Is bad customer experience stalling high-street revival?

Slow service, rude staff and unavailable items blamed as Britons have such a bad customer experience they vow never to return.

Amid Brexit-price hikes and a disappointing Black Friday, the beleaguered high-street suffered more bad news today in the form of a damning report on the state of customer experience.

The in-depth research of 2,827 UK adults was commissioned by Market Force Information finds that in the last year alone, seven in ten UK shoppers have had such a bad experience at a particular store they vowed not to return.

The most common gripes included slow service (encountered by 68 per cent of shoppers), unhelpful staff (65 per cent), unavailable items (52 per cent), and unknowledgeable staff (50 per cent). Shoppers were also irked by rude staff (38 per cent), confusing shop layouts (32 per cent) and overly attentive staff (27 per cent).

The report also shows the extent to which online is gaining ground on the high-street. Nearly a third (29 per cent) of shoppers now shop online a few times a week, while an additional quarter shop online once a week. Overall, 84 per cent of us are now more likely to shop online now compared to five years ago.

Cheryl Flink chief strategy officer of Market Force Information says, ‘There’s simply no excuse for alienating customers from the high street with bad customer service. Customers will turn to the convenience and ease of online shopping or simply walk into a different store that provides the service they value.’

The research also sheds light on how retailers can tempt shoppers away from online and back to the high-street. While financial factors such as price and discounts are most important, shoppers also listed better parking (30 per cent), availability of items (27 per cent) and exceptional customer service (24 per cent) as key.

Tellingly, a full two-thirds (64 per cent) of UK shoppers say they would be more likely to return to a high-street retailer after receiving excellent customer service.

Flink is keen to urge retailers to review their customer experience strategy and ensure it is linked to the bottom line.

‘Customer experience alone can’t save the high-street, but it most definitely should be front of mind for retailers who want to differentiate themselves from the competition. Customer experience builds customer loyalty, generates referrals, and drives revenues but only when employed strategically.’

She continues: ‘With Christmas just around the corner, now is the time to create exceptional customer experiences. Those which are at the top of their game stand to benefit the most.’

Further reading on customer service

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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