Top 10 Retail Customer Frustrations Countdown

Overcome them and Avoid a Retail Slump with AskMe®

For the past few years, retailers have been in a frantic rush to appropriately respond to retail shoppers’ changing preferences. Shoppers’ reliance on e-commerce and digital shopping has had a tremendous impact on behavior in brick-and-mortar retail stores. Perhaps because of the instantaneous nature of online purchasing at the touch of a button, customers have become used to instant gratification. When they don’t get it, they’re quick to express their annoyance.

A Salesforce report found that 83% of customers expect to interact with someone immediately when they contact a company.

While technological advancement can certainly help mitigate some aspects of customer dissatisfaction, it’s a limited view. A recent Harvard Business Review article put it this way:

“While generating positive affect is essential, it often is even more effective to minimize negative customer experiences. This can be achieved by addressing the two main detractors of a customer’s emotional journey: frustration and boredom.”

So, what can retailers do to address frustration and boredom? Understanding customers’ most frequent complaints and really listening to their pet peeves is the right place to start. Then, consider a solution that minimizes frustration and combats boredom while enhancing the entire shopping experience smack in the middle of the buying journey—such as AskMe® virtual brand experts by MarketSource. AskMe connects customers instantly, in real-time with a live, knowledgeable brand expert and shopper advocate.

Following a poor customer experience, up to 89% of consumers have switched to a competitor.

When a customer enters a store and readily sees a long checkout or return line, it’s an immediate turnoff. But that reaction is also a sign of the times, as customers don’t have as much patience as they used to. A 2023 consumer survey revealed customers’ impatience has skyrocketed, with a 176% year-over-year jump. The survey found that Americans spend more time waiting in line at retail stores than at restaurants, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and banks combined.

Waitwhile’s Employee Sentiment Report: Retail found that 68.5% of retail workers regularly deal with frustrated or angry customers. Frontline employees claimed that long wait times were the top cause. Additionally, 73% of retail employees said that long lines or waits are a persistent problem at work.

The negative emotional fallout is real.

In a 2022 study of 1,200 American consumers, the top three negative emotions of those waiting in line were annoyance, boredom, and frustration. Nearly 75% of those surveyed would leave a physical line before it’s their turn, while fewer than half would leave virtual lines.

Time is quite literally running out for retailers to rethink their approaches to how they manage their lines. Cumbersome, outdated POS systems can contribute to this widespread customer service problem.

Streamline transaction processing with mobile, interactive POS systems. Offering payment options such as digital wallets PayPal, and BOPIS can also reduce checkout time and eliminate waits.


When a customer is talking with an AskMe rep about a product, the AskMe rep can close the sale right in the aisle, keeping customers out of checkout lines entirely.

9 – Confusing Store Layout

Tons of products crammed into tight spaces, or rows of items that don’t follow a logical, organized flow, will overwhelm customers into a frenzy of indecision. They want merchandise clearly, attractively, and intuitively displayed, with an adequate assortment of sizes, colors, styles, and models they can easily discover.

A recent blog on the in-store experience says, “A clean, uncluttered, streamlined store environment helps customers navigate the store easily, so they can browse and buy in a more relaxed, enjoyable way. Clear signage and layout, good lighting, attractive decor, and minimal checkout hardware all contribute to a sleek, comfortable shopping experience.”

Find a balance between plenty of merchandise and not enough of what shoppers are looking for. In some product categories, consumers can experience choice overload, whereas in others, they expect to see enough variety in terms of sizes, styles, colors, and models to be sure of making the right decision. Separate kiosks and displays allow customers to distinguish between the features of different brands and help them narrow their choices.


AskMe reps, accessible via QR codes on shelves, can help shoppers check product availability and inventory on the spot and navigate product features and choices that guide them to a confident buying decision.

8 – Poor Retail Customer Service

Probably nothing provokes as much palpable customer rage as this: No sales help to be found. Sometimes, one sales associate has several customers awaiting their attention or—embarrassingly—the associate has no product knowledge at all. In many cases, they don’t even know where to locate products in the store. This circumstance is equally frustrating for staff who truly want to help customers, and to develop meaningful engagements, but can’t.

Customers want guidance about their potential purchases. If they don’t get it, you’re basically sending them a subtle but clear message: “Your patronage and satisfaction with your experience aren’t really that important to us.” And this approach puts your revenue at serious risk.

The labor shortage has contributed to this problem. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of retail sales workers fell 12% from 2019 to 2022, even though U.S. retail establishments increased by 1.5%. Meanwhile, current staff is burdened with taking up the slack, with less time to field customers’ questions and concerns.

Is there a way to avoid this source of retail rage?

In lieu of beefing up staff and adding more on-site brand reps, existing store staff can get more nuanced training that involves expanding their roles and giving them access to additional tools that support customer browsing and buying. For instance, arming staff with devices that give them access to AskMe reps who can confirm inventory and ordering status, and the ability to conduct purchase transactions with customers on the spot, can go a long way toward meeting customer expectations.


AskMe reps overcome labor gaps and deliver instant, personalized services so customers don’t have to search for a sales associate. A live AskMe brand expert is standing by, ready to help them, via video chat, text message, call, or web browser.

80% of consumers will forgive a company for an issue if they respond with excellent customer service.

7 – Ignoring Omnichannel Interactions

A poor retail customer experience is accentuated by a sheer lack of recognition of today’s omnichannel shopper. How can you understand and appropriately respond to a shopper’s individual preferences if you don’t communicate with them at every retail touchpoint? Staying connected and maintaining consistency between channels is fundamentally what personalized, seamless interactivity is all about.

One shopper may come into the store as BOPIS customer only, while another may be pulling out their phone, scrolling through your online app, and deciding to stay in the store to look around because of a special sale. They may switch from the app to a general Google search to compare products, and then—using the retail app’s indoor store navigation system—find a product on display and scan a QR code that gives them immediate access to useful product information. Then, they may place an order.

These are some of the things that consumers expect and can greatly enhance the shopping experience.

And completely aside from using digital channels, in-store customers usually want to communicate on a live channel—with a real person. A key source of frustration is that shoppers don’t know their point of contact for various questions. Who should they consult for questions related to an online order pickup… a delayed shipment… a return… installation dilemmas… or product features? Ideally, brand-knowledgeable people should be on the sales floor—virtually or otherwise—to address these concerns.

A McKinsey report suggests two ways to keep customers in your loop:

  1. “Remind me of things I want to know but might not be keeping track of.” Brands can become relevant to shoppers by tracking events and circumstances. These can include letting a customer know when a desired item is back in stock or when a new style is launched for a product the shopper has previously bought.
  2. “Know me, no matter where I interact with you.” Customers expect communications that seamlessly straddle off- and online experiences. This is challenging for retailers because it requires collaboration between disparate areas of the organization—from store operations to analytics.

Provide shopper support through different channels—via phone, live chat, in-store app, text messaging, and social media, for example—to keep customers in a continuing conversation wherever they are at the moment. The truth is, that moment could be crucial to a customer making a purchase.


AskMe brand experts are there for customers—in that (and every) moment! Whether in a store or browsing online, customers can access a live brand expert who understands them and uses their browsing and purchase history to provide meaningful help.

In a recent McKinsey podcast, a McKinsey partner said, “When I go on the retailer’s website or app, I expect to see availability, a connection to what’s in the store, and a way to order things that I can pick up in store. I also expect to be able to stand in the aisle in the store and research comparative products.”

6 – A Dull Customer Experience

Customers know they can buy just about anything and everything online and have it delivered to their door in a few days, or sometimes, in a matter of hours. So, it’s not a must to visit a physical store merely to make a quick purchase. That’s a limited view of the purpose of brick-and-mortar shopping.

Shoppers naturally relish the touchy-feely aspect of in-store shopping, especially compared with the impersonal nature of staring at products on a screen. But shoppers also want to be entertained and inspired—if not enthusiastically immersed with your brand. Going shopping has, in many respects, evolved into an event. And if the shopping experience doesn’t entice them, if they aren’t delighted by and engaged with your brand, don’t be surprised if you lose business to a competitor.

To generate a deeper connection to your brand, the recent blog suggests engaging customers on an emotional level by “generating excitement and creating flow.” This could mean developing interactive experiences, and engaging customers in ways that immerse them in a product’s features. One example of this is showrooming, where brands display their wares for the explicit purpose of allowing customers to try out products before they buy.


AskMe keeps the excitement going by giving customers the opportunity to connect to a live brand expert in a virtual showroom who can demonstrate product features and various models and answer detailed product and brand questions, so customers can explore products thoroughly and land on a confident purchase decision.

Nearly 60% of consumers in a recent poll expect that by 2025 more than half of retail space will focus on experience rather than product.

5 – No Retail App

Millennials and GenZers see smartphones as an extension of themselves and a means of connecting to the world. Inside a store, they instinctively reach for their phones—often to open a retailer’s app.

Apps with indoor store navigation functions are helpful for finding products in the store, working similarly to GPS systems. When personalized data is added to the mix, the app will “remember” prior purchases and alert purchasers to relevant discounts, early-bird specials, and loyalty program rewards, and send product recommendations based on demographic data. The longer shoppers spend browsing your unique content, the better chance they will stay, browse, and make a purchase. A feature-rich app with relevant, personalized content and virtual access to live brand experts can also prevent shoppers from browsing away to other sites.


AskMe connects shoppers to a live brand expert during their shopping journey, with whom they can discuss products, pricing, installation, and more. Rather than leaving customers adrift, AskMe keeps them in your brand loop.

4 – Unhelpful Staff

In most cases, it’s the staff who set the tone and generate the atmosphere for the brand and for the store. At a fundamental level, poor customer service is a result of irresponsible, unconcerned, and/or weakly trained staff.

True, it’s not an easy job, and it’s not all sweetness and light. Retail associates are dealing with all kinds of personalities all day, and as customer frustration levels mount, staff may respond with increasing levels of negativity. This vastly reduces worker morale and drives customers away.

And staffing shortages matter. A recent Wall Street Journal article proposes that smarter staffing decisions can make up for lower head count. As one example, “Best Buy, which employed 35,000 fewer people in 2022 compared with 2019, has beaten Wall Street expectations on revenue for eight of the last 10 quarters. The retailer has encouraged its staff to train up and wear different hats, whether that is answering customers’ questions or fulfilling online orders.”

High quality, comprehensive training is at the core of successful, upbeat, motivated staff. Ensure your team in every location has reliable access to it.


Free up associates by giving them the right tools to resolve customers’ concerns, including always-on AskMe reps, who stay up to speed on every product nuance and the whole brand story. AskMe reps can also train store associates consistently across all your locations.

3 – Out of Stocks

Supply chain bottlenecks, market fluctuations, and unpredictability in economic conditions may be out of your control, but they can certainly soften inventories and push customers out the door. When models, sizes, and colors are missing, customers may wonder why they came into the store in the first place.

When product availability is low or shipments are slow, let customers know about it. Tell them when to expect products they have asked about will be back on the shelf. Keeping customers informed this way makes customers more comfortable with honoring requests to share personal contact, demographic, and shopping habit information.


AskMe brand experts can offer personalized product suggestions to customers and direct them to alternative or comparative products or models based upon personal interactions with shoppers that are most likely to meet customers’ needs.

2 – Cashier-less Checkouts

Frictionless checkouts are the norm across the retail industry, but there has been a noticeable backlash. Some shoppers find self-checkout machines confusing, and errors are common. In one survey of 1,000 shoppers, 67% said they’d experienced a failure at the self-checkout lane. When there’s a technical glitch or customer error and no manager or associate is in sight, it prompts understandable anger. Some customers will even boycott stores that only offer self-checkout.

Furthermore, the cashier has traditionally been the final stop along the customer’s purchase journey, and the interaction between that human representative of the store and the shopper is critical to affirming a positive relationship. When that interaction is missing, some customers feel let down. A 2023 U.S. Surgeon General Advisory, Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation, describes the many ways that our declining social connections have a negative impact on people. Part of the blame, according to the Advisory, is on the pervasive use of technology that displaces human engagement.

A combination of self-scan lanes and human checkers works best. Where self-checkout lanes and frictionless mobile wallet methods are offered, assure customers assistance is available when they experience a problem so they don’t have to wait for a person to be at their side to resolve any issues or mistakes.


Even better, before they get to checkout, let AskMe brand reps step in and help customers complete their transactions.

1 – Impersonal Shopping Experience

A disconnected experience is the top frustration customers have with retailers.

Shoppers don’t want to be regarded as a number; they want to feel appreciated for visiting your store and exploring your brand. Another Salesforce report states that 65% will remain loyal to companies that offer a more personalized experience.

Customers who have made previous purchases of your brand or from your store welcome that recognition and often seek product recommendations from staff with whom they have developed a connection and who understand their preferences. Since shopping channels have, at least in the consumer’s mind, merged into just plain “shopping,” consumers have come to expect stores to have gathered pertinent data about their purchases and shopping habits, and to use it to make the shopping process more personal, efficient, and relevant.

Custom-tailored service counts when it comes to building loyalty. If you don’t make customers feel cared for, they may not care about coming back.

Here’s why the human element will always matter in the retail shopper customer experience.

Sometimes, all it takes is a genuine, warm smile and a special, individually directed promotion to help create a more personalized experience. Examine ways to improve data gathering and analysis, assure consumer data is individualized and up to date, and is easily and instantly transferable across departments. Then, use it to create emotional connections between your customers and your brand.


AskMe reps can establish and further these connections instantly. They assess customers’ needs and desires while in the store, answering customers’ individual questions so they can make informed product recommendations that make customers feel valued and heard.

A McKinsey survey found that 71% of consumers expect personalization, and 76% get frustrated when they don’t get a personalized customer experience.

Ready to talk?

Reduce customers frustrations with innovative retail solutions like AskMe that enhance loyalty, improve revenue, and make customers happy.

Author: Karen Salamone

Author: Karen Salamone

Karen is Head of Marketing for MarketSource. She is a transformational B2B and B2B2C leader with a history of building marketing organizations, content teams, and demand generation centers of excellence from the ground up. She is recognized for delivering meaningful insights and fresh approaches and for earning best-in-class content, design, and multi-media awards.

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