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April 23, 2001

Over 20% of customers walk out without buying anything when they experience bad customer service, and an equal number stop shopping at the store altogether. Twenty-six percent tell their friends about the experience and urge them not to shop at the store, either.

That information comes from a recent national phone survey of over 1,000 consumers that was sponsored by MOHR Learning, the retailing training unit of Boston-based Provant, Inc.

"While the most common response to poor service is to complain to a store manager, many people seem to protests with their pocketbook instead," says MOHR Learning CEO Michael Patrick. "Retailers need to recognize the less visible impact of bad service, which is the quiet erosion of their customer base."

Patrick adds, "Some retailers assume customers don't care about service and that it's something they can take for granted. But our research suggests people get really upset, even if they're reluctant to say anything. In fact, some customers who would never complain to a store manager will do so to their friends. And word-of-mouth can be as powerful in retailing as it is in the motion picture business."

According to Patrick, retailers must assume that every customer who complains represents two others who experienced the same frustration, but didn't voice it. "It's not enough for store managers simply to address individual customer complaints. The better solution is to provide training and supervision to employees so that such incidents are not repeated."

The survey also found that the more affluent the customer, the more likely he/she is to walk out without making a purchase (26% of those with $50,000 incomes versus 16% of those making $15,000-$24,999).

Men are more likely than women (26% and 19%, respectively) to walk out without making a purchase, while women (44%) are more likely than men (34%) to complain to a manager.

Source: Quirk's Marketing Research Review, May 2001

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