Filipinos most forgiving of bad customer service

Posted at 04/10/2010 7:51 AM | Updated as of 04/10/2010 7:52 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Filipinos are the least likely to end a business relationship despite bad customer service compared with counterparts in three other Southeast Asian countries, an online survey by a Singaporean firm found.

The study, titled "The Cost of Poor Customer Service," and commissioned by Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories Asia Pte Ltd., estimated $2.8 billion in losses to Philippine firms with each customer abandoning a product or service costing $123 each.

The Philippines was said to have the most "actively engaged" consumers, with each one experiencing an average of 21 interactions with enterprises per year. It said Filipino customers were likely to end at least one business relationship a year due to poor customer service.

In contrast, Singaporeans will end more than three business relationships, and Malaysians and Thais about two. Customers in Malaysia are the second most engaged with 17.5 interactions, while Thais had 15.6 interactions. Singapore has an average of 14.2 interactions per year.

The online survey had 1,140 respondents aged 21 to 49, with 300 coming from the Philippines.

In all four countries, businesses lose $6.73 billion annually due to poor customer care, the study claimed, without discussing the methodology for determining losses. The Philippines and Thailand had the highest losses at $2.8 billion and $2.3 billion, respectively, while Singapore and Malaysia, which have smaller populations, were estimated to be losing $374 million and $1.257 billion annually.

"Consumers in virtually every country walk away from a relationship due to poor customer service. Looking at all four ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, the average number of abandoned relationships triggered by poor customer service is 1.9 per year. Consumers in the Philippines are least likely to drop a relationship, although about one relationship is still ended per year due to poor service," the study said.

One Filipino customer surveyed said: "Since customer service is poor, it means they don’t care about me. So it’s bye-bye to them! I’d rather spend my money elsewhere."

The major complaint in the Philippines is that customer service representatives are not empowered to make decisions. Consumers in the Philippines also noted "that the time spent waiting for an agent should be shortened by a lot more." This was despite spending the shortest amount of time "trapped" in automated voice call services -- 9.2 minutes -- compared with 16.2 minutes in Thailand, 14 minutes in Malaysia, and 11.5 minutes in Singapore.

The survey also noted that nearly 59% of Filipino consumers had abandoned or shifted telecommunication companies, the highest in the region. About half did the same for their banks or insurance firms. About a fifth of Filipino consumers surveyed were dissatisfied with government services. The same proportion gave high marks to travel and hospitality firms.

Ramon R. Isberto, spokesman of Smart Communications, Inc. said customer abandonment "may also be a factor of competition."

Globe Telecom, Inc. spokeswoman Yoly C. Crisanto said in a telephone interview with that the company is already "working on a customer first service."

"We are very serious about customer service because in the Philippines, telecommunications is pervasive and is more of a service now than a utility," said Ms. Crisanto.

She added that Globe users had many means to reach customer service like chat, mobile phones, landlines and stores.
The study also found that the most popular channel for customer service was still a telephone with a "live agent," although in the Philippines and Thailand text messaging was also popular as this was "more affordable."