Business consultancy awards independent retailers for top customer service


Warrington-based business consultancy, Insight with Passion, has launched an awards programme to celebrate the customer service offered by independent retailers.

The first recipients of the Customer at the Heart Awards have just been announced and include a coffee shop just off Oxford Street, London; a deli making fresh bread every morning and a traditional sweet shop in Leeds.

Kaffeine café was opened by Peter Dore-Smith in Fitzrovia, London, in 2005. 

Dore-Smith said he wants every customer to have a great experience in store. “Customer service is an equal part of our business in line with the quality of our food and the quality of our coffee,” he said. “:Many places are excellent at most things, but not excellent at all of them. We strive to be excellent at all of them.” 

Dore-Smith said he hires staff with a good background in hospitality and service who enjoy serving people.

At the other end of the M1 is another winner, Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe in Leeds. Stocking traditional treats including Harrogate Toffee, Kendal Mint Cake, Jelly Bellys, Riley’s Toffee Roll and Pick and Mix, it combines ‘olde worlde’ goods with traditional customer service. Owner Deborah Goldberg believes part of the in-store experience includes the fact sweets are weighed, either in 100g or quarters, and tipped into a brown paper bag. The weighing out encourages interaction with customers in the shop.

“We have some customers who look surprised when you say hello. They’re not used to staff in a shop talking to you,” said Goldberg. “Good customer service is essential in any business and shouldn’t be seen as old-fashioned. We make people smile. We make them think of their childhood.”

The Awards were established by Insight with Passion founder, Kate Hardcastle.

“I established the awards because, while we hear a lot of moaning and complaining about bad customer service, we rarely discuss those who do it well. I have worked with firms who’ve seen an 8% increase in profits, simply by improving their customer service.”

Nomination for an award is free and can be submitted online. Any independent retailer is eligible. An independent reviewer will then conduct a mystery shop to find out whether the customer really is at the heart of the business.

According to Hardcastle, good service is, “when a store is so switched on to a consumer’s needs they are prepared to sacrifice a sale in the short term, and send the customer somewhere they can get the right size/product or item that might be in stock at a competitor. It takes strength, confidence in their own product and a need to put the customer heart above and beyond the call of duty.”