The simple key to business success at home and abroad

Close to one billion new consumers will play a major role in shaping global demand for businesses over the next five years, according to Deloitte, as developing economies in Asia, Africa and Latin America continue to see rapid growth of their middle classes.

ANZ’s Caged Tiger report forecasts that by 2050, Asia will account for around half of the global economy and the US and Europe will fall towards 20 per cent.

"No matter the region, there is a simple recipe for success: offer good customer service on a personal level."
Andrew Carlton, Vice president of customer service at American Express

Given Australia’s close proximity to North Asia, this presents a huge opportunity for Australian businesses to serve a vast new set of consumers both at home and overseas. For many, success will depend on quickly adapting to the needs of customers whose social, cultural, and behavioural expectations differ from our own.

According to American Express’ annual Global Customer Service Barometer, for businesses to succeed, no matter the region, there is a simple recipe for success: offer good customer service on a personal level.

Yet within that, there are subtle differences between North Asia and Australia in how consumers prefer to interact with businesses. In North Asian markets there is an increasing trend towards customers using social media to engage directly, with consumers preferring to take their customer service interactions online to share their feedback and thoughts.

For example, in Japan, the percentage of consumers who used social media to interact with customer service consultants rose from 21 per cent in the 2012 findings to 26 per cent in 2014. Likewise, of those surveyed in Hong Kong, almost half have utilised social media to solicit a customer service response.

In Australia, while use of social media to contact businesses is increasing, consumers still prefer dealing directly with a customer service employee by telephone or in person.

The importance of providing that personal touch is reflected by the fact Australian customers tell an average of nine people about good service experiences, but will vent their frustration about bad service to an average of 18 people. These numbers serve as a clear reminder to businesses that consumers, both at home and overseas, have no hesitation in telling others about their service experiences, both good and bad.

Click image to zoom Tap image to zoom

Ultimately, consumers in both regions vote with their wallets, and this is reflected in the spending habits of Australian customers – two thirds (72 per cent) claim to have spent more with a company that has provided a seamless customer experience. Likewise, consumers in Hong Kong are willing to spend 13 per cent more with a company who provides them with excellent customer service.

According to the American Express report, it’s a simple equation: in a highly competitive market, the danger of neglecting customer service can lead to loss of business.

With the increase in new consumers in Asia-Pacific region and a growing demand for personalised customer service, merely responding to complaints will not do. To grow and attract new customers, businesses must take note of customer service trends, be responsive and add a personal touch in order to thrive.

Andrew Carlton is vice president of customer service at American Express.

The 2014 American Express Customer Service Barometer was conducted by Ebiquity among a random sample of 1000 people in each country. Interviewing took place during August, 2014.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

editor's picks

07 Jan 2015

China’s online and shopping up a storm

BlueNotes reporter |

China’s emerging affluent youth are online – everywhere and all of the time – there is huge potential for online businesses to take advantage of this growing segment. ChinaSkinny lays out the landscape.

06 Oct 2014

Why understanding Chinese social media is important

Casey Hall | Former Asian editor, WSJ, NT, CNN

China has 625 million active social media users and approximately zero per cent of them are using platforms dominant in the Western world, such as Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp.