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Customers who experience positive staff interaction and assistance will spend on average 39% more than those who are not helped or greeted, according to new research released today by customer insight agency SMG. This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

The research, which surveyed over 100,000 UK retail and leisure customers in 2011, found that the average spend jumps from £23.36 per person by those who do not receive assistance, to £32.47 for those that are helped by staff.

SMG has found that British retailers are missing out on as much as £45.38 billion each year in sales. Retailers that master customer service are likely to attract a bigger portion of the "floating pound" in sales over poorer performing competitors.

Based on the responses 100,000 plus UK customers, SMG has created the Customer Satisfaction Index to measure customer experience in terms of friendliness of staff, availability of assistance and problem resolution to identify its impact on sales and absolute loyalty.

The index in the UK has a score of 6.1 (out of a possible 10.0). The worst scores in the UK for customer service were found in Worcestershire, Dorset and Berkshire, while the best were Herefordshire, Northumberland, East Yorkshire.

"Our research concluded that the quality of customer service is a key driver to increasing sales and building loyalty. The Olympics in particular will see the UK take to the global stage, and presents UK retailers with the ideal opportunity to showcase the best of British shopping", noted Jeremy Michael, managing director for SMG. With over 30 million visitors expected this year, it is vital that stores invest in staff training to appropriately engage with customers to enhance customer experiences, and therefore improve sales."

According to the research, loyalty is best advanced by providing excellent customer service through problem resolution. Respondents who were highly satisfied with problem resolution were 21% more likely to return than those who were highly satisfied but didn't experience a problem. 17% were more likely to recommend, and 11% were more satisfied with their experience overall.

The study found that customers aged between 25 to 49 are the least satisfied with their overall customer experience. Under 18s were nearly one third (31%) more likely to state that they had received exceptional service than customers aged 25 to 34.

This research mirrors the Personal Happiness Index "u-bend" effect, which is used by governments to plan policy in relation to contentment levels in the nation. Retailers therefore need to consider the varying satisfaction levels across varying customer demographics.

Women customers are 8% more likely to recommend retailers than men, as well as more likely to return and report a better experience. Furthermore, men are more likely experience a problem than women, and yet are more satisfied with how these problems are resolved.