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Press Release

ICSC Survey Finds In-Person Customer Service Key to Retail Success

February 14, 2019

65% of consumers consider quality of service when deciding where shop

NEW YORK (Feb. 14, 2019): Customer service is a key factor for US adults when choosing where to shop and how much they will buy, finds a 2019 consumer survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). Nearly two thirds (65 percent) of consumers said that the quality of customer service is a factor when deciding where to make their purchases, and more than two thirds (67 percent) said that good customer service encourages them to stay longer and/or spend more money. 

For all major product categories, positive, in-person customer experience increases the likelihood of a purchase. More than half (57 percent) of people said that they would pay more for an item or service if they know they will receive good customer service. Overall, the majority (73 percent) of respondents said that receiving good customer service from a retailer increases the likelihood that they will spend more money than they had planned.

“Nearly 60 percent of consumers said that they’re more satisfied with customer service in-store than online, which speaks to the value of the in-person experience,” said Tom McGee, president and CEO of ICSC. “Even in the age of online, the human element remains a vital component of success for shopping centers and retailers as they invest and re-invest in their physical presences.” 

Overall, the expectations for good customer service have increased in the past three years. Nearly 50 percent of consumers said expectations are considerably higher than three years ago. More men than women said that their expectations are higher, and more Millennials feel this way than older demographics. 

The most important aspects of customer service in-stores: 

  • Friendly and/or knowledgeable employees (62 percent)
  • Ability to easily find items (59 percent)
  • Speed and ease of checkout (59 percent)

The most important aspects of customer service online:  

  • Speed of delivery services offered (55 percent)
  • Ability to easily find the items (49 percent)
  • Flexibility of return/exchange policy (45 percent)

The survey also revealed the leading frustrations. Long checkout lines, not being able to find employees to help, and negative employee interactions or ‘pushy’ salespeople are the top frustrations for customers shopping in-store. Shipping fees, receiving the wrong item, and complicated return processes frustrate online consumers the most. These reasons illustrate that, across channels, convenience and personalization are vital aspects of customer service. 

Regardless of a good or bad customer service experience, over 90 percent of people are vocal about it, demonstrating that the impact and quality of customer service extends beyond the immediate interaction. If a retailer provides good customer service, the majority of consumers will either shop at the retailer again or recommend it to friends and family. Women are more likely than men to give feedback to the company, and 30 percent of women said they would write a review on social media in response to a positive experience. For negative experiences, 50 percent of all consumers are more likely to leave a review. That said, most respondents (72 percent) said that a retailer can do something to correct a situation. For both good and bad customer service, Millennials are more vocal than older demographics: they are more inclined to leave reviews about their experience either directly with the company or on social media.

The ICSC Customer Service Survey was conducted online by Engine Insights on behalf of ICSC January 28-30, 2019. The survey is a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,002 adults 18 years of age and older. 

ICSC serves the global retail real estate industry. We provide our 70,000-plus member network in over 100 countries with invaluable resources, connections and industry insights, and we actively work together to shape public policy. For more about ICSC, visit www.icsc.com.