Customer service falls short in APAC

04 October 2010

BEIJING: A substantial "gap" has emerged between how companies and consumers view customer service in Asia Pacific.

DHL and the Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed 764 individuals and 313 corporations in ten different countries, including Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

Overall, 92% of executives believed popular expectations in the region had noticeably increased during the last five years.

More specifically, 72% suggested access to information, through a variety of sources, had contributed to this trend.

Indeed, 52% cited rising internet penetration as playing a key role in this field, measured against 29% mentioning higher income levels.

Elsewhere, 70% of business leaders asserted that intensifying competition made their clientele more demanding.

When rating particular categories, 56% of shoppers regarded the hospitality industry as "very good" or "good", with consumer electronics on 55% and the financial sector on 51%.

Restaurants delivered 48%, groceries and household consumables registered 45%, apparel and telecoms both posted 44%, ahead of health and wellness on 38%.

Meanwhile, 48% of adults thought financial brands' service had improved in the last half-decade, beating electronics on 44% and telecoms on 41%.

A majority, however, said performance remained largely unchanged across almost every other area assessed.

Japanese operators set the regional benchmark, as 70% of electronics brands, 69% of grocery and household goods firms and 60% of apparel specialists achieved strong scores.

"Companies like Casio, Epson, Fujitsu, Sony, Toshiba and Yamaha have become household names all over the world, synonymous with quality and stellar customer service," the DHL/EIU study argued.

India followed in second place, and its consumers were also the most likely to agree the care and attention they receive had grown better since 2005.

South Korea, Indonesia and Australia followed, coming in at levels above the average for APAC as a whole.

China supplied the lowest totals, and 63% of respondents stated they would immediately change brands after a disappointing product experience, compared with less than a quarter in India.

Despite Japan's reputation as a luxury goods hub, 54% of shoppers stated value for money exerted the greatest influence on their purchase decisions.

On a regional basis, the same number of people said quality had the heaviest impact on buying behaviour.

A wider disparity is observable about the widespread willingness to pay a premium for good service, as shown by the fact 45% of Australians supported this notion, even though only 16% of businesses did so.

When identifying top investment priorities, 65% of corporations afforded such a status to "product or service development/innovation" and 56% championed "improving customer service".

By contrast, 76% of consumers desired that customer service should always be a company's main concern.

More positively, preferences for the important aspects of a good experience fell broadly in line, as polite and informed staff, human interaction and a meaningful internet presence found favour among both panels.

In appraising whether Asian or Western enterprises displayed the best performance, 26% opted for local firms, 28% chose multinationals and 46% were undecided.

Just 22% of participants concurred that foreign organisations could not offer a similarly nuanced approach as rivals headquartered domestically.

Perceptions differed slightly in Japan, where indigenous players were seen as leading the way, and only 10% of Australians thought overseas companies provided the requisite service quality.

Data sourced from EIU; additional content by Warc staff