Why don’t some stores get it? It’s good old-fashioned customer service that counts.

Let’s face it. It doesn’t take much to be civil or friendly. I’m not talking about the ‘Have a nice day’ fake American-style greetings you get in some stores or restaurants: “How’s your day been so far?” or the, worse, “How are WE today?” I’m talking about good old-fashioned ‘corner shop’ style customer service. A genuine wish to be nice and to help.

Although Halfords was voted in 2012 as having some of the worst customer service in the UK, there is a guy in the bike department of my local Halfords store in Killingbeck, Leeds, who goes out of his way to assist. He is also genuinely nice. And he knows his stuff. Even though I’ve had some problems with the bikes themselves – hence the reason why I’ve been to Halfords so often – he always tries to put things right.

The other day, however, when I took my bike in for a service he wasn’t there. In his place were two other assistants who knew virtually nothing about anything from what I could see. I missed the other guy!

Then there was the cafe I stopped off at Ripley Castle near Harrogate the other day. I made the mistake of not realising that it was table service only (it wasn’t obvious!) and the woman behind the counter told me off!!!! I felt like a naughty schoolgirl. But I also felt furious. Despite the coffee being excellent, I won’t be going there again.

And – when my old phone died and I needed an urgent replacement – there was the young guy at my local Tesco phone store the other Sunday who had either a seriously bad case of flu or was horrendously hungover. He knew nothing about anything either, and seemed to care even less. So I took my service to the local Argos.

I took my service to Argos because, the day before, when I’d returned the faulty old phone for a refund (still under guarantee), the woman at the Crown Point, Leeds, Argos Customer Service went out of her way to be friendly and helpful. Nothing was too much trouble, which kind of surprised me for a ‘discount-style’ chain.

But it shouldn’t have, really. I mean, the assistants in whichever branch of Aldi I visit are consistently nice, chirpy and friendly, even if they do whiz your purchases through the checkout at an alarming pace.

Reference Mavis (or whatever her name was) at my local Aldi when I wanted to exchange a cycling jacket for a smaller size. She was lovely! “Just tell ’em that Mavis said you could go right through, no need to queue at the checkout, duck,” she said with a friendly wink.

Yet staff at whichever branch of Sports Direct I visit are consistently awful and as miserable as sin. Seemingly, in the case of Sports Direct, cheap goods come at the expense of good customer service.

But the point is, you should be able to get good, friendly, helpful and GENUINE customer service anywhere. And where staff are not naturally good, friendly, helpful or genuine, stores should spend time training them in the art.

Because, seriously, good old-fashioned ‘corner shop’ style customer service wins business, whether it’s a high-end shop, a posh cafe or a discount store.

But, in my experience, some UK retail stores still don’t get it.

Could good customer service be one of the reasons why Aldi is doing so well in the UK?


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