Rude Employees, Missing Packages, Bad Service: Why Customers Ditch Stores
Retail has always been a tough game, and increasing demands on brick-and-mortar to differentiate from e-commerce has only made it harder. With more options than ever before, consumers have their pick of the litter, online and offline. Bad experience at one store? Plenty more to try instead.
But what drives away customers? Qualtrics recently conducted a study, the Retail Pain Index, of more than 1,000 adults across the U.S. to find out what kinds of things make for a bad customer experience and what makes for a good one. The three most frustrating things to retail shoppers are rude employees, missing packages and bad customer service.
Rude Employees Top the List
In brick-and-mortar stores, encountering rude employees topped the list of negative experiences, with 77 percent of respondents naming that as the most bothersome aspect of shopping. Over half of respondents also complained about prices being higher than expected, the store being disorganized, limited product selection, and lengthy checkout lines.
The lack of front-facing employees didn’t make online stores immune from rubbing customers wrong. The vast majority (83 percent) said a shipment never arriving was the worst aspect of online shopping, with about three-quarters also listing fake reviews and items not looking like the photo online as other top complaints. Having low-quality images also irritated customers, as did technical errors such as pages loading slowly and shopping carts emptied by a glitch.
Online and in-store shopping did share a common complaint with respondents: more than half expressed frustration with items being out of stock.
Beyond merely angering a customer base, these common irritants can have real consequences. A shipment never arriving from an online store would prompt 55 percent of respondents to take their business elsewhere, while nearly one-third said they would be turned away by fake reviews or items not looking like their online photo.
In-store shoppers were somewhat more forgiving, with less than 20 percent saying irritants like disorganized stock, prices being higher than expected, limited product selection and unknowledgeable employees would make them look elsewhere. Rude employees, however, were a bigger issue, with 42 percent of respondents saying that would make them find a new place to shop.
The proportion of people saying rude employees was a retail deal breaker differed among demographics. Women were more bothered by it than men (42 percent to 37 percent, respectively), and respondents on the West Coast were more apt to call it quits than those on the East Coast (50 percent to 35 percent, respectively).
The study also found reasons shoppers keep coming back. More than half of in-store shoppers cited the ability to try something on or test an item’s functionality as the thing they like most about in-store shopping. Another 42 percent said they liked getting out of the house. Other points in favor of the in-store experience is the access to employees for assistance or advice, the ability to shop with family or friends, and the element of serendipity — i.e., finding products they wouldn’t have seen otherwise or at unexpectedly low prices.
Conversely, consumers opted for online shopping for the larger product selection, not having to wait in lines, anticipating a purchase’s arrival, and being able to shop from the comfort of their home (or anywhere else).
Although the nature of shopping has evolved with the internet, the results of the study suggest not everything has changed. It’s still all about managing experiences, whether online or in-store, and employees are key to that. One big step in the right direction is to focus on training new employees, and to have regular training with seasoned employees to keep everyone on the same page and apprised of any policy, store or merchandise changes. You can also use those regular meetings as a chance to review customer feedback and discuss ways to help improve the customer experience.
Building a team of strong store associates and salespeople is an investment on par with — or even above — any other effort to improve a retail store, online or offline. Good service and a customer-focused attitude is a good foundation to attract consumers and keep them coming back.
Mike Maughan is the head of brand growth and global insights at Qualtrics, a research and experience software company.
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