ME retailers 'missing sales opportunities'
Dubai, May 10, 2009
A comprehensive study of customer service across the Gulf has found that many retailers in the region are missing sales opportunities by failing to create customer loyalty due to their substandard service.
The study entitled ‘Are You Being Served?’, conducted by performance improvement specialists, Grass Roots, is the first of its kind in the region.
It is a survey of the retail sector in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and sets out to measure customer satisfaction levels based on visits by mystery shoppers.
'One in four customers are unwilling to repeat or recommend a visit to the outlet based on the service they received,' says the study.
The key findings of the study are:
*Lack of customer loyalty – Retailers are missing sales opportunities. Due to the substandard service received, 23 per cent of shoppers say they would not return to the outlet they visited. 27 per cent would not recommend it to friends or family.
*Positive work-force – Outlets were manned by polite and friendly staff, with 83 per cent of staff judged as helpful.
*Real knowledge is lacking – Staff have a positive attitude but are short on product knowledge. 40 per cent of staff did not recommend or guide customers to a relevant product or service.
*Inadequate sales skills and lack of initiative - 34 per cent of staff did not ask any questions to establish details about what the customer needed. About 41 per cent did not check that the customer had what they wanted or needed.
*Good first impression – 94 per cent of shoppers reported a clean and tidy environment. Shoppers found efficient speed of service to match the physical environment, 71 per cent were served within three minutes.
Mark Spicer, operations director, Grass Roots, commented, 'With nearly one third of shoppers saying they would not return to or recommend the outlet, the implications in terms of lost sales opportunities are alarming, especially at this time when a massive increase in retail outlets has coincided with an economic downturn.'
'Gulf retailers need to invest in understanding the current needs of their customers and to train and engage staff to create a smarter workforce or else they will continue losing the war for repeat custom,' he stated.
To rank the states, each receives a performance index score; a percentage score which objectively measures how retailers are doing.
The UAE did consistently well across the various sectors of the report and gained the highest overall score from the survey with 78 per cent, while Bahrain came in a strong second with 73 per cent.
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia achieved 70 per cent and trailing in fifth place was Qatar with 65 per cent.
Across the sectors surveyed, each state has its own particular challenges:
*Gulf retailers were at their weakest in the section dealing with the fundamentals of the sales process - product knowledge and meeting customer needs. Even though the UAE led its peers, only 75 per cent of its sales staff guided a customer toward a suitable product.
*Qatar logged the lowest scores throughout the survey, most notably for cluttered outlets and poor product knowledge, however, this does not put Qatar shoppers off, and 78 per cent reported that they would make a future visit.
However, this does raise questions about the levels of service that customers in Qatar expect, the study pointed out.
Saudi Arabia gained low scores when it came to interaction with customers; while this may be explained by cultural sensitivities, it is worth noting that 60 per cent of the mystery shoppers in Saudi Arabia were men.
Kuwait, which achieved an average score in many performance sectors of the survey, ranked surprisingly low when it came to shoppers visiting the outlets again. Only 66 per cent of Kuwaiti consumers said they would return – th