Paying the price for poor service

Updated: 2017-04-13 07:08

(HK Edition)

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Paying the price for poor service

When we read the news about a 69-year-old passenger being dragged off an airplane of the United Airlines in the United States because he refused to give up his seat to airline personnel when so demanded, we tend to think we are lucky that such things have not happened in Hong Kong. Or have they?

Those who think Hong Kong's service providers are doing a better job must have forgotten about how some members of our service industries have treated their customers - especially tourists from the mainland.

We have heard so many times before about mainland tourists being forced to buy overpriced items in shops that are connected to organizers of budget tours which rely mostly on commissions from such purchases. Those who refuse to do so are dressed down, insulted and even beaten up. In 2015, a mainland tourist from Heilongjiang province died of heart failure after being manhandled by tour guides who were upset by the tour member's refusal to make purchases at a designated jewelry shop.

Hong Kong's service industries employ more than 80 percent of our working population and their GDP percentage is even higher. Many of them deal directly with customers on the frontline and the way they treat their customers determines the image of Hong Kong they project. If customers are mistreated, then chickens come home to roost.

In the case of the United Airlines, its stock price plummeted more than 4.4 percent on Tuesday and its business prospects in its fastest-growing market - China - are expected to be seriously undermined. Its reputation and image must have been dealt a serious blow worldwide as the video recording of what happened on the plane has gone viral.

Likewise, the frequent maltreatment of tourists by bad elements of Hong Kong's service industry tarnishes the city's reputation and image seriously. The number of mainland visitors has dropped dramatically in recent years, although this is also a result of other factors, such as an appreciating Hong Kong dollar and competition from neighboring tourist destinations.

The government has been racking its brains to come up with ways to boost its economy, such as developing the local innovation industry. But it is apparent that our officials also need to do more to improve the service industries in the special administrative region.

The old adage "The customer always comes first" should still be the motto for any business if it is to be successful.

(HK Edition 04/13/2017 page7)