Customer service shadow shop

Our customer service shadow shop produces mixed results for major retailers.
 
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06.What does good service mean?

Retailers employ someone and might say they’re all about good service, but they aren’t training their staff – they don’t know how to do it.
- Steven Di Pietro, Service Integrity

Dr Paul Harrison, consumer psychologist and chair of consumer behaviour and advertising at Deakin University, says bricks-and-mortar shopping is an “emotional and cultural experience” that largely hinges on a high level of customer service. He believes that while the total in-store experience – including layout, ease of use, atmosphere, smells and colours – is important, it’s the positive experience customers have with staff that resonates.

“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.”

Steven Di Pietro, executive director and owner of Service Integrity, a mystery shopping company that gauges customer service for a variety of Australian retailers, agrees that customer service can give bricks-and-mortar stores a significant edge but believes sales assistants rarely have the right skills or suffer from a lack of training. 

“Retailers employ someone and might say they’re all about good service, but they aren’t training their staff – they don’t know how to do it.”

 

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Death of the department store?

Australia’s big two department stores frequently receive harsh criticism when it comes to customer service. Steven Di Pietro believes the criticism is valid. “David Jones markets itself as a high-level experience, but in reality the service may not be great,” he says. He believes smaller specialty stores will perform best of the bricks-and-mortar shops in the future.

Paul Harrison disagrees, saying there is a future for smart department stores that incorporate a mix of online and in-store experiences. “People like these brands and want to continue to use them. As humans we don’t like change and it can take a lot to change our habits.”


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