Minnie Wang
Mar 12, 2021

For crisis management, bring in the dancing robots

A crew of 11 waltzing robots spraying sanitizer, plus exemplary use of sensible crisis-management principles like transparency, helped Hong Kong shopping destination K11 Musea bring visitors back after a Covid outbreak.

For crisis management, bring in the dancing robots

In late February and early March, Hong Kong's K11 Musea faced a nightmare scenario for a retail emporium dependent on foot traffic: an outbreak of 50 Covid cases tied to one of its eateries, which led to a weeklong shutdown of the entire mall.

You might expect people to stay far away from a recent Covid hotspot, but when the K11 Musea re-opened, crowds were waiting to get in. That's because the mall's handling of the situation could serve as a case study in how to turn a public-health crisis into a brand new opportunity: it used social media effectively, took resolute action quickly, and communicated with transparency. And there were dancing robots. Not to mention enticing discounts.

Here's a timeline of what happened:

February 27: The first Covid-19 cases emerge, tied to a restaurant called Mr. Ming’s Chinese Dining.

February 28: The mall is shut down for sterilization. Testing stations are set up for staff. 

March 1: A top microbiologist and government adviser on the pandemic, Yuen Kwok-yung, visits K11 Musea. Media outlets are allowed into the mall, and reporting relays his statement that the mall is safe, with hospital-grade ventilation. He also confirms that Mr. Ming’s Chinese Dining had an independent ventilation system, which he says was not up to standards.

March 2: Following the confirmation of ventilation problem, K11 Musea immediately terminates the restaurant's lease.

March 3: K11 Musea provides a second round of free tests for all staff and tenants.

March 4: The mall releases a video of 11 autonomous sanitization robots “dancing” a waltz while cleaning the mall. The video (below), is released on various channels including the personal WeChat and Instagram accounts of K11 founder Adrian Cheng. It creates something of a social-media sensation, attracting far more views and likes than K11's previous video posts on social-media channels.

March 5: K11 Musea announces it will reopen the next day, and states that all staff have been tested, with negative results. It also communicates about promotion plans, including food and beverage vouchers, beauty vouchers and three hours of free parking. The grand opening of the Legoland Discovery Center happens to coincide with the reopening.

March 6: The mall re-opens and once again makes the news, this time with footage of excited shoppers rushing to get in.

K11 Group is based in Hong Kong and has operations in Greater China, as well as investments in Europe and the US. K11 Musea, billed as the group’s most ambitious cultural-retail development, in part for its architecture and sustainable design, opened in August 2019. 

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