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Title: Customer service as a strategic tool amongst independent retail food chains in KwaZulu-Natal
Authors: Tlapana, Tshepo Peter 
Issue Date: 2017
This study aimed at determining and evaluating customer service in independently owned retail food chains within the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Furthermore, it included assessing the level of retail service quality, current customer service tools employed by independent food chains in KwaZulu-Natal and the extent to which customer service tools are being used. The study was also about establishing whether there was a significant relationship between retail service quality and customer satisfaction. The study targeted both customers and managers of independent food chains in KwaZulu-Natal from whom a sample of four mangers were interviewed and 444 customers were conveniently selected to participate in the study. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were employed in the collection of data.

The findings revealed that majority of the customers were generally dissatisfied with the quality of services offered by independent food chains owing to a lack of complementary services (ATM terminals, parking and toilets), facilities for shoppers with special needs (physically handicapped, wheel chaired or translators), inability to offer customers credit, failure to provide a wide product assortment, short operating hours and general appearance of store (cleanliness, good product display, presentation on how to use merchandise and availability of shopping trolleys, signage to locate and identify merchandise). The results, however, revealed that there is a relationship between customers’ expectations and their perceived satisfaction. Equally significant, the results showed that customers were satisfied with accessibility and safety of the stores, and that they will be considering independent food chains in KwaZulu-Natal as their primary stores.

The study concluded by recommending that: independent retail food chains study their customer profiles as it was evident during interviews that customer profiling or segmentation was not being undertaken in detail; retailers are urged to identify and establish customer service needs and requirements so as to facilitate proper product and service mix design; retailers are also recommended to keep regular communication with customers to inform them about promotions or any new developments taking place; retailers should introduce customer loyalty programmes; provide regular staff training on customer service through workshops and follow-up refresher courses; retailers should offer quality merchandise and incorporate latest technological innovations; handle and process third party payment; meet and exceed customer service expectations of customers; upgrade their facilities to accommodate customers with disabilities; and finally retailers should have well-defined returns policies, parking facilities, rest rooms and introduce trolleys with baby-seating facilities.
Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy: Management Sciences (Marketing), Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa, 2017.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Management Sciences)

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