‘Excellent customer service can help our shops survive’

Letter from: John Houghton, Ambrose Place, Worthing

Montague Street, Worthing, in lockdown
Montague Street, Worthing, in lockdown

When I was in business it was widely thought that customer service was more important than anything else when dealing with the public. It is of paramount importance when selling anything, whether it is central heating or (even) a book!

Nowadays it seems to have been forgotten. I believe this is the main reason why shops are closing down. I don’t think it is because of more competition, online purchasing, cheap imports, or increasing costs of overheads. These are the most common causes claimed for business having to close trading.

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Once it was thought that the customer is always right – but not any more (mobile phone companies can even make one feel ignorant if one queries the way they do business, or their lack of interest in what the customer expects). Of course, school and university leavers should be given every chance of worthwhile employment, however, the training they receive is not as thorough as it could be.

Moreover, it appears to be the practice to give them more responsibility than they used to having.

I have noted that at one of the departmental stores, a young man with very little experience, was solely left in charge of running an entire floor.

This was completely unfair to the man and the customers, most of them choosing to shop elsewhere where prices may be higher, but they received respect, courtesy and politeness.

As you know, getting value for money doesn’t just mean lower prices. It includes professional salesmanship, reliability, adequate stock, guarantees and the good reputation of the company you are dealing with.

By the way, the use of a computer or laptop can be useful, but if a customer is inconvenienced because it may be difficult to use efficiently, I believe it is better not to have one. A customer may even find that they are obstructive and an intrusion.

Therefore, I hope that new shops coming to our town, and old established ones, will consider why it is that some that were set up in the past are still thriving. As I have tried to explain, there are many reasons why a business can succeed, but the biggest is an excellent reputation due to excellent customer service. The result will be that customers will no longer travel to Brighton, or even to London, in order to be treated as we always were in our high street.