Excellent customer service is the only way to sharpen your competitive edge!
During the last decade, Hong Kong has been transformed into a service-oriented business centre in the Asia-Pacific. As a result, service industry is now accounted for over 80% of GDP in Hong Kong. Hardly surprising, in expensive top-management conferences with flown-in speakers as well as company-wide training sessions alike, the resounding message is :
Excellent customer service is the only way to sharpen your competitive edge!
However, many Chinese are not aware of the importance of customer service. Many companies like yours deal with this problem with organization development and change programs. Further improvement of these programmes can translate to higher returns on your company’s investments in customer service. To achieve this, we need scientific and practical research on the psychological, behavioral, motivation and technological aspects of customer service.
As customers are becoming more sophisticated and increasingly more demanding, customer service is redefined and its roles changed.
Rapid technology advancement has brought added complexity and variety to different facets of customer service. Significant changes and improvements are made to enhance customer service quality and company productivity. Yet, the market competition and the chase to what is next seem never end.
Rapid changing market conditions, government regulations and de-regulations together with globalization of competition, corporations are constantly looking for creative, practical and result-oriented solutions to improve customer satisfaction and to both retain loyal customers and their own customer service staff.
Psychologists and other behavioral scientists in the West have enlightened corporations on many of the above. However, given the cultural differences between the West and the East, there are a lot of things we do not know. For example:
Faced with these challenges, we often find ourselves not alone in looking for collaboration, strategic alliances and partnering with others to explore synergy, benchmarking to improve process and productivity, seeking sustainable competitive advantages.
Although many challenges that service-driven companies face seem to insiders very industry-specific, the basic issues are generic. Companies can and should learn from one another.
For this reason Hong Kong Customer Service Consortium Program has been established.
With key industry representations, the Consortium shares a bigger vision for Hong Kong:
The objective of this Consortium Program is to find solutions that all member companies can adapt for use in their own business contexts, so that together we may.
We achieve this by:
This Consortium Program is unique because:
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) – 2017
Financial Secretary’s Office – 1998Services contribute over 84% of Hong Kong’s economy. As we move higher up the value-added chain, we need to find new ways to create value in order to sustain our economic growth. So the quality of our services is becoming increasingly important. Service quality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder-and that means the customer. Discerning customers today look for personable front-line staff, speedy delivery, serious after-sales service, sensitive responses to customer comments, and above all, better value for money. By providing quality service that meets-or better still, exceeds-customer expectations, we will be able to forge ahead despite the mounting competition. Given the importance to the economy of a commitment to quality, the Government is doing all it can to nurture and promote a service culture. I note with great pleasure that our efforts are receiving an encouraging response from the community and that a number of reputable Hong Kong enterprises are pooling their resources to improve service standards. The formation of the Hong Kong Customer Service Consortium once again exemplifies the kind of public-private partnership that makes Hong Kong tick. I salute the efforts by all the program founding members and wish the Consortium every success in its future endeavors.
Trade and Industry Bureau – 1998
Hong Kong Trade Development Council – 1998Hong Kong’s services sector is among the most developed in Asia. The performance of Hong Kong service industries is remarkable and the quality of services provided has been recognized as one of the highest in the world. Hong Kong is also the ninth-largest exporters of services in the world. The rapid evolution of Hong Kong from a manufacturing to a services economy makes it increasingly important for the Hong Kong Trade Development Council to develop its resources both in Hong Kong and across its branch offices network worldwide to promote the territory’s services strengths. Since our economic future is inextricably linked to the development of the services sector, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council is fully committed to supporting the industry’s efforts to upgrade the standards of service. The establishment of the Hong Kong Customer Service Consortium marks a significant step towards this end. I have no doubt that the Consortium will continue its endeavors in this regard in the years ahead. I wish the Consortium and its program founding members every success in the future.
Hong Kong Tourist Association – 1998As the body responsible for marketing Hong Kong as a travel destination, the Hong Kong Tourist Association is very much aware of the importance of courtesy and high standards of service in the community. Some 12% of Hong Kong’s workforce work directly or indirectly in the tourism industry and a wide range of Hong Kong’s businesses are on the “front line” as far as visitors to the territory are concerned. For example, our retail, entertainment and hospitality industries are all heavily involved in and, to a certain extent, reliant on tourism. And the increased sophistication of the modern traveler means that he or she expects exceptional standards of service from all elements of his or her chosen destination. In addition, word-of-mouth recommendation is fast becoming one of the most influential elements in choosing a travel destination. This is why it is doubly important that Hong Kong acquit itself exceptionally in this area. Making our visitors feel welcome, being a good host and offering outstanding customer service will bring benefits to all sectors of our community. Financially, tourism is one of the cornerstones of Hong Kong’s economy, being one of the territory’s largest earners of foreign exchange. The industry is also one of Hong Kong’s largest employers, as well as a provider, indirectly, of a wide range of facilities and attractions that are enjoyed by local residents as well as visitors. This vital role means that the health of the tourism industry is important to everyone in Hong Kong. And everyone in Hong Kong has a part to play in ensuring that the industry goes from strength to strength. Increasingly, Hong Kong’s companies are realizing the potential long-term benefits of excellent customer service and working together-in such groups as the Hong Kong Customer Service Consortium (HKCSC) – to further improve standards in this area. The HKTA supports all such initiatives and, through its own programmes, works hard in cooperation with a wide range of other relevant bodies to encourage the entire Hong Kong community to recognize the importance of tourism, and strives to ensure that this awareness has an effect on and becomes a part of everyone’s daily life. I wish the HKCSC the very best of success in their work and look forward to working closely with the Consortium in the near future.
Consumer Council – 1998
Hong Kong Retail Management Association – 1998Hong Kong has always been one of the most favorite shopping destinations as well as a frequent destination for business travelers around the world. The supreme range of products and services available here makes Hong Kong a true universal shopping and business centre. The Hong Kong Retail Management Association has always been at the forefront in promoting the importance of quality service within the retail sector. ‘Quality Service’ is no longer a luxury but a necessity that allows businesses a competitive edge to succeed and is a component of our business that clearly awards attention. It is important to extend such awareness and to encourage the continuation of service excellence beyond retail boundaries to all the service industries in Hong Kong. Our Association is delighted that more businesses and individuals are devoting their efforts towards promoting and improving Hong Kong’s service standards and in coming together for a common cause. I congratulate the Hong Kong Customer Service Consortium on their inauguration. Let’s join forces to promote this message of Service Excellence and in achieving the highest service standards for Hong Kong. On behalf of the Hong Kong Retail Management Association, I wish the Consortium every success in the years ahead.
Customer Service Institute of Australia – 2008Thank you for the opportunity once again to be an adviser to your very prestigious Customer Relationship Excellence Awards. We have had a tremendous association with the Hong Kong Customer Service Consortium and the Asia Pacific Customer Service Consortium and have seen the quality of awards submissions and organizations recognized improve every year. We value our association with the Hong Kong Customer Service Consortium and the Asia Pacific Customer Service Consortium, as joint foundation members of the International Council of Customer Service Organizations and with the Customer Service Institute of Australia. We congratulate you on your 10th Anniversary and look forward to many more years promoting service excellence around the globe.
The University of Hong Kong – 2008Congratulations on the 10th anniversary of HKCSC and APCSC for their dedication in customer service research and practice, CRM benchmarking and promotion of Customer Relationship Excellence and Customer Service Quality Standards in international cities in Asia. Together with founding members from different industries, I have been very pleased to work on the Customer Service Research Consortium Program at Hong Kong University. I am also pleased to note that many of the research topics have created excellent impact to improve customer service quality and management in many organizations and business units. I look forward to more collaboration with APCSC with development programs to enhance the service economy worldwide!
Help Desk Institute Japan – 2008Congratulations to APCSC on her 10th anniversary. APCSC has gone through a remarkable period of success in promoting service excellence and quality standards in the Asia Pacific. It is my honor to be an adviser and member of the 2007 Customer Relationship Excellence Awards panel of judges. Please also accept my sincere congratulations upon Customer Relationship Excellence Awards Winners. In addition, thank you very much for inviting me to speak and participate in the APCSC CRE & CSQS Summit and the CRE Awards dinner ceremony. These events were very productive in knowledge sharing and wonderful learning opportunities for all international support professionals. HDI-Japan is cooperating with APCSC to enhance the support service industries in Asia Pacific continuously.
The University of Hong Kong – 2008“Congratulations on the 10th anniversary of HKCSC and APCSC for their dedication in customer service research and practice, CRM benchmarking and promotion of Customer Relationship Excellence and Customer Service Quality Standards in international cities in Asia. Together with founding members from different industries, I have been very pleased to work on the Customer Service Research Consortium Program at Hong Kong University. I am also pleased to note that many of the research topics have created excellent impact to improve customer service quality and management in many organizations and business units. I look forward to more collaboration with APCSC with development programs to enhance the service economy worldwide!”
Question 3: Timing and Rationale of the set up of the Consortium?
Timing - Hong Kong is a mature city with over 84% G.D.P. generated by the service sector. However the general impression of the quality of service in Hong Kong when compare with some other countries is not as good. Now that the economy is slowing down, improving customer service quality is a most effective way to rejuvenate Hong Kong economy including retail and tourist businesses.
Question 4: How confident is the Consortium in promoting quality customer service? What are the expected contributions of HKCSC to service excellence promotion?
We are confident that when we can help our consortium members who are leaders to improve customer standards, other companies in their industries will follow suit to increase their competitiveness. So when there are more members from different business to participate, this will help to improve customer service in more business sectors. We will provide meaningful findings and useful results to businesses that will give them substantial know-how to improve their service quality directly. (We also plan to start a service award program to promote and give recognition to customer service excellence e.g. to give award to University, MBA students' projects that are relating to how to improve customer service standards).
Question 5: How do you convince the program founding members to join and achieve the Consortium's objectives?
We did not need to convince them much, as they see the need to improve customer service standard to be competitive in the market. They are also attracted by the fact that they will learn from the best of different industries.
Question 6: What is the relationship between the Consortium and its members - do the members have a say in its directions, plans and operation? How?
Members in fact decide the direction of the research and participate in the research study. In return, they will receive the research findings. Therefore, under the Consortium program, the relationship between the HKCSC and the members is that of a service provider and its clients.
Question 7: What are the benefits to the members?
Our members may participate in the research project and will have research findings exclusively for one year for their implementation and they will able to participate in our quarterly meetings, case study sharing, luncheon, focus group, site visits etc.
Question 8: Consortium's management and operation budget. What are the membership fees and contributions?
Contributions include senior executives' time, companies' assistance to the research work and the research funding that is enough for a good start. (The funding will be revised according to market rate.)
Question 9: What is the relationship between the Consortium and the HKU Research Team? Joint partnership or project-based?
It is not a joint partnership. It is a research collaboration where we share our information, our resources and take lead in different research topics. It should be a long-term relationship.
Question 10: Objectivity and Quality Control - what research methods and approach do you use for your research programs?
We take a scientific approach. Since we don't report to any one company, we stay objective in our research. Our methods used include research, focus group, questionnaire survey, benchmarking studies and others as necessary and appropriate to our research topics.
Question 11: Who set out the research outlines and goals? Is the approach educational or business-led?
It is our members who set our direction and we carry out research towards achieving the goal. Members are asked to present their present and future challenges in customer service. We then write up research proposals based on their input. Members voted on these proposals, as a result we selected the top four research topics.
Question 12: What are the schedules of these research programs? When do the results come out? (lead time) Are these research result and solution-oriented?
It is a 2-year program. We will provide up-to-date findings quarterly to our members. We provide research findings that can be customized by different industries.
Question 13: Are the research findings confidential? Will the public have access to the research findings or will it be publicized to get public support?
Our members will have one year to implement the findings and to set new standards. Afterwards, other companies may follow, so that the overall service quality will then be elevated. Yes, after one year some interesting findings will be publicized on selected journals.
Question 14: Implementation of research findings - will the Consortium proceed to designing implementation programs?
Yes, if requested by interested members.
Question 15: Estimated time frame - for the implementation to take effect.
It will be customized on a separate project basis.
Question 16: What is the current quality of customer service in Hong Kong? How do you qualify your statements ?
It is a common impression that Hong Kong customer service is not the best in comparison to some other countries. That is why the Hong Kong Retail Management Association is organizing Service Award and the Hong Kong Tourist Association has put great effort to promote courtesy. The statement from our Financial Secretary also indicated that service quality is increasingly important in order to sustain our economic growth.
Question 17: The significance and urgency of customer service enhancement to economic recovery?
Our key competitive edge is our People and the good customer service they provide. These are also the market differentiation between a mature and a developing economy. Most important of all is the long term benefits of customer service enhancement to the consolidation of our economy and our future development to become a leader in Asia's service centers.
Question 18: How could the Consortium improve customer service in face of the general trend of corporate downsizing across industries?
While the economy is cyclical, customer service quality is a key competitive edge nowadays. We hope our research findings will help our members to improve their business productivity. They will have a better management system of customer service by improving their customer service staff's orientation, training, motivation and service center technology in order to cope with less manpower.
Question 19: The Consortium's role in the enhancement of customer service and expected response from the business community.
We hope to mobilize, draw attention and awareness of the business community to the importance of customer service quality and standard and to make customer service one of their top priorities as a competitive edge for Hong Kong. We hope to achieve our ultimate goal to make Hong Kong a better place to live and to do business.
Question 20: What other methods can Hong Kong companies use to promote customer service?
Other methods include government support and funding in customer service related research, training, business seminars and conferences. The local universities and educational institutions may consider setting up degree courses, MBA programs with focus on customer service.