RETAIL | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

Hong Kong consumers' satisfaction levels hit three-year low

Only 32% of consumers think businesses are exerting effort to improve customer service.

Tough-to-please Hong Kong consumers’ satisfaction with customer service has reached a three-year low, according to the American Express Customer Service Barometer. In fact, only a third of consumers (32%) see businesses putting effort into providing excellent customer service, down significantly from two-thirds (58%) in the previous two years.

In today’s disruptive and competitive economy, excellent customer service alone is not enough to capture consumers’ loyalty. Only one-half (52%) of consumers surveyed are willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service, down from 65% in 2015.

Ms. Susanna Lee, Country Manager, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and General Manager, Insurance Asia of American Express International, Inc. said, “A large number of Hong Kong consumers feel like businesses aren’t doing enough to provide excellent service. Without that customer focus, it is going to be more difficult for businesses to attract and retain customers.”

News of Bad Customer Service Travels Fast in Hong Kong

More bad news for companies who are not offering excellent customer service to customers: in the digital age, word travels fast. When Hong Kongers experience bad customer service, they let others know about it. Nearly half of them (44%) talk about their poor service experiences all the time, more often than those that are good (only 19%).

On average, Hong Kong consumers tell 18 people about their poor experiences, compared to telling six people about their good experiences. It is therefore critical for businesses to maintain a consistent offering of excellent customer service to prevent the fast-spreading of one single poor experience.

Social media posts are more positive

The survey results also indicate that social media continues to be a key driver in responding to feedback and increasing consumer satisfaction.

In Hong Kong, 80% of consumers have posted comments on social media platforms about their customer experiences. The ratio of positive to negative feedback is nearly equal (42% posted positive comments vs. 38% negative) with slightly more positive comments. This reveals an opportunity for businesses in Hong Kong.

"Active social media community management is the best way to engage with satisfied customers and reinforce a positive perception, as well as manage issues in a timely manner to minimize reputation damage," said Susanna Lee.

Hong Kong customer habits compared to other countries
· Desired customer experience attributes vary across countries. Hong Kong consumers picked “efficiency” (39%) and “courteous” (32%) as the most important attributes of customer service, the highest of all countries.

· Hong Kong consumers are surprisingly patient in person. In fact, Hong Kong consumers are willing to wait a maximum of 17 minutes to receive help from a customer service representative, while Italians are the most impatient with 11 minutes being their cut-off point. Indian consumers, meanwhile, are the most tolerant at 21 minutes.

· When matters get complicated, face-time matters most. Technology seems to have its limitations, as 38% of Hong Kong people still prefer to speak to a real person when the inquiry is more complex, and even face to face (45%) for a difficult or complicated inquiry – the highest of all countries.

Key takeaways for Hong Kong businesses
· Strive for efficiency at every touch point. About two-in-five (39%) consumers said the most important attribute of a successful customer service professional is ‘efficiency, the ability to answer questions or handle transactions quickly.’ This means empowering customers to quickly find an answer, whether that’s ensuring FAQs are easily found on a website or offering an array of chat and messaging features across their platforms.

· Go online and get social. Slightly fewer than one-half (47%) have used social media to get a customer service response, but about one-in-ten (14%) say they ‘always’ get a response – this is a time for businesses to optimize the use of their digital platforms to communicate effectively and listen to what their customers have to say.

· The little things still matter. There is a notable increase in consumers who said representatives should be ‘courteous – polite and cordial in addressing me’ (32%) in this year’s survey, significantly higher than 23% (2015) and 26% (2014) in previous years. To retain a brand’s loyalty and good image, training sales representatives and addressing customers by their names are important.

Even with these findings, hope remains for companies in Hong Kong. Their customers are more likely to give them a second chance (77% in 2016 comparing with 70% in 2015 and 71% in 2014) after a poor service experience. The percentage is the highest when compared with other countries. 

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