Winchester: Service with a smile?

Miranda Rock, who runs Rocket Launch, and proposed the session, explained why. “I don’t think customer service in Winchester is as good as it could be,” she said. “I don’t think our customer service in our chains and independents gives the impression we want it to give. I don’t think people are being trained to deliver great service for our businesses and our city.

“I have had some good experiences. I recently did the opening of Turtle Bay, and I was really impressed by how well they trained their staff. But I’ve had a lot of really bad experiences. And we know people will tell other people about bad experiences. So I wonder if other people agree, and what we can do. Should we have a standard for service? Or some awards?”

TripAdvisor for Winchester?

Most of the participants around the table felt Winchester had a problem; although there was some scepticism about whether it had more of a problem than some other cities. They were less sure about how it might be tackled; and they were keen to avoid promoting a culture of moaning or negativity.

Miranda said she would like a Winchester standard of service, that conveyed “Winchesterness” to residents and businesses alike. A participant suggested that if they got such a service, customers ought to have a “quick and easy” way of providing feedback – a “mini-TripAdvisor” just for Winchester.

Others felt this should be backed by a code of standards, mystery-shopping exercises, and awards – including awards for individuals who delivered great service. “That way you get it all running through, and you get positive reinforcement.”

Because we’re worth it

There were some concerns. One business owner suggested it would be expensive, and there might not be much in it for him. But most people in the room argued it would provide good PR – and, indeed, reassurance that his service was as good as he thought it was. Also, that if it raised standards across the board, it would benefit all businesses in the area.

“Just having a code would help,” one participant argued. “You set the expectation that there is a standard to be met, and that can really influence behaviour. And if you are a visitor, and you see the code, it tells you there is a code, and the city cares about it.”

Indeed, another business owner was right behind these ideas. “Who doesn’t want to know that they are delivering great service?” he asked. “Lots of businesses do more or less the same thing, so I need to know my staff are doing it really well. If I know from a mystery shop or some awards that I have really great customer service, then I think it would be good.”

Miranda agreed. “There are lots of coffee shops and pizza places on the High Street, and at the moment I go to the ones with ok service; but I want to go to the ones with really great service.” And some participants felt a shift would be key to the future of the city.

“There are lots of places now that are selling experiences. If we don’t have the right experiences, we are not going to get the people who want them.”