01 October 2013

In retailing, getting the ‘welcome’ right is the hardest thing we do. Making each and every person that steps on to your premises feel that you’re really pleased they’re there is no slight challenge.

Its success is down to many small things: a smile and a proper greeting, calling them by name if you know them, escorting them to the area of the business they need to be in.

It’s all textbook stuff. And we’ve all seen brilliant example of its successful application. Here are a couple from my own experience: the parts dept manager who handed me a couple of rear bulbs for my car with a smile, saying “here, have these on us”; the service desk that gave away apples to every customer that morning; the receptionist that calls everyone “flower”.

When it’s good it really makes a difference. The best practitioners, however, in the gentle art of making customers feel special carry the art to the core of their businesses. They start from the premise of making great customer service a must-have. It definitely isn’t something they add as an afterthought.

Anyone seriously in need of inspiration, maybe looking for a master-class in how to really deliver day-in, day-out, would do well to visit a small café I use in north Leeds*. There, for the price of a coffee, they’ll experience a welcome that is genuine, unforced but heart-felt.

The neighbourhood that surrounds it is so-so, the menu is unexceptional and the prices affordable. Inside it is clean and bright (but nothing special) and it’s staffed predominantly by women of senior years. All as one, they act as if they enjoy working as a gang and, most of all, a café-ful of customers is what they want most. The wall notice listing not opening hours but welcoming hours, says it all, really. It’ll come as no surprise to learn that the place is bustling whenever you visit.

Ray Castle

Editor, Auto Retail Agenda

* drop me a note, and I’ll tell you where.

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