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Why small businesses need to supercharge their customer services!

When small businesses act like small businesses...

We’ve just returned from a family trip to the east coast. Scarborough is one of the kids favourite places to visit; great beaches, lovely shops and lots of wonderful places to eat.

As we traveled through Halifax, still a way off our destination, thoughts and rumbling tummies turned to thoughts of lunch.

Now if you’re like us, one of the things you love about the seaside is eating fish and chips while strolling across the seafront – so when we arrived in Scarborough we parked up and followed our noses to the nearest chippy!

With lots of people sitting outside tucking into fish and chips we decided this chippy looked, and smelt, as good as any, so we headed inside. Haddock or cod in crispy batter with chips, all cooked in beef dripping; childhood memories for those of us of a certain age!

The girl on the counter made no attempt to welcome us, she didn’t even ask us what we wanted – she just stood by the till staring and waiting for me to place my order.

I ordered 4 portions of cod and chips only to be told “you have to wait 5 minutes for cod” as she proceeded to enter our order into the till and take our money.

A retired couple came in and ordered 2 portions of the same and waited alongside us.

We watched as 3 fish were removed from the fryer and wrapped with chips and placed on the counter in front of us – ‘You’ll need to wait for the fourth’ I was told. John and the kids went outside with their lunch and I waited another 7 minutes for mine – because the next two from the fryer were wrapped and handed to the couple who came in after us!!


We’d just arrived on our holidays so I didn’t want to start by complaining, but the customer service was awful – and the fish and chips weren’t that much better either.

Throughout our stay, we had similar experiences in many places – not all I’d like to point out, some were lovely. I understand what it must be like, peak season, to be stuck indoors working while we’re all enjoying our hols and the sunshine, but there really isn’t any excuse not to smile and be pleasant to people.

Midweek the kids fancied pizza – so we decided on Pizza Express.

It was busy when we arrived at 6.15 so the greeter apologised and asked if we could return at 7.30 and she would have a table ready for us. Although hungry, the kids were happy as we spent the next hour or so, and a considerable amount of money, in the arcades and strolled along the seafront. Arriving back at 7.30 we were greeted in a friendly manner, shown to our table and had a lovely meal with excellent service. 

These guys were rushed off their feet, and had been all evening, yet they took the time to make our visit an experience. Nothing was too much trouble and we left a healthy tip!

So what’s the difference?

The difference is all down to staff training – Pizza Express know they aren’t the cheapest place to eat across the sea front but it’s all about the experience, so they focus on good food, great customer services and they train their staff well.

If small businesses think like small businesses and don’t put emphasis on the customer experience they will continue to lose out to the larger chains.  Food for thought?

We think so!

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