For retailers, silence can be dangerous, taking a huge bite out of shoppers’ spending and loyalty and, ultimately, the retailers’ revenue.

Painting a picture

In fact, customers who silently walk out the door despite feeling mistreated can have a financial toll to retailers that runs into the billions, according to the results of a March study by COLLOQUY's publisher LoyaltyOne, customer-dissatisfaction consultancy Verde Group and Deborah Small, professor of marketing and psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The March survey, a collaborative look at dysfunctional retail touchpoints, polled 2,500 U.S. consumers and found that half of them experienced a problem on their last shopping trip. Of those, 81 percent chose not to contact the retailer about the issue—a decision that ultimately hurt the companies, as 32 percent of silent, dissatisfied shoppers said they were unlikely to recommend the retailer to friends and family.

The flip-side

The outlook was much better for retailers with dissatisfied shoppers who did notify the company and have their problems resolved: A full 84 percent of them are less likely to decrease their spending with the retailer.

There’s even more incentive to make sure disgruntled shoppers talk through their issues and give the retailer a chance to correct problems. Big spenders within a category disproportionately experience certain problems. A few examples:

  • Surveyed shoppers who said they were frustrated by checkout wait times also reported spending 23 percent more than the average mass retail customers ($545 vs. $446 per quarter).

  • Those aggravated by a “not my department” attitude from an employee also reported spending twice as much as the average department store customer ($543 vs. $261 per quarter).

  • And customers who cited trouble nailing down a specific shipping date or time for an online apparel order also reported spending 66 percent more in the category ($416 vs. $250 per quarter).

Take away

Failing to understand how poor customer experiences damage customer loyalty can be a costly mistake. Grocers, for example, put 11 percent of their potential revenue at risk, while mass merchandisers could be putting a whopping 25 percent of their potential revenue at risk.

Using behavioral analytics and experience-impact modeling, retailers can proactively design customer experiences that influence spending, frequency and basket size; reduce the risk of negative experiences; and create a retail structure that encourages unsatisfied shoppers to speak up and give the retailer a chance to make the situation right. Beyond all the high-tech analysis and modeling, sometimes all it takes is a willing ear, a good listener who tries to understand the shopper’s dissatisfaction.