding that he is proud to carry on the family tradition and aims to achieve even greater success in the future, something that his grandfather and father will no doubt be smiling about from above.

1988: 2 personnal  attended one week training under Mitsuro Sato in Bangkok

1990: Ban Hong Seng awarded the 1st Honda Dealer of The Year award

1994: Awarded best Services campaign award

1991-1996/ 1994-1997: Wins Honda top fechnician ward    / Wins Honda top sales advisor award

2004: Runner-up Honda’s customer services satisfaction award

2009: Awarded Honda Dealer of the year award

Tags:Ban Hoe Seng, Dealers, After Sales Service, Service Centre, Showroom, 3S
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