More than half of retail employers feel that their staff lack customer handling skills, a new report by People 1st has revealed.

This figure rises to almost two-thirds in specific sales and customer service roles - where these skills are most vital, the report found.

The skills shortage is also making the recruitment of new staff more challenging, with 72% of employers reporting difficulties with filling vacancies.

As a result, retail employers have been placing more emphasis on developing existing staff, even though 18% do not believe that their staff have the skills to meet their business needs.

The research also revealed that while 63% of retail employers had invested in customer service training for their staff in the past 12 months, 39% did not believe that it had helped improve performance, and that any positive effects tended to be ‘short lived’.

Full support from managers, empowering employees, sharing customer feedback with staff and rewarding good service could help to maintain good performance, it added.

Martin-Christian Kent, executive director at People 1st,said: “Employers have clearly recognised that ensuring good service is vital to their business.

“But as customers’ expectations continue to rise, they need to make sure that they also raise the bar. With many businesses continuing to say that there is a shortage of customer service skills among staff, there’s clearly more work to do.”