Saturday, May 16, 2009

Is It a Cultural Phenomenon?

The States in the Middle East did not fare well in their first customer satisfaction survey. The survey was performed by Grass Roots, an independent survey organization. The survey used mystery shoppers who made 350 visits over a two month period into outlets in four industry sectors; namely, automotive, fast food and coffee shops, banking and mobile phone products. These industry sectors were chosen because of their fast growth and increasingly competitive nature. The survey was performed in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Some of the major findings include:
1. Approximately one in four customers are unwilling to repeat (23%) or recommend a visit (27%) to the outlet based on the service they received.
2. 83% of the staff was judged helpful.
3. Staff appear to be short on knowledge (40% of staff did not recommend or guide customers to a relevant product).
4. 34% of staff did not ask any questions to establish details about what the customer needed.
5. 41% of staff did not check that the customer had what they wanted or needed.
6. 94% of shoppers reported a clean and tidy environment.
7. 71% were served within 3 minutes.

The average satisfaction score was 69%. However, the States had very different scores. The United Arab Emirates had the highest average score at 78% and Qatar was last with an average score of 65%. Some of the specifics for each state are:
1. Qatar scored lowest and had cluttered outlets and poor product knowledge.
2. Saudi Arabia had low scores on interaction with customers.
3. Kuwait had the lowest score with respect to customers returning (66%)
4. Bahrain had the highest score with respect to customers returning (82%).

Mark Spicer, Operations Director of Grass Roots noted that "our report reveals that Gulf customers have come to expect a lower level of service." He went on to say "with nearly one third of shoppers saying they would not return to or recommend the outlet, the implications in terms of lost sales opportunities are alarming, especially at this time when a massive increase in retail outlets has coincided with an economic downturn. Gulf retailers need to invest in understanding the current needs of their customers and to train and engage staff to create a smarter workforce or else they will continue losing the war for repeat customers."

This is an interesting survey. I would like to know the profile of the mystery shoppers. I am sure there is some research that would show that shoppers from the Middle East have different reasons for scoring high on a satisfaction survey than shoppers from Europe, Asia and America. I would hope that Grass Roots had a blend of mystery shoppers that were stratified proportionately for the outlets they surveyed. As we see more and more surveys from around the world we will need to develop some cultural adjustment factors to account for the many cultural differences. I am not aware of such cultural factors but would appreciate guidance to a reputable source.

The bottom line is that we should beware of applying satisfaction scales from one culture on to another and drawing conclusions. Scores may not be as meaningful if cultures have different values and traditions.


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