I went shopping this weekend, visiting all types of stores, both brick and mortar and online.  My in-store customer experience was all over the place — from a home improvement retailer who made me wait in a line of six people, even though I could see associates not helping anyone, to a national beauty supply chain where not only did I have to chase down someone to help me, but was also told, “we’re not carrying that anymore,” to a shoe purchase experience where the service was adequate and perfunctory at best.  I also had to visit my local grocery store and chain wholesale store and place an online order for some books and the missing beauty supply items.  Like I said, I went shopping.

Given my professional role at Market Force, I admit that I am more aware of the experiences (or lack thereof) consumers have as they navigate the shopping world. Having worked with many top brands over the years, we’ve delved into exactly what consumers value most through our customer surveys. These consumer preferences inform our mystery shopping services, and I know exactly what our mystery shoppers look for in evaluating a store visit. But even though I may be more tuned into what retailers do right and what they do wrong, without a doubt, any shopper knows a great experience from a mediocre or bad one.

Take my experiences: It is frustrating beyond belief to have a fully packed day and be forced to wait in a line while associates mingle about.  Perhaps the primary role for these associates at the home improvement retailer is not doing customer returns, but given the long line I was in, associates should have some amount of flexibility and empowerment to assist when lines get long. Associates not being available hit me again at the beauty retailer, where I had to chase down some help. In the case of the item no longer carried, why not suggest other providers or at least express some regret that it’s not available now. I was more resourceful, however, as I used my phone and from a very larger on-line retailer had the missing product ordered at a lower price before I was out the door of the store. Where do you think I will buy all the supplies I used to get from this retailer in the future? The shoe shopping experience was with a high end retailer. The associate did what he could but was serving all over the large shoe floor and no backup help was apparent.  Sad to say, but this was the best of my experiences so far.

I finished up my day at the large wholesaler which was crowded (as expected on Saturday) but every checkout line was staffed and it went relatively quickly with a cashier that smiled and made me feel welcomed. She made just enough small talk to make me think I wasn’t just the 155th customer she had served that afternoon, but not enough to delay my checkout process. Our last stop was the traditional grocery store. I had an efficient experience and there were plenty of cashiers available so the wait time was minimal, but there was no interaction with any of the store associates who were focused on getting their tasks completed.

So, most of a Saturday spent in the retail world….. Plenty of money spent without plenty of great customer service. The threat to the traditional retail store, whether standalone, in a mall or strip mall is well documented. Consumers are no longer necessarily motivated to spend most of a day (in my case a Saturday) to be underwhelmed and underserved. 

Retailers, take notice!

If you’re wondering if my experiences are what your other customers have every day, wouldn’t you like to know?  Market Force Information has an entire suite of customer experience measurement solutions that can help you assess how well you are executing and delivering on the brand promise. Implementing measures such as mystery shopping, customer satisfaction surveys, contact centre services and monitoring social media can be a highly effective approach to achieve three critical outcomes in the retail space. These services are designed to help you:

  • Protect your brand
  • Delight your customers
  • Improve financial performance

To learn how Market Force has helped retailers, download these case studies from various industries, including grocery, sports apparel, and home furnishings.

Gail Funderburk is Vice President of Client Strategies at Market Force and works with national chains as well as regional providers, focusing on how to improve same store sales and capture market share. She has a Master of Science degree in Technology Management and uses that background to design and implement great location-level programs for clients.