Retailers “Extremely Concerned” About In-Store Experience

Apr 12, 2007 12:55 AM  By

Customers have never been more satisfied with the goods and services they buy, according to a study by Retail Systems Alert Group. Nonetheless, the retailers recently surveyed were “extremely concerned” about consumer complaints regarding the in-store experience.

The more than 60 retailers who participated in the survey cited three key areas — customer complaints, returns, and customer data security – as their biggest in-store business challenges. Paula Rosenblum, Retail Systems’ vice president of research, says that the respondents’ concern about customer complaints may result from the rise of social networking.

“It’s fascinating that customer complaints are so high on retailers’ priority lists,” Rosenblum says. “All of that is a function of the multichannel, online experience.”

While successful retailers, in theory, sell the best products, Rosenblum says much more than that contributes to a winning team. “Winning in retail isn’t an accident or a merchant with a hot hand,” she says. “It’s really about creating a comfortable environment for your customers and your employees.”

The “winning” retailers—those with above-average year-over-year same-store sales increases–don’t simply “throw payroll at the problem,” she continues. “For the winning retailers, the surprising thing is payroll-to-sales ratios have remained constant or gone down. That means they empower the people they have, and payroll is kept as a constant or declining as a percentage of sales… Everybody has been working at technology, but winners do a better job of valuing customer service and understanding the value of their employees. Each and every employees adds value to the mix.”

While retailers still acknowledge the importance of a solid product mix, they say that “empowering and educating” their employees by using technology is their most important opportunity to improve the customer experience. What’s more, the study shows that adding customer self-service technologies ahead of product mix is a key factor in improving customer satisfaction and success.

The study is available for complimentary downloading at www.rsagresearch.com.