Money Talks, So Should You

Two-thirds of customers will walk out for bad service

Imagine how much better the economy would be doing if consumers weren't increasingly fed up with bad customer service.

Brian O'Connell
by Brian O'Connell, MainStreet contributor

The National Retail Federation reports a robust 5 percent uptick in retail sales from May 2012 to May 2013 thanks to stronger consumer sentiment and a general belief the economy is getting better and jobs are safer than at any point since the Great Recession.

What could that uptick look like if consumers weren't increasingly fed up with the customer service (or lack of it) at retail outlets?

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Data from Consumer Reports say that in 2011, 64 percent  of Americans left a store due to lousy customer service, while 67 percent  "hung up" on a retailer's customer service department without getting their complaint adequately addressed.

That lack of customer attention is costing U.S. retailers, as consumers, flexing their economic muscle, tell stores and service dealers they don't like to wait and don't want to expend "high effort" to buy the goods they're looking for.

According to Avaya, a Santa Clara, Calif., business communications company, consumer attitudes are shaped by the level of effort they expend to buy a product or service. And right now, 66 percent of consumers say they "are likely to leave a company after a high-effort experience." Of that number, 37 percent are "extremely likely to do so."

What customers want, Avaya says, is that easy, efficient, low-energy shopping experience, with 87 percent of consumers surveyed by Avaya saying they place a high value on a staffer's knowledge of a given product or service (68 percent calling it "very important") and 83 percent calling "friendly and engaging sales representatives" vital to their consumer experience.

But the "pet peeve" factor in these areas is high for consumers, the survey says. Retail shops and outlets get low marks for key consumer issues such as having to constantly contact a company to resolve an issue and having to jump through hoops to get a customer services staffer to take their call.

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By and large, U.S. consumers believe they spend too much time dealing with customer service representatives who don't have adequate knowledge of their problem or a good grip on the product or service their company sells.

What should be especially chilling to retailers is that 82 percent of Americans are likely to stop spending cash on a company as a direct result of a lousy customer service experience.

"Direct experience is one of the leading contributors to a customer's impression of a brand and the likelihood that they'll be a fan or a detractor," says Mark Wilson, chief marketing officer at Avaya. "Companies need to test the service experience at every point in the customer journey to see how much effort it requires and whether it supports their brand objectives and business priorities."

With times growing flush, and competition for the U.S. consumer dollar growing, retailers better upgrade their shopping experiences — or risk losing that Great American Consumer to a competitor down the road.


Brian O’Connell has 15 years of experience covering business news and trends, particularly in the financial, health care and career management sectors. He has written 14 books and appeared on CNN, Fox News, CNBC, C-Span, Bloomberg, CBS Radio and other media outlets and in such publications as The Wall Street Journal and The He is a former Wall Street bond trader.