25 October 2016
No shopper would like to endure bad manners and sloppy service. Companies should ensure that their customers always get quality goods and services. Photo: CNSA
No shopper would like to endure bad manners and sloppy service. Companies should ensure that their customers always get quality goods and services. Photo: CNSA

What happens when companies don’t listen to their customers

A few days ago I passed by a hugely popular cake store, known for its mille crêpes cake, which I had found to be more hype than substance.

Nonetheless, since it was not very crowded that day, I decided to try two of their offerings.

I soon regretted my decision because the staff were amazingly rude. I thought no customer should be made to endure bad manners, especially since I was making a purchase worth HK$130. 

Hongkongers love food. They like to try out those tiny roadside restaurants and dai pai dongs. Even if they clearly know the service or the environment won’t be ideal, many couldn’t care less because they believe great food will offset all the minor hassles.

Some even think boorish waiters add a touch of local flavor to the whole eating experience.

But this cake shop is something else. It’s a mid-high-class store and customers expect nothing less than excellent service.

I’ve been to so many shops where the staff failed to satisfy customers. It’s not just me and my friends; it’s a universal experience.

I feel sorry for the business owners because the popularity of their establishments is being ruined by the poor service of their frontline staff.

In many cases, the poor service results from a store’s popularity. First, the staff’s income is not adjusted in accordance with the increased workload.

Second, the training and supervision of staff are not given enough attention as the store expands rapidly.

Third, management takes the influx of customers for granted and refuses to allot resources to improve customer service.

If the poor service is due to the first and the second reasons, it’s the responsibility of management. If it’s because of the third reason, then it’s a carefully calculated business strategy.

Maybe I‘m biased, but I think the management capabilities of many senior executives of local companies are not very good.

Some are either too high-sounding or out of touch with the young generation, while others allow personal considerations to guide business decisions. This creates one public relation crisis after another.

For example, a large restaurant chain released its financial results last month, attributing its business decline to last year’s Occupy protests.

This is an example of management that ignores the perception of the stakeholders. No matter what reasons they have to support such view, it has already damaged the company’s image in the eyes of many stakeholders, especially the youth.

What is worse is that some netizens pointed out the argument was not quite valid because the company’s same store sales and sales on Hong Kong Island reported an increase during the period of protests.

It is in fact the decline of its mainland business that dragged down revenues. Compared with its rival’s 35 percent increase in sales during the period, factors related to its operation should take the blame, not the protests.

If management ignores quality communication with all stakeholders, the company is more likely to encounter a public relation crisis in this age of advanced social media and information technologies.

If management insists on running the company on the basis of subjective views without quality communication with stakeholders, it may be necessary for such a company to allot a bigger budget for PR companies to handle the waves of crises ahead.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 15.

Translation by Myssie You

[Chinese version中文版]

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