The five customer service sins of our major retailers

Start-ups should take note of the customer service “sins” committed by major retailers such as Harvey Norman, which received the poorest feedback in a ‘shadow shop’ conducted by Choice.


The consumer advocate group recently sent four shoppers to 10 of Australia’s biggest retailers at a variety of locations in Sydney at different times of the day over a two-week period.


The stores they visited were Big W, Bunnings, David Jones, Dick Smith, The Good Guys, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, Kmart, Myer and Target.


Upon entering the store, each shopper noted whether they were greeted by staff or offered any help. They then asked for a specific item costing about $100.


If the shadow shopper wasn’t approached or offered help, they tried to find a staff member and ask for help.


They then rated that staff member on helpfulness and product knowledge, as well as noting any other efforts to close the sale, such as offering a price reduction or added extras.


According to Choice, Harvey Norman received the poorest feedback, while Bunnings was the most impressive.


Based on the results, here are five customer service sins start-ups must avoid:


1. Don’t be cold


Unlike online shopping, which is often about getting the best price, bricks-and-mortar shopping has an emotional and social element, which is closely linked to the level of customer service.


“Retailers who are best placed to compete with online shopping are those who recognise the importance of the enjoyable, human aspect of the shopping experience,” Choice spokeswoman Ingrid Just says.


“They can provide that with friendly, welcoming staff who are easy to find and knowledgeable.”


2. Don’t discount staff training


“Face-to-face interaction is the one thing that online retailers can’t replicate,” Just says.


“But to engage with shoppers successfully, stores need to have well-trained, passionate, customer-focused staff.”


“While there were plenty of staff available at the Harvey Norman stores, none acknowledged our shoppers when they entered the store.”


“When staff did eventually engage, their product knowledge was sketchy.”


3. Don’t be inconsistent


“Staff at David Jones, The Good Guys and JB Hi-Fi tended to be either excellent or very poor in their level of customer service,” Just says.


“That lack of consistency can be a problem for a retailing brand, as shoppers expect the same level of service every time they shop with that retailer, regardless of the location.”


4. Don’t break your promise


“Bunnings impressed the most when it came to matching their marketing promises with the shoppers’ actual experience,” Just says.


“The store also has a returns process that our shadow shoppers found quick and painless.”


“While Myer and David Jones have good returns policies, both failed to deliver on the premium shopping experience that they promote.”


5. Don’t be pushy


According to Choice, pushy staff can be a major turnoff for customers. One of the reasons Harvey Norman received poor feedback was because of pushy sales tactics.


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