2nd Annual Retail Customer Dissatisfaction Study

I was pleased to see that Wharton’s Jay H. Baker Retail Initiative along with Canadian consulting firm, the Verde Group, had conducted the second of what is now an annual study of retail customer dissatisfaction.  If you are a regular reader, you know I have written about this before.  The big takeaway from this year’s study is that the most impactful area of dissatisfaction comes from interactions with the sales associate.

The study found that disinterested, ill-prepared and unwelcoming salespeople lead to more lost business and bad word-of-mouth than any other management challenge in retailing.

Of the 1000 shoppers surveyed about their most recent shopping experience, 58% indicated that they had either been unable to find an associate to help them or were outright ignored by the sales associate.   The survey identified a number of other sources of dissatisfaction including inadequate parking and out of stock product, but shoppers were much more likely to forgive these problems than they would bad sales help. 

As identified in last year’s Consumer Dissatisfaction Study , customers are much more likely to share a bad experience than a good one.  Half of all shoppers have chosen not to visit a particular store because of someone else’s bad experiences.  According to Wharton marketing professor Stephen J. Hoch, director of the Baker Initiative:

“The importance of consumer dissatisfaction, rather than satisfaction, is the fact that a negative experience leads people to want to go and talk it.  They are less apt to talk about it when things go well.”

The study also revealed differences in attitudes based on age with the coveted 18-29-year-old demographic reporting the highest number of bad experiences.  The key reasons:  Lack of authenticity, lack of knowledge and inability to find things due to a disorganized store. 

The study also gathered information regarding the types of characteristics that would be found in an ideal sales associate.  The top two were “engager” (willing to stop whatever they are doing to help) and “educator” (someone who can explain products, make recommendations, etc).

Both last year’s and this year’s studies should be required reading for anyone in retail today.  After you read what shoppers are saying, give some serious thought to how your sales associates are interacting with your customers. 

<via  http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=1735>

2 comments so far

  1. Loretta Knoblauch on

    I hope I get someone who cares & knows something this time. I’m very upset with the dinner we planned for family at the Garden Grill at Epcot on Dec. 23,2008. I wrote you about the Garden Grill back in June, 2008, when we had reservations for our 54th anniversary & we got there & the resturant wasn’t revolving so we didn’t stay. That’s the reason for going there. When I called for reservations for the Candle Light Service & dinner at the Garden Grill, I specificley ask if the resturant was revolving & I was assured it was, well it wasn’t & I’m very disappointed in your help. If I get some stupid form letter like the last time, you can bet I’ll not be using your services again.

  2. […] site issues is a key feature of maintaining customer satisfaction and repeat business; according to The Retail Customer Dissatisfaction Study, dissatisfied customers notify a merchant of an issue only 6% of the time, yet those customers […]


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