Morrisons customer service shopper

A Morrisons worker demonstrates some good customer service

Google ‘how to improve customer service’ and you’ll find no end of top tips, training and advice. None will ever surpass the training I witnessed many years ago…

I was working in a supermarket while I studied at college. At breakfast, in the canteen, assistant counters manager June told me today they had training from head office. Her eyes rolled – together with Sheila she’d been running the counters for over 20 years, and there was nothing they didn’t know about it.

As it happened, I was stacking the end gondola near the counters when the training took place. The counters team gathered while the trainer, Geoff, shared his thoughts on serving customers. Geoff then asked for a volunteer. The dreaded roleplay. Geoff played the customer and Janette was ‘volun-told’ to go behind the counter.

Janette froze and did very little of what Geoff had spent ages explaining. They tried again with Geoff’s prompts: greet with a smile, ask open questions, up-sell, cross-sell, and “remember the mnemonic of ‘CUSTOMERS WIN’. Nada. Again and again, Geoff tried. He was patient, enthusiastic and desperate to help Janette be the very best she could be. But it didn’t work.

Up stepped Sheila. “Geoff, may I step in?” she asked. “I know Janette and I know she can do this with the right help.” Geoff gave a nod. Thank God someone had come to the rescue.

Sheila then walked over to the other delegates (and Geoff), put her hands on the shoulders of a colleague and declared to everyone: “This is Janette’s mum. Everyone say hello.” They did, with a few laughs. Then, addressing Janette, Sheila said: “This is your mum, and she’s coming to your counter. Please serve her.”

‘Janette’s mum’ walked over to the counter and Janette greeted her, like she was the real thing. She offered a big smile, asked how she was and what she wanted, before adding “you gotta try this Wiltshire ham with breadcrumbs, mum, it’s great. We only got it the other day.” She proceeded to share details of offers and how her ‘mum’ could get a great deal if she bought this with this and this. There was a final flourish: “You know that lovely pickle you made last summer from dad’s tomatoes? That would be lovely with this new Somerset cheddar.”

Geoff metaphorically packed his bag. Not all heroes wear capes. Customer service improved!