Is it just me, or has this country forgotten how to do customer service? Here’s an example: a couple of months ago, John’s parents were visiting from abroad. On a Wednesday night, we decided to go for a meal at the local branch of a chain restaurant which shall remain nameless (I try not to do naming and shaming here). We arrived relatively early in the evening to an entirely empty restaurant. We were greeted by a frowning waiter who seemed appalled to see us there and immediately barked at us, demanding to know if we’d reserved a table.
We said that we hadn’t, looking at the empty restaurant and then at each other in mild confusion, and he rolled his eyes and said that he would see what he could do. I repeat, this was a generic and not overly popular pizza restaurant chain. It was a Wednesday evening and there could have been tumbleweed floating about the place.
After making a big show of checking the reservation list, he decided he could (and I quote) “squeeze us in” after all. Sighing loudly to make sure we knew it was definitely a great inconvenience to him, he led us to our table. It was only the valiant and unprompted efforts of his much friendlier colleague to be a lot nicer to us that salvaged our goodwill towards the place. Until then we quite honestly felt resentful about spending our money there and considered leaving to eat elsewhere.
Sopranos Englefield Green, Surrey, knows how to do customer service – see my full review on The Loveliest Food
In contrast, our local pizza joint, Sopranos, masters the customer service thing. You are treated like family the second you walk through the door and little extra touches like surprise tiramisu on birthdays or a friendly shot of limoncello after your meal make all the difference. We go back there for all our occasions because we feel welcome and wanted. When faced with the choice between the snooty chain restaurant and the friendly local, where are we more likely to go?
So I decided that instead of moaning about declining standards for the whole post, I’d give you an example of three shops or chains that have really got the customer service thing right.
Pepperberry / Bravissimo
Any other big-busted ladies out there? I have known about Bravissimo and its sub-brand (I think) Pepperberry, for a while, but I had never been inside a store until last weekend. I was immediately approached by a softly spoken and polite woman who explained to me exactly how everything works. You go with your skirt / trouser size as a base and then choose a subcategory of curvy, very curvy or super curvy for the bust. It’s worth mentioning here that I’m someone who’s spent many a miserable hour trying to squeeze into small sizes in regular, skinny person shops and have often left shopping trips feeling horrible.
I have to admit, the clothes in Pepperberry aren’t really my style. It’s mainly formal office gear and, for the most part, a little conservative for me. However, intrigued by the idea of clothes that actually fit (!) I tried on the dress pictured below and liked how it looked so much that I bought it. Every step of the way, the customer experience was phenomenal, from the help in the changing rooms to the added touch of a lovely robe for modesty and a waiting area where my husband joined all the other bored husbands.
The concept is fantastic, the customer service is incredible and, if they diversify their product range just a little bit I’m sure I’ll become a regular customer.
I bought this mosaic print jersey dress in Pepperberry for £49.00
Where do I start with Lush? Aside from all of the tempting scents, pretty colours and firm stance against testing on animals, Lush has one other major thing going for it: the impeccable customer service.
The sales assistants there really, really know their stuff. They’re also unfailingly smiley and seem to have an intuitive, psychic knowledge of which products you’re after. Once, I went into Lush in Covent Garden to buy a gift for my cousin. She’s a singer and was doing her first gig in London, she also loves Lush and is a vegan. The shop assistant nodded knowingly as I told her all of this, asked me to wait a moment and came back with a rock star gift pack within my budget and with all vegan ingredients. Amazing!
I always come out with more than I intended to buy, and I’d say that’s a lot to do with the customer service. The products are great, but the Lush staff really sell them!
Whenever I go into Lush, this happens….
Customer service isn’t about sucking up or some awful, misguided sense of superiority and that we should be “served” everywhere we go, it’s about making your brand experience a really pleasant one for your customer. When people are nice to me, it makes me want to go back. It’s that simple. So which shops do you know that have got it right? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment box!