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Teh, AKB 2006, 'Emotional intelligence (EQ), customer service and sustainable competitive advantage: a case study to assess the importance of emotional intelligence in enhancing customer service in a Malaysian property development company, bringing about a sustainable competitive advantage', DBA thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright AKB Teh 2006


The Malaysian property development industry contends with economic challenges arising from increased competition and property glut in the market. The situation is further worsen by the onslaught of world disasters for example tsunamis, earthquakes, bird flu pandemic and terrorist attacks, thus weakening the spending power of property buyers and investors.

This exploratory research therefore investigated the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in enhancing customer service for sustainable competitive advantage. Guided by an analytical framework, it reviewed the key issues in the context of customer service within the Malaysian property development industry, the existing challenges faced by Malaysian property development companies, emotional intelligence (EQ) and training and development.

The identified research gaps permitted the crafting of three Research Propositions. The combined outputs from the literature review, analysis of the research data and conclusions provided useful insights on the research problem. The case study methodology, supplemented by two other categories of exploratory research, namely experience surveys and one-on-one interviews, were the research techniques used to test the research propositions.

The participants involved in the experience survey and one-on-one interviews included Heads of Department from the case-study company, Frontline employees, existing clients and vendors supplying goods and services to the case-study company. The procedure of data analysis consisted of examining, categorising, tabulating and recombining the evidence to address the research problem and the related research questions.

The testing, by this research, yielded useful insights on the research problem.

First, in order for Malaysian property developers to gain a sustainable competitive advantage, there is a need for fresh emphasis and commitment towards customer service, placing special focus on the development of employees in the area of emotional intelligence (EQ) through the reinforcement of emotional competencies. Despite efforts to enhance customer service through training programmes, the lack of effectiveness needs to be addressed and new measures should be undertaken.

Second, the need for Malaysian property development companies to understand the importance of building a service culture and to begin by formulating and implementing a service strategy and it is here that leadership plays a critical role in ensuring the success of every customer service programme throughout the entire organisation. This suggests that new approaches to creating a service culture are necessary, benchmarking with best practices of service leaders around the world, even from different industries.

Third, the need for the customer service training model to be reviewed and revamped. It calls for new emphasis on the development of emotional intelligence (EQ) competencies, to ensure training effectiveness and the achievement of customer service excellence through human capital.

Finally, the research findings permitted the construct of a policy framework for securing sustainable competitive advantage. The research yielded useful insights for theory and model building. In respect of enhancing customer service to achieve sustainable competitive advantage in the Malaysian property development market, the research findings suggested a Service Culture Development Model that will ensure that customer service excellence can be maintained and delivered consistently, leading to a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace. In respect of enhancing customer service through the development of EQ competencies in every employee and throughout the organisation, the research findings suggested a new Customer Service Training Model, where EQ competencies development programme becomes the pre-requisite foundational programme for all employees, prior to the training of customer service skill-sets. In order to create a service culture throughout the entire organisation, a customer service-oriented organisation will ensure that all employees, including top management personnel, participate in the EQ development programme.

Follow-up research to test a model, based on this framework should further contribute to new theory development in emotional intelligence impacting customer service in the Malaysian property development industry.