SINGAPORE - A small home-grown audio company beat major brand names such as Hyatt and Apple to top a ranking of Singapore's best customer service providers.
TC Acoustic - an audio distributor with one retail store here and a webstore selling high-end audio products - trumped more than 1,600 companies for the honours in the Singapore's Best Customer Service 2022/2023 survey.
The results of the inaugural survey, conducted by The Straits Times and leading global data firm Statista, were released today.
The survey sought to identify Singapore's best customer service retailers and service providers across 93 categories.
These span bricks-and-mortar retailers for clothing, food and home goods; beauty and wellness services; and online services and digital products.
The top three companies were identified in each of the 93 categories.
Over 4,700 respondents took part in the online survey in March and April.
They were asked to assess organisations based on criteria including the availability of customer service and whether communication was friendly and polite. These were applied to both physical stores and online platforms.
The top 10 overall best customer service providers were picked from the 297 businesses which made it to the top three in their categories.
Of the brands that ranked in the top 10, four were from the transportation and travel sector - Hyatt (No. 2), Marina Bay Sands (No. 4), Shangri-La (No. 10), and shipping and delivery giant DHL (No. 9).
Notably, smaller players - automotive repair company ECU Solutions (No. 3) and camera store 8storeytree (No. 6) - made their mark alongside established players like Skai restaurant in Swissotel The Stamford (No. 5), Apple (No. 7) and three-Michelin-starred restaurant Odette (No. 8).
"It's great to see niche players like TC Acoustic, ECU Solutions and 8storeytree holding their own in the overall top 10 against some very recognisable names in the local hotel and restaurant sectors, and global giants like Apple and DHL," said ST managing editor Dominic Nathan.
"The survey results show that whether you operate in-store or online, excellent customer service is a key ingredient in helping companies, big or small, through tough times," noted Mr Nathan, referring to the pandemic, which has crippled many businesses.
Retail experts like Ms Maggie Au, course chair for the diploma in marketing at Temasek Polytechnic's School of Business, noted that organisations are starting to see the crucial role that service quality plays and are putting more emphasis on training their staff in this.
"Smaller, home-grown businesses likely have the advantage of knowing their customers on a personal level and are more nimble in their ability to provide personalised service," she said.
Statista senior analyst Jana Meusel noted that for a majority of the top brands, two factors were highly rated by customers.
They were the availability of customer service in a shop or on a helpline; and professional competence, or the quality of information received and whether questions were answered correctly and with sufficient detail.
The rise in digitalisation and more flexible working hours have shifted customers' expectations, said Ms Meusel.
"Customers now expect 24/7 service, fast answers and a good quality of service," she added.
She noted that global supply chain disruptions, which resulted in delays in delivery and the unavailability of products, led to more customers seeking delivery updates and solutions for delays.
"The results show that companies in Singapore were well prepared for the challenges that the pandemic brought," she said.
"But the pandemic is an ongoing dynamic, as are customers' expectations," she added.
For some top-ranked brands like Hyatt, the pandemic has given them valuable lessons, such as adapting customer-facing operations for the future.
Grand Hyatt Singapore's hotel manager Parveen Kumar noted that some of the hotel's most satisfied customers were those with whom it was able to establish meaningful pre-arrival communication.
"This allows the hotel to better align its service with guest expectations, prepare for guest needs, and develop stronger connections with its guests," he said.
"This is a service approach we want to continue to develop in the future," said Mr Parveen.
How companies are chosen and ranked
The ranking for Singapore's Best Customer Service 2022/2023 was based on the results of an anonymous online survey commissioned by The Straits Times in partnership with global data firm Statista.
The survey covered more than 1,600 retailers and service providers across 93 categories, including food, beauty and digital products.
More than 4,700 respondents took part in the survey and over 44,000 evaluations of customer service were collected.
Those who were polled comprised customers in Singapore who had made purchases, used services or gathered information about products or services in the past three years.
Every category included at least five well-established companies for reference, and respondents could add companies to any category. Only companies that offer services in Singapore were taken into account.
Calculation of scores
The final ranking was based on how likely it was that customers would recommend a company to others. This made up 50 per cent of the total score.
The other half of the final score was based on five criteria, with respondents giving ratings on a scale of zero (worst) to 10 (best).
The criteria were:
• Quality of communication: This considered whether the contact - via e-mail, phone or face to face - was friendly and polite.
• Professional competence: This looked at the quality of information received and whether questions were answered correctly and in sufficient detail.
• Range of services: This considered the variety of solutions available.
• Customer focus: This looked at whether the customer felt acknowledged and important.
• Accessibility: This considered the availability of customer service in a shop or on a helpline.