Yesterday Jon, Tyne & I decided to go for a family day out to nearby Exeter - a city we used to live in before Tyne was born, which we haven't visited for a while.
While we were there, we decided to get spending some of the vouchers Tyne got for his Christening and so we hit the shops!
What struck me on our day out was just how much the attitudes of store staff can sway your opinion of that store and your willingness to give them your custom.
As I have stated on my blog before, before having Tyne I have worked largely in customer service related roles.
I worked on the customer service desk at Primark for a few years - dealing with returned and faulty items.
I worked on a checkout in a busy supermarket.
And I worked firstly as an agent and then as a supervisor for New Look's online customer services department.
So I have dealt with customers in both a face-to-face role and over the phone, and I understand how difficult the job can be at times as some customers seem to be determined to make life difficult for staff.
I understand that the job can be difficult, and nobody can smile 100% of the time.
But if you choose to work in this environment, it is your job to provide a friendly and welcoming service.
You are a representative of the company you work for and it is your responsibility to smile, be polite, be friendly, and remember that the customer is always right.
Poor customer service is one of my biggest bug bears in life, and I hate the way that we just accept it in this country.
Well I for one am becoming pretty sick of having snarky staff members ruining my shopping experience because they've had a bad day or don't want to be there - I'm sorry but that is just not my problem!
If you're in work, take pride in your job and do it well - or else don't do it at all.
On yesterdays shopping trip I experienced both ends of the customer service scale, and it really made me realise just how important it is and how a little gesture can go such a long way toward making a customer want to give a business their custom in the future.
The Bad Experiences
Mothercare was my first port of call on the shopping trip, as I specifically wanted to buy a bath seat for Tyne and I knew they had some particular items of clothing that I wanted to get.
I also knew that Tyne needed his nappy changing and I had heard a lot of good things mentioned about Mothercare's baby facilities, so I decided we'd head there first so I could be sure I could change Tyne in a pleasant and clean environment.
We went into the baby change/toilet and I was disgusted.
It was FILTHY and it absolutely reeked of poo! I know that this may not be able to helped if somebody has used the facility and left a smell behind, but I think the more likely reason was the over-flowing nappy disposal bin!
The floor was covered in water, the toilet was unflushed, and everywhere looked very in keeping with the overpowering stench!
I wish I could have turned around and walked back out, but Tyne NEEDED to be changed so I used our own changing mat, made sure he didn't touch anything and tried very hard not to touch anything myself - did the job and got out of there quickly!!
Upon leaving I was very glad to see a hygiene hand gel dispenser outside to make me feel clean again - but alas, it was empty!
I used my own hand gel, and we shook the experience off and got on with shopping - I browsed for a while trying to find the bath seats (With members of staff milling around, but nobody once offering any assistance.)
Eventually I gave up and moved on to the clothes, picked out what I wanted and headed to the tills - there were two tills at opposite ends of the stores but the staff members I had seen earlier had all disappeared.
There was not a soul on the shop floor.
I picked a till, stood and waited.....and waited....and waited.
Eventually a member of staff appeared from one of the back rooms and came over.
She started scanning the clothes through - no apology for my wait or anything like that.
I asked her about the bath seats, her reply was "We've got those" and nodded towards the bath supports - I said that wasn't what I was looking for and described the bath seat I wanted - she responded with "Oh those, no we don't sell them. They're too young for them anyway, they've got to be 6 months".
I have no idea what she was talking about, as my pram was facing away from her so she couldn't see how old Tyne was and by "they're too young" I can only assume she meant ALL the worlds babies were too young for them?!?
I left with the clothes I'd purchased, feeling mystified, dirty from the facilities and not very valued as a customer - not a good experience.
A few weeks ago, I purchased a lovely top from River Island.
I have only worn it once, and when I came to wear it a few days ago I noticed that there is a rather large hole in it.
If I'd worn it more often I'd let it go, but considering I've only had one wear out of it I wasn't happy - so I decided to take it back.
I searched high and low for the receipt but couldn't find it, but I knew that I would still be entitled to a refund at the current selling value as the item is faulty - and given that it was purchased recently I hoped it wouldn't have been reduced too much.
I took it back to River Island in Exeter today, and presented it to the staff member and explained the problem.
The VERY miserable looking woman took the item, inspected the fault and said (without an apology for the fault, the inconvenience or any sympathy whatsoever for the fact that I'd just told her I was gutted as I love the top) that I could have an exchange or credit note for the current selling price.
I asked if there were any more in stock as I really liked the top. She said no, that store had never had those in. I asked if she could check at the store I had originally bought it from.
She replied "No, we don't have a stock checker".
I, having had enough of her miserable attitude by this time, asked if she had a telephone. She replied yes, so I asked if she'd mind using it to call the other store and ask them.
Clearly this was an unheard of suggestion and a massive inconvenience to her from all the eye rolling and huffing and puffing she did, but she called the store to check and they had none left.
She told me that my option was a credit note or exchange. Actually, from my experience in customer service I believe she is wrong - if the goods are faulty, I am pretty sure that I should be entitled to a cash refund of the current selling value.
I asked what the current selling price was, and she told me it was £12.
Considering I paid over £20 for the top only a few weeks ago and have had only one wear before a hole appeared - I am NOT happy that my only option is to accept £12 of store credit or an exchange.
I decided to keep the top and take the matter up with head office, as I would at the very least prefer to have that £12 back in cash so that I can buy a more durable item of clothing from another store - and I would also like to express my dissatisfaction with the attitude of their staff.
A simple "Oh I'm sorry to hear that" when I showed her the damage would have gone a long way.
The Good Experiences
I don't want to dwell on the bad experiences as there were two really great customer service experiences too, and its nice to know that SOME retailers can still be trusted to do it right!
I went in to Next in Princesshay to have a browse at the clothes for Tyne's autumn wardrobe, and as always was thrilled with their collection! I was spoilt for choice!
Jon showed me a gorgeous little shirt-vest and trouser set which I instantly loved, but they only had a couple left and both were in Newborn and Tiny Baby - we asked the assistant, who looked very busy!, if they had any more out the back.
I honestly expected the usual "Only whats out" brush off, but to my surprise she happily went off to check. She came back moments later and said they didn't have any, apologised for this and offered to order them in by tomorrow!
We thanked her but said we don't live in Exeter - she asked where we lived and said she could order them in to our local store, no problem and informed us that the service is free.
We were really pleased and took her up on the offer.
We also picked out some more clothes and purchased them - while she was serving us with those she was chatting away to us, talking to Tyne, and telling me all about their online service and gave me a voucher code to use giving me discount off my first order.
She could not have been more friendly and helpful! She was the perfect example of what every store assistant should be!
Michael Caine's Café Bar
We stopped off for a drink and a cake at Michael Caine's café bar on the cathedral green, we sat outside in the sunshine and enjoyed a lovely relaxing little refreshment.
The cakes were delicious, and our waiter was very friendly and accommodating.
As the waiter was clearing away out plates, he saw Tyne's dummy on the table - without any prompting at all, he asked if we would like him to sterilise it!
We didn't need him to as we had our own sterilising fluid with us, but the fact that he offered without being asked really surprised me and we were both struck by what a great service this is for parents with young babies.
I actually hadn't expected a rather high-end café bar like Michael Caine's to be so welcoming to children, and I was really pleasantly surprised!
So there you have it - experiences which have made me want to use Michael Caines and Next again in the future, and experiences which have made me want to avoid River Island and Mothercare like the plague!
I will be sending this post to all of the companies mentioned, and will be intrigued to see what they each have to say about the services that we received.
Have you had any particularly good or bad customer services experiences? As always, I'd love to hear from you!