Stores' customer service a case of woe-woe-woe

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Men shop online to avoid poor service in stores.
Men shop online to avoid poor service in stores.

Personal, one-on-one interaction is the hallmark of customer relationships, say most experts on the subject. Just not at Christmas, and especially not with mature male shoppers.

A new survey from the customer analytics company ClickFox indicates that bricks-and-mortar associates and checkout personnel provide little cheer for shoppers during the holiday season. More than 60 percent of consumers told ClickFox they intend to do the bulk of their shopping online this year, and the reason given by more than three-quarters of them was that e-coms delivered better service.

ClickFox's Holiday Customer Service Audit probed 213 consumers in October about their past customer survey experiences during the holiday season. They skewed male and mature—62% of them men and 63% aged 35 or older.

More than half of respondents rated telephone customer service reps as the providing the worst experience, followed by sales floor associates at 40%. In attempting to resolve a negative customer service experience, 52% of respondents said they attempted to speak with a manager in person before resorting to the phone.

“Retailers have a special challenge during the holidays, when good customer service often comes down to helping shoppers find items and stores are staffed with a lot of temporary help. They risk losing business to online competitors,” says ClickFox VP Jeff Gossman.

He suggests that better use of technology could improve stores' performance during what is, in effect, a customer service emergency period. “Stores need to enable people on the floor with instant access to information that will ease the shopping experience for customers. It's crucial during the holidays, when people's lists are long and their time is limited, to be able to quickly lead them to the right aisle or to the location across town that has the item they need,” Gossman says.

ClickFox notes that its historical analysis of more than 12 billion customer records a year shows that retailers face increased customer service costs and decreased customer loyalty when they fail to address problems at the first point of service.

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