Two examples of customer service


At The IT Service, we have a passion for customer service – it’s at the core of everything we do. I have a real bee in my bonnet about it. So I also tend to keep an eye on levels of service when I’m dealing with other companies.

I went shopping on Saturday in Gunwharf Quays, in Portsmouth.

Nothing particularly unusual about that. My partner wanted to get shoes and a dress for her forthcoming company Christmas bash, and I needed to get various Christmas gifts.

We saw a LOT of shoes. In quite a lot of shoe shops. To the extent that one pair of shoes was pretty much blending in to another by the end of the day. So the shoes didn’t stand out on the whole.

But the service did.

We went into Dune.

Staff asked if we needed any help, and smiled while doing so. We asked for a shoe in a different size, and they immediately, and quickly, went and found it. We asked a second time, about a different pair of shoes, and didn’t realise that the person we asked was in the middle of serving someone else. No problem – she checked if her existing customers were happy on their own for a moment, and went off and found what we needed.

When we asked for something that they hadn’t got, they offered suggestions of where we could get it.

When we found a pair of shoes we did want, the staff took them to the till so that we didn’t have to carry them around while browsing. Guess what? That meant that we spent a bit more time in there – and found another pair (for me!) that we liked. One sale became two!

This reflected well, not just on the training that staff had obviously received (and the processes that the company has created to handle customer requirements), but on the staff themselves, who coped with being busy by remaining attentive, helpful, pleasant – and genuinely interested in the customer’s needs. “Those shoes are lovely, aren’t they…” enthused one member of staff about one of our choices. Not because she’d been told that was what to say, I think, but she really seemed interested.

Bravo all round.

Wind the clock back an hour or so, and we’d been in another shop.

I can’t remember which shop it was – I truly can’t. I wish I could, because I’m not into sparing blushes. But I can’t. Even though the service was memorable.

As we entered, I noticed that the shop was rather quieter than many we’d been in. Not dead, but no sign of a pre-Christmas rush in here.

Two members of staff – they could have been sisters, so alike did they look – were straightening shoes on a display. At least, I think that’s what they were doing.

More accurately, I think that’s what THEY thought they were doing. But I had the distinct impression that had I swapped a couple of the shoes for a pack of sausages, they’d have straightened them without batting an eyelid between them.

Straightening, you see, was clearly what they’d been trained to do when the shop was not too busy. But what they were REALLY involved in was a conversation.

I’ve no idea what the conversation was about – I had no desire to listen in. But it was obviously engrossing, because as the pair floated around the shop, never more than a couple of metres apart, they demonstrated a remarkable ability to maintain a conversation while ignoring every customer there was (including us, for that matter).

It was remarkable how serene they were in their bubble – I noticed it really quickly on entering the shop, and in some ways I marvelled at their talent. They were still involved in the same conversation – now leaning against the back wall of the shop – as we left (without purchases) some minutes later.

It did occur to me, though, that in a shop which wasn’t that busy, having at least 5 staff may not be necessary. And I did wonder what criteria I would use, if I were the manager, to decide which staff to lose…

Their job was to serve the customer, and they obviously weren’t doing that, so what exactly was the point of the pair of straighteners?

Could they both be lost without impact? Probably. But what if the shop got busy? Could you get rid of just one? I don’t know that half a pair of straighteners would be any more use than half a pair of scissors. Or either one of these staff.

Get rid of them both, I’d suggest, and save the money for people who really do believe in service, like the staff at Dune.