Customer service expectations: A comparison of outlet center stores and full-price stores
Brunson, Rochelle R.
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The purpose of this research was to examine consumers' expectations of customer service at outlet stores located in outlet shopping centers as compared to consumers' expectations of customer service at full-price stores. A secondary purpose was to examine and describe consumers' shopping experiences at outlet center stores. The study also investigated whether, and to what degree, relationships existed between expectations of customer service at outlet center stores and demographic variables. Subjects for the study were drawn from a database list from Info-USA, a database list firm. A self-administered mail questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 1,000 subjects. One hundred and twenty seven surveys were returned as nondeliverable yielding an actual sample of 873. Questionnaires were returned by 165 participants, yielding a response rate of 18.90%. The final sample consisted of 132 participants ranging in age from 20 to 98 with a mean age of 48.36. The majority of the participants were female (60.80%), married (72.73%), employed full time (57.25%), well-educated (bachelor's degree or higher) (50.76%), white non-Hispanic (85.61%), and an income level between $20,000 and $74,999 a year (60.66%). Two-tailed, paired t-tests were performed to determine if a statistically significant difference existed between expectations of customer service at outlet center stores as compared to fullprice stores. The results indicated that significant differences existed between 17 of the 27 attitudinal statements regarding customer service. In addition, factor analysis was performed to determine the expectations for customer service at outlet center stores. Factorial analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed on each of the customer service factors derived from the factor analysis in order to determine if a relationship existed between expectations and various demographic variables or the combination of two variables. Thirty-one significant relationships were found. Both education and employment status were significant factors in placing a higher level of importance on expectations. Specifically, consumers whose education fell below a bachelor's degree or consumers who work part-time, were unemployed, or who were full-time homemakers had higher customer service expectations. Results revealed that location/parking was the most important customer service aspect when making shopping decisions followed by selling services (salespeople). Although consumers expected a higher level of customer service at full-price stores than at outlet center stores, results revealed that consumers still place a high level of importance on customer service aspects at outlet center stores.