Australian Consumers’ Retail Store Expectations Intensify Amid COVID-19
Survey reveals customer service is now even more important to Australians and the in-store retail experience must be positive to secure sales and brand loyalty
Sydney, 8 October 2020: Australian retailers are on notice after new research highlighted 63 percent of shoppers would leave a store and find a product elsewhere, or never shop at the store again if their expectations weren’t met.
The research from Humanforce, a Sydney based global provider of workforce management solutions, shows customer service expectations have escalated during COVID-19, with 73% of Australian consumers saying a positive customer service experience when shopping in-store is even more important to them now than it was prior to the pandemic. Additionally, the vast majority (79%) of consumers said they now would not or might not remain loyal to a retailer if they received poor customer service.
“Retailers are continuing to face extremely difficult conditions, with Australia being dragged into recession by COVID-19,” said Clayton Pyne, CEO of Humanforce. “However, our survey has found that despite the negative flow on effects of the economic downturn on retail, there is no room for retailers to drop the ball on consumer expectations, and instead they must work harder than ever before to step up their customer service game.
“Australian consumers’ expectations since the pandemic began are sky high and their loyalty will be harder to attract than ever before. This means one bad experience or poor customer service interaction could see a shopper abandoning their purchase, or even the entire brand forever, and being sent straight to a competitor.”
Shoppers’ expectations around the customer service roles sales associates should be able to fulfil are wide-ranging. Their highest expectation (89%) was that staff were friendly and helpful, followed by knowledgeable about in-store or online sales and promotions (69%), knowledgeable about all products (64%), able to process purchases, returns and click n collect transactions quickly (62%), and know when out of stock products or new products are due in store (59%).
Essentially, they want the same fast and efficient convenience that they experience with online shopping – which has experienced major growth during the pandemic. The in-store experience must surpass the online experience with seamless, interwoven touches such as expert product knowledge and often acknowledgment of their digital behaviour. This poses a new challenge for retailers who must lift their in-store experience to new levels and their front-line teams must be empowered to deliver.
Yet, 88% of Australian consumers said that they find they know more about a brand and its products than the sales associate when shopping in-store, and 30% said they found customer service levels bad or mediocre.
“The economy is struggling and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported in August an unemployment rate of 6.8% – or 921,800 people unemployed – as well as an underemployment rate of 11.2%. This may lead some employers to take the view that investing in and retaining retail staff is not currently a high priority, as in the current economic and jobs climate workers can be easily replaced if necessary,” added Clayton. “The reality, though, is that churning through and not investing in retail workers will lead to sales associates that underperform and undermine customer service levels, sales and brand loyalty, during a time when retailers can least afford it. Conversely, investing in retail sales associates over the long-term and ensuring they are engaged, well trained, knowledgeable, loyal and motivated, will help retailers to deliver the best possible customer experience to shoppers, helping to grow brand loyalty and sales.”