Customer Service

30 June 2009, 12:00 pm
Speciality Bites by Paul Hargreaves

In the first of a new series, Paul Hargreaves of Cotswold Fayre, reveals his insights in his new, weekly blog

I am writing this on the train on the way back from a Business Magazine interview, in which I was asked the stereotypical question: “To what do you attribute the success of your business?” Trying not to be old record player banging out old clichés, I mentioned three factors: 1) Strong emphasis on sales, 2) Product range and 3) customer service. It is the third of these, customer service that I want to focus on today.

We all know how important this is, but how many of us are creative in how we approach this subject? Many businesses and retailers are great at getting people in through the door for the first time, but how many of us exceed or even surprise our customers or give them an experience so satisfying they just have to come back again for more pleasure! As an incentive to get customers to see our Christmas range early this summer, we are offering a free mystery shop to customers worth £125. Mystery shopping is a vital tool in helping us improve our businesses, yet we find a small percentage of our customers use it.

Mystery Shopping is an opportunity for retailers to have an independent shopper assess their customer service right from parking their car in the car park through to picking up their bags at the checkout. Shop managers and owners can then use these reports to improve their staff’s service to their customers and direct future training. (One customer using this service gave the mystery shoppers £20 notes – if the member of staff fulfilled the five things they were looking for they were given the £20 note when the mystery shopper left the shop. If they didn’t they were handed a letter reminding them of the five things they ought to be doing every time a customer was in the shop.) I was recently in a shop paying by card at the checkout and the checkout girl said “Thank for shopping with us, Mr Hargreaves” – she had seen my name on the card. Small thing, but I am more likely to go back to that shop again.

In these difficult times, I am convinced we can all increase our turnover by 10% by improving our staff’s performance. If everyone in the business smiled whenever they catch the eye of the customer, it makes an incredible difference! And one that will improve our bottom line. Even mistakes are a great way of improving our perception in our customer’s eyes. There is some research that has shown that customer loyalty is better from customers that have complained and seen a good outcome from their complaint than those who have never had cause to complain in the first place. No business is perfect, but let’s repair the damage in an “over the top” manner that will get customers telling their friends about their experience.

Forget ‘customer service’, let’s go for ‘customer delight’!

To read more of Paul’s blogs, visit the Cotswold Fayre website at

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