I have three golden rules I try to stick to when I go shopping: shop locally, buy British and reward good service. Yet strangely, I’ve found that bigger brands are being better at customer service than the smaller ones.
When I can, I always try to use local shops. And I prefer to buy British as it puts money back into the economy, creates jobs and boosts UK tax revenues – a virtuous circle. But I’m finding my highest priority – excellent customer service – is becoming ever more important and yet more difficult to find.
Does bigger mean better?
Ironically, some of the best customer service I’ve received of late has been from the big chains. Starbucks and Prêt a Manger stand out in particular, as they’re both consistently welcoming and helpful.
And the Costa coffee kiosk on the freezing cold platform at Doncaster Station deserves a special mention as I’ve had consistently excellent service there. They make my coffee just how I like it (I’m fussy), and they’re happy to have a natter and do it all with a genuine smile.
And this is what confuses me. If big companies like Costa can get it right, why can’t smaller traders do it? While some small retailers really go the extra mile (I’m looking at you Cowling & Wilcox art shop, Foxcroft & Ginger café in Soho, and Trinity Bar in Harrow), others don’t seem to care. This is hard to understand given the current economic climate, which should have them throwing all their energy into attracting much-needed custom.
Pile on the praise
I’m quick to criticise poor service, but I’m equally fast to praise an excellent member of staff. For example, I went to Brownsea Island earlier this year and everybody there was friendly and went out of their way to help visitors. They could have been grumpy and unhelpful (it’s very difficult to storm off an island in a strop), but they seemed to genuinely enjoy helping visitors. They were so impressive I joined the National Trust on the day, so it was a win-win for both sides.
When you do send companies your positive feedback, I think they genuinely appreciate it. I often find they’re keen to pass the positive feedback both up and down the chain. We all like to receive a pat on the back, and it means so much more if someone with no vested interest takes the time to send in some genuine words of gratitude.
So next time you receive great service, don’t just smile, take positive action:
- Tell your friends and family.
- Tell the manager or drop an email to head office.
- Write a glowing review on Which? Local.
- Tweet your followers and to the company concerned.
Companies that encourage good service deserve my business and those staff members who go the extra mile deserve recognition. I try to maintain at least a 1:1 praise/moan ratio. Who’s with me?