According to Which? Magazine, customers have crowned Halfords the worst high street store for customer service in the UK, giving it a satisfaction score of just 51%.
Which? carried out the research and questioned more than 11,000 people, with scores based on price, products, service and store, as well as after sales or returns.
So, why were we so disgruntled with the bike and car parts retailer? Well, for starters, one shopper referred to staff as "unhelpful and rude", and also claimed its products were 'worse than any I've purchased before'.
Others to rank low in the survey included WH Smith, which was blasted for its cramped stores, Blacks, Tesco, Poundstretcher, JJB Sports, TK Maxx, Brantano, BHS, Primark, Homebase and JD Sports, with some sharing the same score and rank in the list.
In contrast, ethical cosmetics shop Lush topped the tables with a score of 83% - beating John Lewis and Apple, which both scored 81% and shared second place. Such stores received praise for their "friendly and knowledgeable staff" as well as their "high quality products".
Despite the backlash Halfords has faced this week, there is one positive it can be thankful for - and that's that when you're at the bottom, there's only one direction you can move in.
So, from looking at the list of Which? 'under achievers', its fair to say that the lowest ranking stores were predominately those whose primary focus is delivery of products at the cheapest price. But from a customer's point of view, a cheap bike part costing £25, which breaks within weeks, is going to cause irritation. The £25 part might have been cheaper than those on sale in other stores, but it's still a lot of money for people to throw away these days. The customer will no doubt try to claim a refund from the store, only to be met by untrained, staff who maybe lack basic customer service skills. And this is where the anger really kicks in.
Compare this to John Lewis, which for many years has offered customers double the difference back if they can find the same product cheaper anywhere else. The focus here is being the best value provider of a good quality product, not supplying the cheapest option. This has enabled John Lewis to steadily build its reputation over many years, making it a firm high street favourite, and one of the only stores still growing despite economic gloom.
But not all stores can be John Lewis and there is a need for lower cost retailers, so these businesses must remember that longevity is key, as customers will quickly tire of shoddy products, service and shopping experience.
We may be in a recession, and we may love a bargain, however when we are handing over our hard earned cash we still demand it a certain level of service and quality.
Halfords, Tesco and JJB need to take this opportunity to really focus on improving their customer's experience. Retraining staff (and this includes management) in how to deal with upset shoppers and to view the stores through their eyes will ensure their future remains safe. A compliant should be viewed as a gift - it's free feedback from customers! And implementing ways to gain vital feedback is now an essential step. By making it easier for customers to make complaints, listening to them, then asking them if they're getting it right, these stores will receive all they need to get themselves back on track.
After all, there's something to be said for the old adage that if a customer has a good experience they'll tell one person, but a bad experience they'll tell ten. Or Which? And Twitter.