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BizReport : Research archives : August 07, 2013

Ill-informed store staff lie to customers, or hide in store room

With mobile-wielding shoppers browsing physical stores, retail staff need to be clued up and on their toes. However, according to new research released by digital retail experience and tech firm Red Ant, many retail workers in the UK admit they lie to cover up for their lack of product knowledge.

by Helen Leggatt

Almost two-thirds (63%) of staff in physical stores are so lacking in product knowledge that they fob off shoppers with lies. And, that's hardly surprising given that 58% said they are given less than two hours of training before being let loose on the shop floor.

The inability to ably deal with store visitors leaves half of retail staff embarrassed, found the research, and 46% feel nervous and shy. Some even get around the problem by hiding in the stock room. Who wouldn't? Worse still, some staff admitted to sending a shopper to another store rather than deal with them, or pretend to know more than they do about a product.

Shoppers aren't stupid and over two-thirds (67%) say they notice the lack of knowledge on the shop floor. In fact, 40% say they go online precisely so as to avoid such ill-informed staff.

"When I visit a shop, I know I can find all the product information I need in a matter of seconds just by pulling out my iPhone," Red Ant chief executive Dan Mortimer told the Daily Mail. "But I also know that, if I ask a retail worker the same question, the likelihood is they'll ask me to hang around for a few minutes while they visit the till-point or ask another member of staff for the answer."

Mortimer believes that, while shoppers are well-armed with knowledge via their mobile devices, it's imperative that retailers also arm their staff with technology and training. Many shoppers still prefer a physical shopping experience, and this can be made all the more enjoyable when engaging with retail staff that can look you straight in the eyes and provide the information needed, without rushing off to the bathroom in shame, or pretending to be busy doing something else.

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: customer service, mobile, retail industry, shopper insights, showrooming, staff, technology, training

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  • retailworker

    I work in a large Boots store on a counter. I have full training and in depth knowledge of everything on my counter, but my knowledge of the rest of the store relies on what I've picked up from working there. Therefore, if a customer asks me something that I don't know the answer to, I'll go and find someone who does. I don't see the problem with that?
    "But I also know that, if I ask a retail worker the same question, the likelihood is they'll ask me to hang around for a few minutes while they visit the till-point or ask another member of staff for the answer."
    If you're in a huge store, the best way to get comprehensive advice is to have employees specialised in certain areas rather than try and have every single person know about every single product - that's not going to happen.

  • josh

    If customers are going online to shop then the retail stores are winning because its cheaper for them and good on them. I don't understand why the public demand VIP customer service, GET OVER YOURSELVES. maybe if retailers start CHARGING customers to enter the store, then a standard of service should be established.

    I used to work in retail years ago and laugh at how much the customer THINK they know, automatically presuming they hold knowledge and power above staff.
    The amount of times I heard 'Trading standards' coughed up by customers in an attempt to justify when they think they are right.

    "Shoppers aren't stupid and over two-thirds (67%) say they notice the lack of knowledge on the shop floor"

    1) So 33% shoppers didn't notice lack of knowledge. stupid?

    2) So the whole 100% couldn't find products for themselves? I think that's pretty stupid.

    3) Go shop elsewhere if its too much hard work finding products for yourself or you cant understand the complexities of labels. Don't complain about the staff if YOU CHOOSE TO SHOP THERE at your convenience for free.

    4) Every time a customer says "I'm shopping elsewhere" or "You've lost my custom" or my favorite: "I spend hundreds of pounds here every week. I'm important". I honestly do not think the retail giants give a toss. They hold the power now, not the customer. SO GO CRY TO SOMEONE WHO CARES. Millions and billions of pounds are still made in profit each year by retailers.

    Oh and Major retailers do their own 'mystery shopping' on staff which shows how they DO NOT trust the normal public's opinions or what they've got to say.

    5)The customer is NOT always right.

    Easy example: Underage kid wants to buy alcohol and tobacco. NO BYE.

    Customer wants to use child's milk tokens to purchase a crate of beer. NO BYE. Very good parenting.

    Rant over.

  • jack black

    worthless employment spaces, better to replace this with computers that you can look up the product for themselves, its a waste of a life and brain to make someone do a job as dreary as customer help in retail

  • ursulavasey

    I have tried in the past to get a job in the retail sector, specialising in technology. I have the product knowledge, and employers have acknowledged this, but I have no sales experience. I am not the pushy, target-driven type, but I can talk about tech at the relevant level, and using the correct tech terms, explaining things simply or in a more jargonstic way, according to the level of understanding the other person has. None of this knowledge has secured me employment, entirely due to not having sales experience. Retailers need to move away from the "sell, sell, sell" attitude, and move towards people being correctly informed as to their best options.

  • Salesboy

    What is the key objective of a store? Selling.



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