As Hong Kong’s retail industry faces increased challenges, it has become all the more important for companies to redouble their efforts toward providing better service to their customers.
While some firms invest millions into large marketing campaigns to improve sales, customer service still remains a key element in improving customer loyalty. In the digital age, it has become easier than ever for consumers to seek help, with advice only a phone call, e-mail or a social media post away.
Despite these options, consumer satisfaction in Hong Kong has reached a three-year low, according to the latest American Express Customer Service Barometer. In fact, only a third of consumers (32 percent) see businesses putting any effort into providing excellent customer service, down significantly from two-thirds (58 percent) in the previous two years. This should sound an alarm bell for businesses to place more emphasis on offering excellent customer service and changing public perception, especially when the economic climate is increasingly competitive.
If a large number of Hong Kong consumers feel businesses aren’t doing enough to provide excellent service, it will be more difficult for the firms to attract and retain customers. Companies that understand the importance of providing high-quality customer service and making customers feel that good customer service is a priority will benefit tremendously, not only in sales, but also from the long-term gains of having a loyal customer base.
Today, the perception of offering good customer service is even more important because of the easy spread of information through social media. Word of poor customer service can be easily spread not only by the affected customers, but also by citizen journalists who have witnessed the incident.
To stay ahead of the game, here are some tips that all businesses, big or small, can take advantage of to bolster their customer service offerings:
Strive for efficiency at every touch point
Approximately two-in-five (39 percent) 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 giving customers easy and quick access to answers, whether that’s ensuring FAQs are easily found on a website or offering an array of chat and messaging features across all platforms.
Go online and get social
With the prevalence of technology, word travels fast. Nearly half of them (44 percent) talk about their poor service experiences all the time, much more often than those that speak of positive experiences (19 percent).
Hongkongers also tell more people when something goes wrong than when something goes right; they tell 18 people about a poor experience, and just 6 people about their good experiences. For savvy businesses, this can be an opportunity to turn things around as companies that actively engage in social media can proactively respond to criticism and increase consumer satisfaction through positive engagement.
The little things still matter
There was a notable increase in consumers who said representatives should be ‘courteous – polite and cordial in addressing me’ (32 percent) in this year’s survey, significantly higher than 23 percent (2015) and 26 percent (2014) in previous years. Brands should allocate more resources to train their sales representatives and go beyond by addressing customers by their names to retain the brand loyalty and maintain positive corporate image.
Personalizing these interactions and showing high levels of respect and courtesy to customers can be crucial in driving business success.
Answer the question
The leading negative recall of a customer service experience in Hong Kong was because the ‘representative didn’t answer the question’, with nearly half (47 percent) of customers responding this way. This shows that customers want direct, straight-to-the-point and honest answers to the questions they have given.
When using an automated voice response system, the biggest frustrations that cause consumers to hang up are ‘I can’t get to a service representative’ (56 percent) and that there are ‘too many steps’ (41 percent). When a customer enquiry get complicated, speaking directly with a customer relations representative proves to be most effective: 38 percent of Hong Kong people still prefer to speak to a real person when an inquiry is difficult, and often speaking face to face with them (45 percent) is most important – the highest of all countries surveyed.
Ultimately, improving business does not have to be complicated or costly. Some extra attention to customer service can go a long way, and ensuring that customers are happy and want to stay loyal to the company can be the best way to maintain a good reputation and boost company profitability.
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