Study: Customers Are Not Happy

Discussion
Jun 13, 2012

Consumers of the world unite! The results are in and many are not happy with the service they’ve been getting from retailers.

According to a report built on surveys completed by 70 million people in 140 countries, the level of satisfaction consumers have with retailers fell four points from the fourth quarter of 2011 (82 percent) to the first quarter of 2012 (78 percent).

On the one hand, it would seem that retailers stepped up during the critical fourth quarter, the busiest time of the year for many merchants around the globe. On the other, a step back when things have quieted down should be reason for concern.

Zendesk, which carried out the research, said retail performs five percentage points below the average for customer satisfaction among all the industries it charts.

"When we looked at the reasons why these numbers indicate what they do, we noticed that customer service inquiries actually were 16 percent higher in the most recent quarter and the number of solutions resolved in one touch went down 12 percent," said JD Peterson, vice president of product marketing at Zendesk. "We have seen that when inquiries go up and the ability to resolve them the first time goes down, it can have a negative impact on customer satisfaction."

Discussion Questions: How would you explain the dip in customer satisfaction from the fourth quarter to the first as captured in the research discussed in the article? Do you think it is somewhat expected within retail that customer satisfaction levels will fall off somewhat following the holiday shopping season?

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12 Comments on "Study: Customers Are Not Happy"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

It appears this is a survey of people using call center help desks. I would suggest this may be as much an expression of the frustration found when calling such places rather than a broad view of brick and mortar retailers. That said, I would suggest satisfaction with people’s own lives may have dipped as well due to a host of outside forces ramping up their own expectations to get their way.

Dick Seesel
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

It’s no surprise that payroll reductions from Q4 to Q1 will result in lean staffing levels. The challenge for retailers is to apply as much science as possible to the art of scheduling. Fewer sales associates should not translate into this level of customer dissatisfaction.

It’s also possible that other forces are at work, including the general decline in consumer optimism that seems to be at play during the first half of 2012. Rising gas prices have a lot to do with consumers’ sense of well-being, so perhaps the numbers will start to tick upward for the BTS season.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

There’s a big difference between, “expected,” and, “accepted.” As a general rule, customer service is the one area most retailers can never afford to let slide.

That said, the truth is that, in many cases, shopping is a less than transformative experience. Consumers are, quite frankly, spending more and enjoying it less.

The tougher people’s lives are — and they get tougher for lots of folks when they wake up and realize they spent too much money on the holidays — the less satisfied they are going to be with retailing in general.

What this means is that customer service needs to be a real priority in the post-holiday period.

Lee Peterson
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

That’s actually pretty normal. What happens is you have built-up staff levels and usually a pretty excited crew just before the Holidays — which to a customer, adds up to the perception of better service.

Conversely, in the winter, staff levels are low and you know, it’s a pretty mundane time of year so the crew is usually less enthusiastic — leading to lower levels of perception. Very common, and unless you’re really on your game with the right people and/or the right kinds of promotions, bound to happen.

That’s a classic ‘blink’ (Malcolm Gladwell) take, but accurate on a macro level, from my experience.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
9 years 11 months ago

One can only guess why there was a dip in customer satisfaction from one quarter to the next. The 4th quarter has some happy holidays. That bouys up customer spirits. In addition many disappoimting things occurred in recent global and personal events that impacted upon customers’ lives that probably carried over to “satisfaction.”

When you ask customers who are disappointed by “other things” whether they are satisfied they can cease to be so. Since I love such mysteries I look forward to reading more insightful reasons re: the why.

Warren Thayer
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

If you go to their website, you see that they break out results of this help-desk survey by industry. Retail is a bit lower than the average. I’d be curious to see year-ago numbers, to determine if this is cyclical (tied to the holidays) or not. This is also a worldwide survey. I’d wonder a bit about sampling variations/size of the different elements. Intuitively, it would seem that customer satisfaction might drop off after the holidays, for reasons others have already cited.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Lots of purchases take place during the holiday period, but not all the products are opened or used until the very end of that period. The questions about the product are likely to come in the first quarter. Lower staff combined with frustrated consumers make create a particular challenge for service providers in the first quarter.

Kathy Doering
Guest
Kathy Doering
9 years 11 months ago

The part that I find interesting is that the study was built on surveys completed by 70 million people in 140 countries. Wow! That’s a lot of data to mine. Were all the surveys identical? That would be my first question.

I agree with The Retail Doctor on this one. It would appear that the study focuses on call center interactions rather than in-store experiences. If that is indeed true, then that distinction needs to be stated.

As far as scheduling goes, I would believe that the decrease in sales during the first quarter would adequately offset the lower staffing levels. Other than Valentine’s Day, there is really nothing too exciting happening during that period of the year.

W. Frank Dell II, CMC
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

I wonder how much of this decline is simply unhappy consumers. The Great Recession is having a depression effect on consumers. In the developed world, many have cut back on spending and are paying down debt. The latest USA report of households losing 40% of their net worth is not making anyone happy. This should be looked at over time like a trend line.

Kai Clarke
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Yes. There is so much “gift giving,” which is in itself an unknown, that customer satisfaction is bound to decrease. Add to this the tremendous number of people in the store both before and after the holidays (returning bad gifts), along with the pressures of the holidays, and things are bound reflect a dissatisfied consumer.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

I am not surprised. Are you? Most of these calls are generated through a call center. Have you ever called a call center located off shore and been satisfied? Have you ever asked to be transferred to the U. S. and been told you can’t? I am surprised that the numbers are as low as they are. I would be interested to see the second quarter numbers.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Whether or not this survey methodology has some inherent flaws, with economies slowing down from China to Europe to back here in the US, payrolls need to get cut, and guess where the first place to cut payrolls is?!

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