Customer service – Academy in Action 2019

In this week’s programme, the Post Office’s Peter Johnson meets Newcastle retailer Riki Mhatre to discuss how to improve customer service and take his store to the next level.

In the first of 12 visits, the IAA – and Post Office’s Peter Johnson – meets Newcastle retailer Riki Mhatre to discuss how to improve customer service 

Post-Office.pngIncredible customer service is the store factor that costs nothing, yet delivers bigger baskets, more frequent visits and happier staff. Retailers report that it can influence customer shopping habits more than pricing or range.

It starts with the customer’s first impression; make sure they are greeted with a smile and a warm welcome, and then, as they become regulars, know their orders, understand what’s important to them and tailor your service to them individually.

Before benchmarking, find out how Post Office’s Peter Johnson helped Riki create a customer service action plan to make loyal customers.

The retailer is already strong in customer service, helped by his enthusiastic and cheerful staff who live locally and know the community. How can the IAA help Riki make more of his brilliant team in customer service?

Name Riki Mhatre
Shop Today’s News
Location Newcastle Upon Tyne
Size 1,100sq ft
Staff Three full-time, one part-time​​​​​​​

Why I take part


I wanted to benchmark my shop with the IAA to find out what other retailers are doing that I’m not. By taking on board their great ideas, I know I can improve our customer service and my store as a whole. Part of this involves meeting our community’s need for additional services, so I was delighted Post Office could give me advice in this area.

IAA advice

Shop-Presentation.pngRiki’s challenge: Presenting his shop professionally

Since taking over the store, Riki has worked hard to change the store’s reputation from an early-open off-licence to a more community-friendly shop. He must ensure his shop is welcoming and better lit.

Peter says: “First impressions are about what customers see and feel when they come into the store, which makes it important to get the environment right. Factors such as the temperature and the lighting are key in making your customers feel comfortable and want to spend more time in your store.

Action: Improve the shopping environment by adjusting the lighting around the till area to better present the shop’s offering.

Staff-Presentation.pngRiki’s challenge: Presenting his staff professionally

Riki is considering rebranding his store with a new name and a red colour scheme. Associating the fantastic customer service skills of his employees with this new branding will help cement the store’s friendly reputation.

Peter says: “Everyone has experienced that moment when you’re in a shop and you need advice, but you’re not sure whether or not someone is a member of staff. Having recognisable uniforms can help shoppers to ask for help, even if you’re not behind the counter. It also helps to ensure a professional overall look for the store and its staff.”

Action: Purchase and introduce uniforms incorporating the store’s branding to ensure customers can identify staff.

Cusomter-service.pngRiki’s challenge: Articulate customer service expectations to staff

The service standards for staff to follow were; make money, keep the store clean and stay happy. With friendly, committed employees, much of these happen naturally, but is it clear what action these standards require?

Peter says: “Most businesses would seek to achieve the three aims outlined by Riki. The important and challenging thing is to make sure any customer service standards are measurable, and to articulate this to staff, explaining why it is important. This should be available as a document that staff can refer back to so they know what is expected.”

Action:  Write down and communicate clear customer service expectations for staff, and discuss to make sure they are understood.

Partner advice

Peter Johnson
Head of Network Development
Post Office

It was brilliant to visit Riki’s store and see how he’s transformed it from an off-licence into a more community-orientated shop that has improved the local area. He is enthusiastic and open to advice, both of which are essential to maintaining customer service.


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