'Customer Service' is Key to Success for Retailers During Holiday Shopping Season Starting with Black Friday November 28

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Fact: Customer service is having a meltdown. According to the Shoppers at Risk study, "Sales associate issues are most detrimental to retailers. They annoy the most shoppers, lose the most business for retailers, and drive the most negative word-of-mouth." Women will have a major impact on the upcoming holiday shopping season. With the current state of the economy and purse strings tighter than ever, retailers need to take immediate action to make the most out of the 2008 shopping season. Delia Passi, nationally recognized women's consumer advocate and founder of WomenCertified, the seal of approval for women seeking excellence in service, shares the top trends among women shoppers as they navigate through the malls and internet.

Delia Passi, founder of WomenCertified and CEO of Medelia Inc.

Female shoppers should feel empowered and demand positive shopping experiences from their local retailers. If retailers respond by reducing the kinds of problems outlined in the research, they will ultimately benefit from long term shopper loyalty.

Fact: Customer service is having a meltdown. According to the study Shoppers at Risk, done by the Wharton School of Business in 2007, "Sales associate issues are most detrimental to retailers. They annoy the most shoppers, lose the most business for retailers, and drive the most negative word-of-mouth." In fact, 71% of consumers in the survey said they would walk out of a store if they feel the quality of service isn't good enough, even if the store has exactly what they are looking for.

Women are the number one consumer in this nation, responsible for 83% of all consumer purchases and will have a major impact on the upcoming holiday shopping season. While last year's Black Friday showed an increase in 'shopping', sales showed an overall decline of 3.5% according to the National Retail Federation. With the current state of the economy and purse strings tighter than ever, retailers need take immediate action to make the most out of the 2008 shopping season.

Delia Passi, the nation's leading expert on women's shopping habits, preferences and trends, ascended to this rank through years of research and analysis of the women's market. Passi has contributed to national TV and radio broadcasts, been quoted in print publications and daily newspapers across the nation including the NY Times and Wall Street Journal, published her own articles, blogs weekly for Glam Media, and is also the author of Winning the Toughest Customer: The Essential Guide to Selling to Women. Passi was the publisher for Working Woman and Working Mother magazines and the founder of WomenCertified®, the seal of approval for women seeking excellence in service She makes the following predictions for the 2008 holiday shopping season:

More online shopping than ever. "Though falling gas prices have lessened the travel burden for many women, they are still hyper-aware of the cost of driving after several months of suffering," says Passi. "Shopping online not only saves gas, but it also saves time and money. There are some fantastic deals on the web, and this year she'll be looking harder than ever for them."

Gift card use will continue to grow. In line with the trends from the past several years, Passi predicts that gift card use will see growth from last year. Gift cards are convenient and allow gift givers to set a specific purchasing amount - an easy way for holiday shoppers to stay within budget and not give a less than desirable gift.

Increased comparison shopping. "We all know that the tough economy is going to hit many companies really hard this year. Women will still be spending, about the same as last year in most cases, between $200 and $500, but they'll be spending a lot more carefully," says Passi. As a result, she says women will be hunting for deals and spending more time comparing products before making final choices.

Customer service will gain importance. Just as they will take greater care in choosing holiday gifts, Passi predicts that women will be a lot choosier about which stores they buy from. "She's watching her dollars closely - which means she's going to spend at stores she trusts, at stores that provide the best value for her money, and at stores that treat her the way she wants to be treated."

What can retailers do to stay on top of these trends? Passi says all signs point to the fact that women shoppers will respond to more "TLC" this season, as every dollar and every purchase has more significance.

According to Passi, T stands for "Touching Your Customers" with more targeted communication, stronger value propositions and a commitment to provide the best holiday experience.

L stands for "Loving Your Customers" with an enhanced customer service experience, more attention and by going the extra mile and actually meeting her expectations.

C stands for "Committing to Your Customers" by providing a consistent, convenient and an easy user experience - all things that will ensure short-term sales, create loyal customers and differentiate your store from your competitors.

"Sales associates need to be available, attentive and enthusiastic, especially with women shoppers," said Stephen J. Hoch, director of the Baker Retail Initiative at Wharton. "Men have a much more utilitarian approach to shopping."

Passi continues, "Female shoppers should feel empowered and demand positive shopping experiences from their local retailers. If retailers respond by reducing the kinds of problems outlined in the research, they will ultimately benefit from long term shopper loyalty."

About Delia Passi

Delia Passi is the leading expert on selling to women and is the author of Winning the Toughest Customer: The Essential Guide to Selling to Women. As President and CEO of Medelia Inc. and the founder of WomenCertified, Passi supports companies in their efforts to gain market share of women consumers and target markets. Passi also trains sales representatives to better sell to women and couples through a series of sales development training programs. Most recently, Passi was the Vice President of the Working Woman Network and Group Publisher of Working Woman and Working Mother magazines. She is a leading speaker on the businesswomen's market and marketing to women and target markets, including small business owners.

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