Consumers Grade Retailers on Customer Service

Discussion
Nov 15, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

A new study conducted by BIGresearch for the National Retail Federation and American Express, found that 85 percent of consumers shop more often and spend more at retailers that
offer higher levels of customer service. Eighty-two percent said they are likely to recommend retailers with superior customer service to friends and family.

Nordstrom ranked first for delivering service to shoppers in the poll of more than 8,600 consumers. Also making consumers’ top 10 list were Coldwater Creek, Marshall Field’s,
Kohl’s, Boscov’s, Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), JCPenney, Lane Bryant, Best Buy and Eddie Bauer.

The study also ranked retailers by channel. Those ranking highest in online and direct sales were L.L. Bean, Blair, Amazon.com, Overstock.com, and NewEgg.com.

Wal-Mart graded highest in the discount segment followed by Target, Kmart, Meijer and Costco.

Wegmans ranked number one in grocery with Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Publix and Vons following.

Moderator’s Comment: Are there commonalties across retail segments that appear in retailers known for customer service? Pick companies from the NRF’s
survey list and explain what it is about them that connects with consumers?

George Anderson – Moderator

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9 Comments on "Consumers Grade Retailers on Customer Service"


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Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
15 years 3 months ago

I believe that there is most definitely a common thread among the companies listed. That commonality is their commitment to customer service. They don’t give lip service; they actually believe, preach, train and reinforce the need for a high level of customer service.

They also listen to their customers. They know that customer service is whatever the customer perceives it to be.

Having worked with several of these retailers, I know that they have well thought out training and implementation programs. Then they measure the results and use them to reward, reinforce and upgrade their employees and programs. They know that if it doesn’t get measured, it doesn’t get done.

Alfred P. Sloan Jr, Chairman of General Motors from 1937 to 1956 said it best when he said: “The quickest way to profits — and the permanent assurance of such profits — is to serve the customer in ways that the customer wants to be served.”

In short, these companies get it!

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 3 months ago

Until we see major retailers agree that they must do what the leaders in consumer advocacy do daily, and with a commitment from top/down, consumers will challenge the horrible service level.

Marriot, Nordstrom, Avis, Nugget and Publix supermarkets; Target, Starbuck all bring the value of shopper engagement; and the continuous understanding and monitoring of where each consumer segment is heading!!!! Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

The survey simply points out the obvious. Expectations differ and the definition of what consumers consider customer service differs dramatically dependent on the type of retailer and segment.

It is the only possible way that you can equate Wal-Mart and Nordstrom in the same sentence as customer service. That is proof that the expectations and definitions differ.

Of late, there is no question that LL Bean has topped my list in totally surpassing my expectations at all levels. I use all three portals of catalogue, phone, and internet in dealing with them and they have yet to not totally exceed my expectations. It is particularly true also when there has been something wrong. In those instances, however rare, they have surpassed any retailer that I have ever dealt with both in resolution and process of resolution. They are simply great. They also don’t quite fit the broad spectrum of definition separation between Wal-Mart and Nordstrom, thus proving that it isn’t solely about price.

Karen Ribler
Guest
Karen Ribler
15 years 3 months ago

Product knowledge and knowledge regarding product location ranks high among the stores on the list. The store environments are friendly and the sales associates are cheerful, as well as relaxed.

When I am in Trader Joe’s, Wegmans, Publix or an L.L. Bean store, I know that I will receive courtesy from the store associates. In these stores, I will ask more questions and, for the most part, my questions will be answered, which results in me purchasing items I might not have tried. The shopping experience becomes less of a chore to check off my to-do list and more of a fun experience.

Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
15 years 3 months ago
Our own study of 6500 consumers nationwide showed that the only important elements of the retail shopping experience are (in order): quality of goods and services, scope of items and services available, price, customer service, and convenience. These consumers told us approximately 40 elements that comprise customer service and convenience, among them: knowledgeable and friendly clerks available to help find items, easy-to-navigate floor plans, unconditional returns and refunds, and no-wait ring-up and check-out. These 40 elements were also ranked in order of importance. It is quite easy to determine what elements will make any particular business’s shopping experience extremely high quality. It is much easier than commonly thought to also implement these elements, including having high-service staff. It is also possible to have a system (which includes processes and culture) that strengthen and maintain all the elements of high-service. I’m not saying that the knowledge of how to do this is common in even the highest levels of the business world. Our research shows the exact opposite. My point is only that wonderful customer service… Read more »
Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

This is not a scientifically derived list, but a few commonalities we see are:

-Decent quality merchandise that performs well to start with

-Immediate availability of knowledgeable associates

-Customer Service Rep’s with authority to fix problems

-Liberal return policies (ala L.L.Bean) and an unconditional product guarantee

All of these elements combine to give the customer what they truly want, which is a risk-free purchase experience.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

Other than Marshall Field’s, it appears that the companies with good customer service scores have better than average financials. Which came first: the good customer service or the good financials? I suspect the former. Of course, when financials start to slide, many retailers go into their doom loop: bad financials lead to staff devaluation lead to worse financials lead to even more staff devaluation, etc. Marshall Field’s proves that you need more than great customer service to thrive, however.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

From L.L.Bean I’ve come to expect a level of quality that satisfies me. I know that if I have a problem I can return an item and it’ll get done right, the first time, with no hassles. I also know that if I pick up a phone, I can call them, get a person quickly, and that the person I speak with will be able to answer my questions. In this day and age, I find all of this so rare as to be almost truly amazing.

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 3 months ago

It’s almost as simple as paying attention to customers and knowing the store’s merchandise. My expectations are so low that the simplest act of courtesy, interest or information elevates the shopping experience. If a clerk is able to accurately tell me whether something is in stock, and where, I’m pretty good.

I have found these qualities in each of the stores listed. I’ll admit I had a fairly hilarious experience in REI once where the clerk was failing to understand that women and men might have different needs in equipment, but he tried, and, were I a man, his recommendation was probably a good one. So I left feeling as though REI needed some training, but knew the merchandise and WANTED to do a good job.

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