Customer service in appliance sales departments of selected prominent retail outlets: store manager, sales personnel and customer perspectives
Retailers’ insatiable need to prosper in a competitive market place probably explains why certain elements of their service offering are attended to more meticulously than others. For some time now, researchers across the world have therefore shown particular interest in service quality as an indication of retailers’ service excellence. This research investigated the customer service in appliance sales departments in prominent retail stores in Tshwane, RSA in three phases to involve different role players. Store managers firstly judged tangible evidence of the service offering in their own stores; consumers’ perception of the service quality (N=296) in retail stores was subsequently investigated immediately after closure of a sales deal; and salespeople’s recommendations (based on their personal experience) to augment the service offering to enhance informed, responsible buying decisions were gained through implementation of a projective technique.
Store managers admitted pertinent shortcomings in their stores’ service offering. A single measurement of customers’ perception of service quality in various stores however suggested that, in the context of this research, consumers’ judgment of service quality is less intricate, yet positive. Exploratory factor analysis confirmed a collapse of the original five dimensional service quality scale to two dimensions that were labeled Supportiveness and Impressiveness respectively. Customers’ positive judgment of service quality was also contradicted when salespeople formulated suggestions for the optimization of the service offering to enhance informed, responsible buying decisions through narratives in a projective technique. The research concludes that, in accordance with prior findings, consumers in emerging economies seem more tolerant of ineffectiveness in the market place, probably due to lower expectations. In order to improve the situation, retail should augment their service offering in terms of elements of their service offering that would benefit their customers, especially in terms of consumer education as consumers seem unaware of their own limitations. The potential of sales personnel should also be acknowledged in terms of their role to facilitate consumers’ buying decisions provided that salespeople’s working conditions improve and that they are provided formal opportunity for training.