Sexist surcharge highlights the need for a focus on service

29th Jan 2016

A number of high street retailers are charging women up to twice as much as men for practically identical gendered products, an investigation by The Times has revealed. 

According to the paper’s analysis of hundreds of commodities, the average cost of clothes, beauty products and toys for females surpasses the price of equivalent items marketed at males. Across all counterpart products inspected, those advertised for women cost, on average, 37% more than those marketed at men. 

Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service, believes this ‘sexist surcharge’ runs the risk of damaging levels of trust between customers and the high street retailers involved. “If price differences are based on perceived gender preferences and these costs are not communicated, organisations run the risk of alienating their customer base when differences are discovered,” she says. “Trust is increasingly the essential ingredient that links customer experiences to sustainable commercial relationships and if it is broken, consumers will take their loyalty elsewhere.”

However, other factors have the potential to redeem relationships shaken as a result of the investigation. Causon points out that pricing is just one of many key elements that contribute to customer satisfaction levels. According to the Institute’s latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index, honesty is one of several service-related priorities for customers, with staff competence top of the list. 

“Price and cost issues remain an important consideration for many customers,” Causon notes. “They are not, however, the only driver; the whole service experience is critically important as we move away from the world of mass marketing to far greater personalisation.”

Share this