Mass merchants not up to scratch: Choice

A recent consumer report into customer service and pricing has slammed six major retail chains and concluded that the advice of many of their salespeople cannot be trusted.

Computer Choice, a publication published by the Australian Consumer Association's Choice magazine, had two anonymous shoppers enter five Sydney stores of each of six retail chains: Dick Smith, Grace Bros (Myer), Harvey Norman, Officeworks, Retravision and Tandy.

The research concluded that only Dick Smith scored well across the board for customer service, suitability of recommendation and value for money.

The report was particularly critical of Retravision and Tandy in terms of customer service, and critical of Harvey Norman and Retravision in terms of price.

"Retailers, particularly Tandy, seemed more interested in selling what was on the floor than finding a computer that was suitable for our shoppers," the report stated.

Gary Smith, development manager for Retravision NSW, said the company was happy to accept any valid criticism, but believes that some of the association's findings were unjustified.

Charles Britton, policy manager for IT and communications at the Australian Consumer Association, said the research was conducted due to ongoing concerns about the many grey areas involved in buying computer goods. "We have a steady flow of complaints of this nature and it's been going on for some time," he said. "And there are no signs in this research that the problem is going away."

Britton said the poor customer service of the major retailers "brings the technology industry into disrepute with consumers".

Smith said Retravision is a relative newcomer to IT retailing and is still coming to terms with selling the technology, but said the research was too limited to be of great concern. "This is not a positive reflection on the hard work of retailers," he said. "I would have liked it if they walked into 150 of our stores instead of five. I am sure they would have been pleasantly surprised with our service."

Britton said Computer Choice chose major retailers because that is where the least informed customer would go, relying on a brand name for support.

Retravision currently has its computer division managers undergoing an intensive 10-day training course in its ongoing commitment to improving their technical skills and customer service, Smith said.

For the full break down of the report read this week's issue of ARN (13 March) out now.