A good customer service experience causes customers to spend an amazing 40% more at the checkout, according to a survey of UK shoppers by customer insight agency SMG, which found that the top 'pet hates' of retail customers are a lack of assistance and slow service. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

By analysing the opinions and purchasing patterns of 359,000 customers, SMG found that UK shoppers' average spend jumps from £21.73 to £30.41 when they have a positive in-store experience.

Staff assistance has the greatest influence on overall satisfaction with 43% claiming it is the biggest driver of an excellent experience. Also highly influential is staff knowledge, with relevant product recommendations increasing basket size by 15% on average.

And, even when assistance is not actually given or needed, a simple friendly interaction on the shop floor causes 32% of respondents to rate their experience in a shop as satisfactory or higher.

"The struggles of the retail sector in this gloomy economic period have been well documented," said Jeremy Michael, managing director for SMG. "But the SMG Customer Satisfaction Index provides hope as it indicates that customers are willing to spend significantly more if provided with better service."

The research also revealed the growing trend of browsing online before buying in store. Nearly 50% of under 18's pre-shop via the web before making a purchase in a bricks-and-mortar store, compared to the national average of 30%, and only 17% of over 55's who do likewise.

"The statistics show that customers who begin their shopping experience online before buying in-store spend more money. Consequently, retailers must not see the industry as a battle between digital and physical but a potentially lucrative combination of the two," concluded Michael. "The in-store experience needs to offer something the internet can't provide, such as personalised human interaction. Stores should prioritise equipping staff with the knowledge and training needed to ensure customers are helped successfully."