By Amanda Vigar, Managing Partner, V&A Bell Brown LLP
I have since May this year been ‘Judge’ of my very own West Yorkshire Business Jury (www.businessjury.co.uk), which, as I’m sure you can imagine, has been great fun! The jury is a bit like a peoples’ panel, but for business, and is made up of twelve entrepreneurs who are polled on a quarterly basis for their opinions on a topical subject. We’ve had two judgements so far: a ruling that the high street is dead, but not beyond resurrection, and that standards of customer service are in meltdown.
Given that the jurors are intelligent people who care about the communities they live in, they offered solutions. The first was to encourage more artisan and boutique type outlets to tempt people away from their keyboards and to enliven our dying high streets.
You may have read about my ruling on the ‘falling standards of customer service’ in The Examiner earlier this month. The majority verdict was that standards of customer service are in freefall. Dire levels of customer care have, for some time, been a real bug bear for me.
Unlike a typical Judge, I am also a member of the West Yorkshire Business Jury, so I can both comment and give a verdict! Not only are standards slipping, they are close to being non-existent. You only have to walk into practically any shop on any high street to be met by grim-faced shop assistants who wouldn’t know proper customer service if it hit them in the face. Nowadays (and sorry for sounding like an old so-and-so!) customers are invariably treated to a grunt and a look of complete and utter disinterest when being served.
For too long, the poor customer - and it is all too often the older generations who pick up on poor customer service, arguably because they’ve been used to better – has been on the receiving end of bad service. As a nation, no wonder we are increasingly staying put in the comfort of our own homes to indulge our shopping habit online.
So, what can be done aside from avoiding the high street altogether?
One of our business jurors, Dot Goodhall, President of the Huddersfield-based neurological charity The Nerve Centre, says: “The retail sector in particular should really be looking at initiating a root and branch audit of their customer service procedures. Customer service assistants are the public face of a business, so it is vital that the friendliest and most polite attitude is presented.”