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    NRF Study Shows Importance of Customer Service

    Retail employees and store environment are key elements of good service.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The 2004 NRF Foundation/American Express 2004 Customer Service survey showed 99 percent of shoppers report customer service being important when deciding to make a purchase, NRF reported. However, only 16 percent of shoppers surveyed were extremely satisfied with their most recent experience.

    The survey polled 1,280 consumers in May 2004 and found 51 percent were very satisfied, but online shoppers were much more pleased. 44 percent reported they were extremely satisfied with online customer service and 45 were very satisfied -- almost three times as likely to be extremely satisfied compared to in-store experiences, according to an NRF press release.

    "Many retailers are putting renewed emphasis on customer service, but shoppers are telling them that even more needs to be done," said John Theiss, vice president, retail industries, American Express Establishment Services. "This study identifies a wide range of service improvement opportunities that can have a meaningful impact on shoppers."

    The most important elements of good customer service to traditional shoppers revolve around retail employees and the store environment, according to the survey, with nearly two-thirds of shoppers finding it extremely important for retail employees to be courteous (67 percent) and treat shoppers like valued customers (65 percent). The report also stated consumers dislike being pressured to buy merchandise (69 percent) and find it extremely important that employees are available to ask for help (61 percent).

    Though also asked about hours, shopping atmosphere and parking, customers said that the most important environmental factor for them is a neat and clean store, which 60 percent of shoppers said is extremely important.

    Other findings of the survey include:

    -- 73 percent of shoppers find it extremely important that the retailer they do business with does not share their information with other companies.

    -- 71 percent of shoppers felt that accurate item pricing was an essential component of customer service and 63 percent value retailers that promptly deal with merchandise problems after the sale.

    -- 70 percent of shoppers were likely to tell others about a negative shopping experience.

    -- On average, shoppers who had a bad customer service experience told 3.1 people.

    "Consumers like to share the highs and lows of their shopping experiences with family and friends," said Katherine T. Mance, vice president of the NRF Foundation, the education and research arm of the National Retail Federation. "It's no stretch to say that a single customer service experience, whether positive or negative, affects a retailer's sales from a variety of consumers, not just one."

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