Mass Associates Fail Consumer Electronics Service Test
If you’re looking for knowledgeable help when buying your next television,
don’t go to a mass merchant, warehouse club or department store. If you do,
according to J.D. Power, you’re likely to be disappointed.
The research firm, which used mystery shoppers in Atlanta and Denver, found
that when it came to offering excellent customer service, specialty stores
such as Best Buy were head and shoulders above mass market merchants.
Among the stores involved in the "mass" study were BJ’s, Costco,
Kmart, Sam’s Club, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart. Specialty merchants that were
visited included BrandsMart U.S.A., Best Buy, Circuit City, Fry’s, hhgregg,
Rex and Ultimate Electronics.
The study, which assessed performance on customer assistance, product knowledge
and sales skills, found striking differences in service depending on the store
When it came to making contact with consumers in stores, the average wait
time in mass stores were five to seven minutes compared to between 90 seconds
and five minutes in specialty outlets. Best Buy and Circuit City had the slowest
response times in specialty segment but were still superior to those grouped
in the mass segment.
When it came to understanding product, J.D. Power ranked mass merchant associates’
knowledge of the consumer electronics they were selling as "barely acceptable."
In the sales skill department, mass merchant associates were less skilled
with numbers below 10 percent (Kmart and Target) and up to 40 percent (Sears)
offering to shake hands with customers seeking help. Roughly two out of three
associates in the specialty chains offered their hand to customers. Mass associates
were also less likely to ask customers’ names than their counterparts with
According to J.D. Power, the deficiencies in mass merchant customer service
is problematic at a time when these businesses are looking to move into more
upscale product lines.
Chris Denove, vice president with J.D. Power, told TWICE, mass merchant shoppers
are generally not as sophisticated about consumer electronics as specialty
store customers. "These are the customers most in need of a knowledgeable
salesperson," said Mr. Denove.
Discussion Question: How important is customer service for retailers in the
mass, club and department store channels to succeed in achieving the goal of
selling more upscale consumer electronics? If it is important, how do these
retailers get to that place?