Selfridges Leaves a Lasting Impression on TheIndustry.fashion Co-founder, Antony Hawman

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Antony is one of the most influential names in UK fashion and retail. Here he shares his experience of a shopping trip to Oxford Street when stores re-opened earlier this year - and the staff who made him fall in love with Selfridges all over again. 

 

 

Which brand have you picked as a great example of customer service? 

As someone who lives and breathes fashion and retail, I wanted to go out to Oxford Street on its re-opening days to support and celebrate the stores there and take a look at what was happening. There were a few examples where store staff definitely didn’t get it right that day, but the one that bowled me over and made me a very happy customer was Selfridges department store.

 

Tell us what happened on that day?

Outside, before we’d even reached the entrance queue, we were greeted by a member of the team with a ‘welcome sir’, which immediately put a smile on my face. Friendly staff were going up and down the line chatting to people, ‘how are you, what are you thinking of buying today?’ It immediately felt joyous, especially after the terrible time everyone has had in retail during Covid.

Once inside this continued, as well as everything being really well organised with hand sanitisers and the things you would expect. As we walked through the beauty department, I mentioned to my colleague that I wanted to try the new Tom Ford fragrance but assumed I wouldn’t be able to sample it due to restrictions. That’s when we were politely interrupted by a very smart member of staff who had overheard me and had clearly decided to take action! She obviously thought I would help this customer, take the samples out from behind the counter, and take them to him myself so he could try this fragrance. Completely unprompted by me!

This was a lovely example of great customer service, but it was indicative of what was going on across the store as we went around. It was obvious that Selfridges had really thought about it and knew what they were doing, giving a sense that every member of staff really wanted to do a great job for shoppers that day. It worked and I absolutely loved it. 

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Was this just a one-day wonder or was there a lasting effect?  

That’s one of the most interesting bits of the story. The way Selfridges staff behaved on re-opening day seems to have reinvigorated my relationship with the brand. I’ve always liked Selfridges but I wasn’t a regular customer. Since that day, however, I’ve been back 4 times…and I want to go more often.

On the flip side, I had quite a negative experience with some of the other stores I visited that day. Two major global brands managed to achieve the complete opposite reaction, with staff who were nonchalant and unhelpful to me as a customer. I found this quite shocking given how desperately physical stores need customers at the moment. 

 

What can retail brands can learn from this example?

Whoever is leading that strategy at Selfridges has got it to spot on. This is a huge store dealing with some really tricky Covid restrictions and a lot of staff to manage. We could see that they had the right mentality and approach to make staff feel like they want to do a great job, and they’d found a way to filter it through across the entire store. The principle of trusting and empowering staff was in this case very effective. You can put all the brand guidelines in place behind the scenes, but if it doesn’t translate in person to the staff serving customers, then it fails. 

I also think it’s a reminder to staff and managers of the wider impact of their role with customers on the shop floor. They’re at one end of a powerful chain and how they behave with every customer really matters. If I’m unhappy with how I’m treated then I stop shopping in that store, then more customers do the same and the brand starts to suffer, putting the future success of the business and jobs at risk.  If the experience is a good one, just like Selfridges, I’ll be back for more.

 

The Extra Mile is a microblog created from Critizr's Proud of My Store competition, celebrating retail stores and teams. 

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