The title of this research on Customer Service in Asia Pacific “Greater expectations: Keeping pace
with customer service demands in Asia Pacific” certainly caught my eye. But on closer examination, it seems neither the Economist Intelligence Unit or it’s sponsors DHL, have woken up to the fact that the 50+ segment now represents 1/3 of all consumers and is the fastest growing across Asia Pacific by cutting off their sample at just 50! What a wasted opportunity. I had hoped to be able to disect the data and reveal if and how opnions on this subject differed between the 50+ group and younger cohorts.
Anyway, the findings are interesting nevertheless. The full report can be downloaded here.
The key findings of the research include:
- There is room for customer service to become a key source of competitive advantage in Asia. A gap has opened between customer service expectations and the levels of service that firms are providing.
- Companies in Asia are not putting enough emphasis on customer service. More than half of companies surveyed invest in customer service only after development of their core product. Many firms in Asia may have much to gain by raising the priority of customer service initiatives.
- Price is no longer the only factor in purchasing decisions. In parts of Asia, companies are still focussed on price, but many consumers are willing to pay for better service.
- Rising expectations are driven by information and competition, not income, suggesting that expectations even in lower-income countries will rise quickly. Conventional theory suggests that as people get richer, they start to want better customer service and are more able and willing to pay for it.
- Service, like products, should be tailored to individual markets. Consumers in different parts of Asia have quite different service expectations.
- Call centre service is fine…if done well. Despite popular complaints about the inadequacies of call centre service-maddening voicemail systems, lengthy waits to speak to a human being, or being served by an individual with an impenetrable foreign accent-the majority of Asian consumers surveyed have no fundamental objection to call centres, provided they are easy to use and provide quick results. However, the use of call centres may not do much to enhance customer satisfaction.
- The emphasis on online communication may be misplaced. One-third of corporate survey respondents plan to invest in a better online presence. However, few regard it as very important to their customers, and indeed, only a minority of consumers say they value it.
- Foreign firms can compete. When asked if Asian or Western companies provide higher standards of customer service, consumers in Asia are divided, with 26% choosing Asian, 28% choosing Western, and 46% undecided.
- China has Asia’s least satisfied-and least forgiving-consumers. Despite significant improvement over the past five years, the Chinese consumers surveyed-mostly middle class and in the largest cities- give customer service in their country the worst ratings of any in Asia. If they receive poor customer service from a company whose product they have bought, 63% of Chinese respondents say they will immediately switch brands-compared with less than a quarter that will do the same in India.
- Japanese consumers are entering a new age of thrift. With service levels in the country already relatively high, Japanese consumers now appear willing to accept lower levels of service for cheaper prices. As the rest of Asia grows rapidly, and its consumers become more willing to shell out money for good service, the average Japanese consumer is entering a new age of thrift.
How can we impress upon such companies the growing power and influence of the 50+ army?
The sad facts about the research scope are revealed here:
The Economist Intelligence Unit conducted a survey of 764 consumers, with at least 70 each from 10 countries: Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand. Some 48% were aged 30-35, with the rest aged 36-50. They are largely middle-class and residing in urban areas.