The Germans and the British top the poll for efficiency, knowledge and helpfulness.
French agree: their shop staff are surly
By David Derbyshire, Consumer Affairs Editor
French shop assistants are among the least helpful, least knowledgeable and most surly in Europe, a new study shows today.
German stores, in contrast, top the poll for efficiency, knowledge and customer service.
Despite our love of whingeing about appalling service and lengthy queues, Britain comes second in the poll, with the financial services sector receiving particular praise.
The findings follow a survey of six western European countries by the retail consultants Grass Roots.
More than 3,500 mystery shoppers visited hundreds of fast food, financial services, car and mobile phone shops to compare customer service.
Nigel Cover, of Grass Roots, said German stores came top on an objective measure of customer service - which included length of queuing, knowledge displayed by the staff and whether assistants smiled - and a subjective score based on each shopper's overall opinion of customer service.
"Based on performance and satisfaction, the Germans came out top," he said. "While the UK delivers an objective good level of service, the satisfaction was not so good.
"The expectations from UK customers are very high. People are more savvy than they ever were and they are going to retailers often knowing more about what they want to buy than the shop staff. The media and the internet have raised customer knowledge.
"The fact that satisfaction and performance levels for Germany are equally high suggests that customers are highly satisfied with the service they receive."
Queues in Britain, Germany and Holland were better than in Ireland, Spain and France, the survey found.
The German shop staff were said to be extremely knowledgeable and were best at closing sales.
"The French scored second lowest and lowest in every category, from the environment and the waiting time to the smiling and greeting customers," said Mr Cover. "We don't want these things to support our stereotypes, but in a strange way they do.
"If this had been an Englishman's perception of France, that would be one thing. But these were based on French shoppers' perception of the country. The French would like it to be better."
British shop staff scored well on the way they greeted customers. But they fell down on their lack of knowledge about goods they sold.
Britain came bottom at customer service in fast food outlets which suffered from clutter, untidiness and unhelpful staff, but top in financial services.
The survey also found that one customer in four was unwilling to return to a shop, or recommend it to a friend.
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