It is not quality only that determines consumers’ satisfaction with products any more; the service offering in retail has become very important. Because the products on retailers’ shelves are very similar, customer service (CS) is often the only way in which one service provider is distinguished from another. Unfortunately, research into how the hearts and purses of consumers are conquered to enhance loyalty towards a retailer is limited. Extant research generally addresses specific elements of CS, especially in terms of how they affect customers’ buyer behaviour and consequent store patronage. This study assumes that improved CS will enhance store loyalty as well as consumer satisfaction. The objective of the research is to describe customers’ interpretation of the CS in South African supermarkets to ultimately suggest how this can be enhanced through attention to specific elements of CS. Many of the elements that may individually and collectively affect customers’ preference for specific supermarkets are investigated. Theory and discussions are presented within the systems perspective, which provides a useful vehicle for explaining the interactive contribution of the various elements of CS in terms of eventual service quality. The cognitive perspective is used to explain customers’ interpretation of CS. Research participants were recruited through snowball sampling in Pretoria East, a geographic area in the Tshwane metropole. In this area, various supermarkets are located in close proximity, which is very conducive to shop-hopping. Prerequisites for participation were a minimum age of 25 years (irrespective of gender) and residence in the area or the assurance that participants regularly do their shopping in the area. Data collection followed a predominant quantitative approach (survey) although focus group discussions (qualitative technique) were included in the initial stage to validate the content and wording of the questionnaire. Results reveal that consumers regularly patronize different supermarkets in the area and that the CS of certain supermarkets is considered to be significantly better than that of others. Elements of CS that are criticized more severely are personnel-related and process-related. Although they do acknowledge the importance of price in terms of frequent shopping at supermarkets, consumers nevertheless are more critical of personnel’s contribution towards CS, and appreciative of additional efforts made by supermarkets to make their customers’ shopping experience effortless and more rewarding. The CS of two of the six supermarket groups included in the study was rated significantly lower than that of the rest. One of the supermarket groups that performed less satisfactorily was identified as a top spender in terms of advertisements in the country in the preceding year. This indicates that budget allocation towards advertising could perhaps be better invested in terms of training of personnel in the future.