Staff provide invaluable feedback on what the customer wants
When it comes to improving business operations, the views of staff members - particularly those in the frontline - are invaluable. They are involved in everyday operations and can identify problems and solutions that the company faces.
Hong Thai Travel Services, which has 27 outlets and a headquarters in Admiralty, believes this approach works well, and that it has made the business successful over the years.
While management realises the importance of continuous improvement, staff at all levels are encouraged to voice their opinions and offer suggestions through meetings and other channels.
Their views are usually garnered from the customers that they serve.
'We treasure customers' feedback as it is beneficial to us,' said Susanna Lau Mei-sze, general manager of Hong Thai Travel Services.
'All customer complaints will be investigated and evaluated thoroughly. If corrective or preventive action is needed, related departments will be informed to take follow-up action, and those cases will be shared with other departments to avoid repeating these mistakes.
'If a new idea is generated and it is feasible and good for our products or services, we will introduce it, because maintaining high customer satisfaction levels is vital.'
The company's motto is 'Customers always come first', and its pledge to its customers is: 'We make it for you'.
Hong Thai Travel continually strives to understand the needs of its customers and the marketplace through questionnaires, focus groups, surveys and service enhancement programmes such as the 'Best Service Awards'.
'Not only do we think of ways to delight our customers and strengthen their loyalty to us, we also handle unhappy customers and take their complaints seriously in order to prevent reoccurrences,' Ms Lau said.
In 2005, Hong Thai established the 'GUEST' service concept to further enhance its service quality. All employees have since been putting this concept into practice with customers.
'GUEST' stands for Greeting, Understanding, Efficiency, Special Treatment and Thankfulness.'Our employees greet and welcome customers sincerely, listen to them patiently, understand and do our best to fulfil their needs, provide efficient and impeccable service, create unforgettable memories with special treats, and express thanks for their patronage and support,' she said.
According to an in-house survey last year, 88 per cent of Hong Thai customers said they were either 'extremely satisfied' or 'satisfied' with the service - a high mark in the service industry.
Ms Lau said given the keen competition in the travel industry, building a brand that could be trusted and offered products that were unique and customer focused were the keys to its success.
Hong Thai prides itself as a 'one-stop travel department store', offering a range of travel products from regular guided tours and leisure packages to cruise holidays.
In 2005, it started the trend for 'Your Own Tour' (YO2), which offers a mixture of guided tours and leisure package.
YO2 customers get group airfare and hotel rates which are usually lower than those for individual travellers. They can also join a half-day or one-day guided tour for free, and then have the flexibility to enjoy the rest of the time by themselves.
Every year, Hong Thai Travel offers themed tours to attract a range of new customers and to encourage old ones to come back.
To ensure its staff provides quality service, the company organises a wide range of training including service enhancement, skill enhancement, crisis management, and familiarisation of tour and product training.
Renowned film director Cheung Kin-ting once conducted a role-playing workshop to boost their performance.
Aside from training, a fair and transparent appraisal is conducted once a year for back-office staff and twice a year for frontline employees. Frontline staff who perform well get a grading promotion, while back-office staff get a salary rise and a promotion.
Ms Lau said besides being profitable, significant results of the company's effective management could be seen from the various awards it has won.
According to an AC Nielsen survey, Hong Thai has been used by the largest number of individuals for six consecutive years from 2001 to 2006.
'Our staff turnover rate is extremely low, but we enjoy a high customer and staff satisfaction rate, and reap an abundance of external staff awards,' said Ms Lau. 'We have proved that [Hong Thai] has sustained its favourable position as a market leader in the Hong Kong outbound travel industry.'