A survey released on Tuesday by Choice, a consumer advocate group, identified Harvey Norman as having the lowest customer service rating among large Australian retailers.
The basis of Choice is ratings made by shadow shoppers who experienced being ignored by sales staff and complained of their lack of product knowledge. The survey covered 10 retailers which include Myer, David Jones, Target and JB Hi-Fi.
Myer and David Jones, which recently suffered from poor sales, also got low ratings as shoppers complained of sales staff who were talking with one another as buyers wait for service. The operators of these two retailers added more sales workers in a bid to offer better customer services and battle as well more competition from overseas online retailers that have the advantage of offering general sales tax-free items which costs less than $1,000.
"Retailers who are laying the blame at online shopping for poor sales without also reviewing things within their control, like improving customer service, are not helping themselves in this increasingly competitive environment," Brisbane Times quoted Choice spokeswoman Ingrid Just.
"The key advantage bricks-and-mortar stores have over online retailers is providing face-to-face customer service and product knowledge but, in many cases, this does not appear to be happening on a consistent basis," she added.
However, Gerry Norman, the chairman of Harvey Norman, said he has received positive feedback on their service, contrary to the results of the Choice survey
"The level of feedback we're getting shows that our level of service is fantastic," Brisbane Times quoted Mr Norman, who added, "I admit that it's probably not fantastic in every store, all of the time, and I don't think any retailer could claim that. But we do devote a lot (of) time to service."
On the opposite end of the survey, Bunnings got the highest rating with shadow shoppers complimenting the retailer for its friendly, helpful and knowledgeable sales staff.
Because of the stiff competition from overseas retailers, other Australian retailers have been advised to instead open headquarters in Asia and ship their goods to Australia, in the process helping shoppers avoid the GST.
However, Harvey Norman Chief Executive Katie Page told a business conference that the retailers is not inclined to that solution because it is unAustralian, although she admitted she and some members of her family also shop online from overseas retailers. Ms Page is the wife of Mr Norman.
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