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Which retailers are failing at customer service?

A new CHOICE survey has uncovered which of the country’s largest retailers are delivering the best and worst customer service, and the results don’t bode well for Harvey Norman.

In a ‘shadow shop’ customer service investigation, CHOICE deployed four shoppers to 10 of the country’s largest retailers: Big W, Bunnings, David Jones, Dick Smith, The Good Guys, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, Kmart, Myer and Target.

Of the 10 retailers visited, Bunnings scored the highest, with the shoppers failing to note any negatives about their experience. They said Bunnings’ staff were easy to find, friendly, helpful and had good product knowledge. They also rated the returns process as quick and painless.

The story was similar at Big W, with no negatives noted. Customers said staff in the retailer were helpful and the returns process was simple, fast and no-fuss.

Customers rated the shopping experience Dick Smith, JB Hi-Fi, Target, David Jones, Myer, Kmart and The Good Guys with a combination of positives and negatives.

The shopping experience in Harvey Norman failed to impress, with customers noting no positives. They cited poor customer engagement, inconsistent product knowledge, some evidence of pushy sales tactics. Customers were also disappointed by the fact it doesn’t accept ‘change of mind’ returns, despite the fact these are legal under the Australian Consumer Law.

When conducting the investigation, the shadow shoppers noted whether they were greeted by staff or offered any help in each store. They then asked for a specific item costing about $100, depending on the store.

If the shopper wasn’t offered help they tried to find a staff member. 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 Deakin University consumer psychologist and chair of consumer behaviour and advertising, bricks and mortar shopping is an enmotional and cultural experience, that hinges on a high level of service.

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.

“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.”

CHOICE noted that due to the different business models of the retailers in the shadow shop as well as the subjective element involved in any shopping experience, the results were not presented as a strict ranking of ‘best to worst’.


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Lorna Brett

Lorna Brett

Lorna was Dynamic Business’ Social Web Editor in 2011/12. She’s a social media obsessed journalist, who has a passion for small business. Outside the 9 to 5, you’re likely to find her trawling the web for online bargains, perfecting her amateur photography skills or enjoying one too many cappucinos. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/dynamicbusiness">Twitter @DynamicBusiness</a>

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