HKACE research reveals that Hong Kong customers' expectation from digital services is outpacing their actual experiences. Demands regarding digital experiences are high and what is being offered by companies in Hong Kong is not yet able to fully satisfy their needs.
Hong Kong customers are enthusiastic to use more digital services, and they want to get their issues solved promptly and easily.
Despite increasing number of companies providing digital channels for customer service, human-touch channels remain more popular than digital channels. Our survey reveals that while more than two-fifth of respondents used different human-touch channels in the past 12 months, only around one-third or less have used digital channels such as online instant e-chat (36%), contacted specific staff through WhatsApp/ WeChat (23%) and left message on social media (18%). Despite low usage in digital channels currently, Hong Kong customers have the desire to use more digital channels in the next 3 years (see figure 1).
This research also suggested that Hong Kong customers are sophisticated and discerning. Majority (90%) expect their enquiries can be solved the first time they contact the customer service. Compared with human-touch channels, Hong Kong customers are less satisfied with digital channels because they are not able to solve their enquiries the first time (see figure 2).
There are misalignments between what customers need and what staff think customers need in digital services
Do companies in Hong Kong provide what customers need in digital service? The research revealed there are misalignments on what customers need and what companies are currently providing. While 41% of customers want digital services to be able to solve customers' issues, only 15% of customer service staff think that customers value this. In contrast, 24% customer service staff think customers want efficient service from digital channels; however, only 10% of Hong Kong customers share the same views (see figure 3).
Customers prefer a seamless customer experience through integrated multiple channels
Do customers always prefer the same channel? This research found that customers prefer different channels for different customer services. They tend to go to company websites/ mobile app for enquiry of basic information (65%), enquiry of products/ services (59%) and bill payment (50%). They tend to go to store/ branch/ service centre to purchase/ apply products or services (50%) while they tend to call hotline when they look for solutions to a problem or an issue (51%), contract renewal (49%) and enquiry of service appointment or delivery (42%) (see figure 4).
As Hong Kong customers are exposed to different channel options, majority (64%) wants customer service to be delivered through Omni-channel to meet their different needs rather than through multiple channels that are not connected (24%) or single-channel (7%).
Conclusion: Current digital or A.I. technology is yet to fully replace the human touch
This research reveals that there are still gaps between digital and human services. When customers cannot solve their issues via digital channels (e.g. websites or social media), they tend to seek human channels with higher expectation. While companies continue to improve and innovate their digital services, it is also important to enhance their customer services staff with skills to solve customer issues effectively and efficiently.
Mr. Algernon Yau, Chairman of HKACE concludes, "We are delighted to see that customers welcome digital channels in customer service. However, we must make sure our digital channels and services create value and convenience to our customers. With our theme "iService, I Serve", the Association will work with our fellow industry players to provide Hong Kong customers with more satisfied customer journey through experience sharing, company visits and research findings sharing. While we advocate the use of digital technologies in customer service, we will continue to emphasize the importance of integrated channels by embedding human touch elements into digital technology, so as to provide a better customer experience to our customers."
About this research
The research was conducted from December 2017 to February 2018 and we interviewed a total of 858 respondents for this study:
1. Hong Kong customers (n = 500)2. Customer Service staff (n = 358)All interviews were conducted via an online survey.
More about HKACE
HKACE, a non-profit organisation, was established in February 2000 to represent more than 300,000 customer service practitioners in Hong Kong, the number of member companies has grown up to 57. The 11 founding member organisations are AIA International Limited, Cathay Pacific Airways Limited, Centaline Property Agency Limited, CLP Power Hong Kong Limited, Dah Chong Hong (Motor Service Centre) Limited, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, The Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Post, HKT Limited (a PCCW Group Member), Shell Hong Kong Limited, and Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) Limited. They are committed to continuously improve themselves, to promote customer service culture with passion, leveraging on members' synergy and professional expertise.
The Association drew up the first-ever Hong Kong Customer Service Charter and initiated a multitude of industry awards over the years, including the "Customer Service Excellence Awards", and the "Top 10 SME Awards". The Association aims to facilitate the sharing of experiences among member organisations, to encourage innovation, and to elevate the competitiveness of Hong Kong's service sector by rewarding high levels of customer service.
Highlights of the research methodology, analysis and results are available for downloading at HKACE's website.
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