Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne recaps a recent study on why consumers don’t return to a store.

In a recent column, Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor, (his title, not mine) discussed a survey conducted of consumers and their reactions to retailers, specifically focusing on what causes them not to return to a store.  The company that conducted the survey asked some 2,000 shoppers between the ages of 18 and 65, though the column did not break the sample down any more granularly than that.  The first two reasons that customers do not return to a store are not particularly surprising:

  1. 79% said they would not return to a store if a staff member lied to them about a product or service.  Instead of making a claim about a product that the store cannot support, better to say "I don’t know," and even better than that, "I don’t know but I will find out for you in just a moment."
  2. 70% would not come back if an employee used foul language or was rude.  I recently saw an old Doonesbury strip in which one character comments that to sound normal, you should use "F*** like it was a comma."  That might be acceptable for the average person but it still sounds grating coming out of the mouths of professionals and people who deal with the public.  When I go to the doctor or to pay my water bill, I certainly don’t expect to hear an F Bomb drop from them and, while I might have to admonish my customers on occasion to watch their language, they certainly don’t expect to hear it coming from me, or the staff.
  3. 49% said dirty restrooms.  Yes dirty restrooms. According to Gas while gas prices are important when choosing which service station to use, the second most important factor among motorists who use the site is how clean the restrooms are (says the guy who just spent 10 minutes unclogging the toilet in the women’s restroom).  Whenever I visit a store, I always ask if I can use their restrooms and the cleanliness of the facility is a pretty good indication of how well the rest of the store operates.
  4. 37% said they would not come back if they left a message on the store’s phone and did not get a response within a day.  Yep, even in this day of social media messaging and texting, people still phone stores and expect a quick response.
  5. 30% said if they emailed (yes people do still email, even though about 98% of what is sent today is spam (no insult intended to the delicious canned meat product) a question to a store, they expect a response within a day.
  6. And finally 22% said that if they sent a text message to a store, they expect a response within a day and will move onto another store if they do not hear back.  In fact 20% of the respondents wouldn’t even give you a day.  If a store didn’t respond within 5 minutes, let alone 24 hours, they moved on to contact the next one.

I found it especially interesting that, although behavior and cleanliness were highly prized by customers, quickness in response to communication accounted for half the things customers disliked about a store and employee behavior accounted for five of the six items.  While good employees are not the cure for all store problems, they do go far in retaining customers.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of