Almost half of UK shoppers believe customer service levels within department stores have deteriorated in the past decade, although the same amount of people have said they would be upset if their local department store ever shut down.
New research from the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) has highlighted ways in which department stores could secure their long term future on the high street, while also underlining consumers’ sentimental attachment to the household names.
The survey of 2000 UK consumers found that 48 per cent would be upset or frustrated if their high street department stores closed.
On the flipside, 48 per cent of consumers felt levels of service within department stores have worsened over the past 10 years.
The news comes at the tail end of a tough year for mid-market departments stores House of Fraser, Debenhams, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer, but a successful one for the luxury names like Harrods, Selfirdges, Harvey Nichols and Fortnum & Mason.
In addition to the deteriorating customer service, the 2000 consumers surveyed by ICS reported a disparity between the levels of service provided by the staff of department stores and that of individual retailers.
Fifty-three per cent said the best customer service was provided by independent brands, compared to only 21 per cent who said department stores.
The research goes on to explore the type of retail investment customers are influenced by, with only 11 per cent pointing to experiential initiatives as a motivation to get them shopping at their local department store.
However, 51 per cent said they would be tempted by friendly and helpful staff, while 57 per cent of customers said they were more likely to make a department store purchase if they were impressed with the range of products on display.
“As we approach the final few Christmas shopping days, businesses should ensure they are addressing the right issues,” ICS chief executive Jo Causon said.
“Ensuring that friendly and approachable staff as well as a range of products are displayed is vital in converting shoppers who come through the door into loyal, long-term customers.
“Our new research suggests customers will fail to be seduced by tick-box, fabricated experiential initiatives that do not feel authentic.
“Brands that shape a genuine customer journey that makes the department store a destination, with friendly, competent staff at its core are more likely to win loyal customers.
“Poor or diluted levels of customer service during the remainder of the Christmas trading season and busy Boxing Day sales are likely to negatively impact reputation and sales the following year.”