Economy

Choice customer service survey skewers department stores, major retailers

Patrick Stafford /

Some of the biggest department stores in the country have been given the “thumbs down” for customer service, according to a new survey conducted by consumer group Choice, which used mystery shoppers to gauge the companies’ respective service offerings.

The results aren’t good.

Despite the bastions of bricks and mortar defending their territory with claims of better customer service than you can find online, Choice has found leading retailers including Harvey Norman, David Jones and Myer suffer in the customer service department.

Among the best performers were Bunnings and Big W, with Choice reporting staff were easy to find, helpful and returns were “quick and painless”.

But some of the reviews are damning.

Dick Smith is criticised for “examples of poor customer management”, while Target is skewered for “poor product knowledge”.

David Jones was criticised for several examples of “poor customer service” and product knowledge, while Kmart was taken to task for a shortage of staff on the shop floor.

Harvey Norman was also noted for poor customer engagement and inconsistent product knowledge. Some of these companies were also flagged for not accepting “change of mind” returns.

In particular, Myer was criticised for its staff’s lack of product knowledge and lack of customer service attention.

“Three of our shoppers had no problems returning their items; however when [the mystery shopper] attempted to return her item she stood at the cash register with another customer for several minutes while the sales assistant continued to do paperwork without acknowledging their presence.”

Speciality retailers fared better – JB Hi-Fi and Bunnings were given high marks for quick assistance.

Given bricks and mortar retailers have been emphasising their customer service as an advantage over online alternatives, the report is a reminder businesses need to invest more in staff training and customer attention in order to convert sales.

Consumer psychologist Paul Harrison said in a statement the customer service provided by these companies needs some extra attention – and that goes for smaller retailers as well.

“If you like the person and respond to the social experience you’ll be more likely to spend. Customers like being sold to but it’s got to be in the right way, and you need a skilled salesperson to do that.

“Unfortunately, these days they are the rarest creature around.”

The full customer service scorecard:

ChoiceGraph

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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