Jun 10, 2013

    Local customers are 'harder to please'

    SINGAPORE residents do not consider customer-service levels here to be good enough, but the experiences of many tourists here are better than what they have had back home.

    This is according to the findings of a recent survey conducted by market-research group Taylor Nelson Sofres to get a better insight into the service debate here.

    In fact, 74 per cent of tourists interviewed rated service here as "above average". The 80 tourists surveyed were from countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, China, India, Australia, Britain and the United States.

    Almost half - 49 per cent - went as far as to say that service in Singapore was better than in their home country.

    Industry experts My Paper spoke to said the results stem from a difference in expectations between residents and tourists.

    They stressed that the results were not because of retail staff discriminating against local customers when it comes to service, contrary to popular belief.

    Dr Lee Tong Nge, joint director of Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Business Management, said expectations of Singaporeans have increased over the years.

    However, service levels have not caught up with what local customers are looking for, he said.

    "As Singaporeans become more affluent and travel more, their expectations are raised naturally," he said.

    "Tourists, however, come into our country sometimes not knowing what to expect."

    Mr Kevin Cheong, chairman of the Association of Tourist Attractions Singapore, said local customers "tend to 'stereotype' based on expected behaviours and past experiences, whereas, for tourists, every experience is new and fresh".

    The survey was conducted in April, and had more than 460 participants, including customers, service staff and managers.

    Out of 300 local customers, 64 per cent rated current service levels in Singapore as being merely acceptable.

    Local customers proved to be the toughest on lacklustre service, with 56 per cent saying that they expect service staff to go "beyond the call of duty".

    Only 15 per cent of local customers rated service levels as above average, and 2 per cent said service levels were excellent.

    Home-grown hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng, who runs boutique-hotel-and-restaurant chain Unlisted Collection, said local customers can be "more demanding, expecting service staff to be more subservient".

    He said: "There is a general lack of respect for the service profession among local customers."