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2012 Golden Service Award Survey

Who’s the New Service Industry King?

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A reshuffle has taken place in many segments of Taiwan's service industry. Which tricks of the trade did the winners of this year's Golden Service Awards use to grab consumers'attention,and money?

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Who’s the New Service Industry King?

By Ming-ling Hsieh
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 501 )

Just in its second year, the Golden Service Award Survey by CommonWealth Magazine has already seen some dramatic changes. The survey results underline how fierce brand competition has become. Trying to survive in the Taiwanese service industry jungle, companies are doing whatever they can to polish their brand image, with ever better service.

In many categories including department stores/malls, airlines, and online shopping services a new leader emerged at the top of the list. Three of last year's winning international tourist hotels found themselves edged out of the Top Five in 2012.

Given that Taiwan's food and beverage market has already developed into a highly competitive, mature market, this year's survey established an even finer differentiation within this sector. Chain bakeries, hot pot restaurants, and Japanese-style chain restaurants are newly added F&B-related categories.

Last year Taiwan posted annual economic growth of 4.04 percent, but the hospitality businesses in CommonWealth Magazine's service industry Top 500 registered average revenue growth of more than 34 percent. Many people hope that Taiwan's food and beverage industry can become an export success, demonstrating the island's new international competitiveness in that field.

Easy House Beats Din Tai Fung

In the food and beverage category “reputation” and “atmosphere” played an important role for consumers' evaluation of brand awareness and service quality.

In the Chinese/Southeast Asian-style chain restaurant category, Easy House, which serves vegetarian dishes with a touch of Zen, beat famous dumpling chain Din Tai Fung for the top spot. Easy House's decisive edge was “atmosphere.”

Chen Ming-li, in charge of food services at the Life Industries Department of the Corporate Synergy Development Center, observes that consumers no longer visit a restaurant merely to fill their stomachs, but rather to eat good, skillfully presented food. Ambiance is part of such customer needs. For mid-to-high-end customers, who often wine and dine clients and business partners, an exquisite atmosphere is even more important.

Top Pot Bakery, which became a hot-selling bakery chain virtually overnight, managed to grab the top spot in the chain bakery category, although it has been in business for just a little over one year.

Customers need to wait in line at every newly opened Top Pot Bakery outlet. In the early evening the stores are usually sold out. ”Reputation” and “uniqueness” were behind the chain bakery's quick rise to the top. Chen also points out other factors that boosted its success: Customers may sample the baked goods for free. Since most of the stores are in business districts, customers can order from the office and pick up their purchases after work on the way home. Moreover, membership cards are issued to first-time buyers, another marketing move that created a lot of buzz.

Transportation Services Make It into Top Ten

The “transportation services sector” put up a stellar performance in the Golden Service Awards Survey.

Three transportation-related companies, Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation (THSRC), Eva Airways, and the Qingshui Service Area on National Highway No. 3 even rank among Taiwan's Top 10 service enterprises.

THSRC, which participated in the survey for the first time in the new category of long-distance transport, immediately seized the No. 1 slot in the overall ranking, laying claim to the title of Taiwan's best-rated service enterprise. With the exception of market penetration, it has a big lead over its rivals in every key indicator, demonstrating that the high-speed railway has successfully established a good brand image for itself.

All service areas that made it into the Top Five highway service areas are located along National Highway No. 3. Since service areas are spaced about half an hour's drive from each other, competition is intense. Operators must go the extra mile to service customers and develop particular attractions to entice travelers to spend money and visit more than just once.

“Transportation has become more convenient. If you can't win the customer's loyalty, it's just a few dozen kilometers down the road to the next place, and he won't decide to stop,” says Ho Hsiao-kuang, general manager of Nan Ren Hu Entertainment, a vacation village operator.

The Qingshui Service Area outdistanced its rivals both in terms of “market penetration” – with a vast space servicing both north- and south-bound traffic – and also “uniqueness”: Its eye-catching exterior with solar panels shaped like ship sails, a crystal-clear fish pond, French- and Japanese-style snacks, and a large selection of traditional edible souvenirs and local specialties from across Taiwan all put it ahead of the pack.

Good Service Equals Uniqueness and Differentiation

The survey also discovered the following truths about what consumers consider good service: Mid-to-high end consumers emphasize value over price and treasure uniqueness more than market penetration and popularity.

A case in point is W Hotel, which directly jumped to No. 2 in the international tourist hotel category. W Taipei opened its doors only last year, yet it has been able to bring a fresh breeze to hospitality thanks to its bold use of bright colors, stylish design, and a young, trendy ambiance. Although the hotel's market penetration rate is low, W Taipei swiftly rose to prominence in Taiwan, where a host of international tourist hotels are constantly hoisting their flags.

Another example is online shopping website books.com.tw.

In the world of online shopping, speed is everything. Therefore, last year PChome won consumers' hearts with its guarantee to deliver within 24 hours of receiving an order. But books.com.tw, which belongs to the Uni-President Group, not only caught up with PChome in terms of speed, by teaming up with group member President Transnet Corp. (Black Cat Takyubin) delivery services, but also banked on “uniqueness” to beat its rivals.

Apollo Sun, general manager of the e-commerce department at United Daily News and its shopping site UDN Shopping, notes that there is virtually no such thing as customer loyalty in the online market, where price comparison is the rule. But books.com.tw is well designed and certain products are sold exclusively there.

As Sun explains, books.com.tw is able to differentiate its services because it decodes customers' likes and dislikes based on their book purchases. Registered members are finely categorized and purchase data closely analyzed to accurately recommend products that the customer might like.

In the department stores/malls category, Eslite Shopping Centers claimed the top position, ousting Shin Kong Mitsukoshi, which boasts revenue in excess of NT$70 billion. Eslite's decisive advantage was also uniqueness.

The times of vendors loudly hawking their wares are gone. Faced with increasingly picky and fickle customers in an increasingly crowded market, Taiwan's service industry must live up to a new challenge: companies must position themselves and innovate with greater depth and refinement.

Translated from the Chinese by Susanne Ganz


About the Survey

The CommonWealth Magazine Golden Service Award Survey was conducted with close-ended questionnaires distributed via the Internet to randomly selected CommonWealth Magazine subscribers.

Actual consumers of certain services were asked to rate a total of 297 companies across 23 service categories (including 11 newly added ones) based on seven indices: market penetration, degree of satisfaction, reputation, atmosphere, service efficiency, service attitude, and uniqueness of products/services. The overall rankings were carried out following weighting of the various indices, selecting the top five players in each category, for a total of 114 honorees.

The survey was conducted between May 27 and June 8, 2012. A total of 9,568 valid responses were collected, for between 556 to 1,371 successful samples for each service category with a margin of error of between 2.7 percent and 4.2 percent at a confidence level of 95 percent.

Keywords:

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