Hong Kong retail nothing to smile about

Hong Kong retail is getting a bad rap when it comes to shopping … from having the worst-rated sales assistants in the world, to being the worst customers.
A global report says Hong Kong shops are the bottom of the heap when it comes to greeting and smiling at customers. The city ranked 37 out of 37 regions around the world in the latest customer service survey conducted by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA).
When it comes to store staff smiling, Hong Kong’s score was 48 – the same as last year, but now ranking it down two rungs to hit the bottom. Ireland topped the list with the perfect score of 100, while China was 26th with 83.
Compiled from 1.1 million shop visits across the world, the report says that in Hong Kong about 40,000 shop visits were conducted by 2000 “mystery shoppers” across 41 industries.
Telecom services amassed 71 marks, leading other segments such as watches and jewellery, and beauty and cosmetics. Forwarders and transport companies were given the lowest scores on the smiling index.
Explaining Hong Kong’s low score, MSPA Asia CEO Anders Wong Siu-leung says frontline sales people are under pressure to meet quotas and targets, and this could be why they find it hard to smile. Wong suggested employers pay close attention to staff emotions and nurture a happy culture.
In terms of greeting customers, Hong Kong and Macau were equal with a score of 53 marks – last among 53 regions. Guatemala in central America led the survey with a score of 100.


But when it comes to the other side of the counter, Hong Kong shoppers are also rated as the worst customers – in the opinion of the unsmiling sales people.
“Cashed-up customers from across the border can be arrogant, but at least they are willing to pay for quality,” one retailer has told Ejinsight. “By comparison, many locals want the best but are quite money-pinching.”
He says he has many retailer friends in Japan, and they complain to him that customers from Hong Kong are the most difficult to serve. “Not only are they overly fussy about small details, they also bargain a lot.”
Another sales worker says some Hongkongers are “just unbelievable”. “There was a woman who insisted the colour of a certain part of a cushion was off, but no-one in our shop could tell the difference.”
Hong Kong shoppers are also tight with money, according to the owner of a small gemstone store. “They like to point out the problems with my products, then push for a discount.
“Mainland customers buy a lot each time. They have the money, but they don’t have much time in Hong Kong. When they see things they like, they make up their mind very quickly.”

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