Customer service is a crucial skill for retailers, and few are as dedicated to it as Jagjeet Hayre. Marcello Perricone reports

A decade ago, Jagjeet Hayre was working a typical ‘nine-to-five’ in DHL’s customer service team. He had always dreamed of running his own business, though, and in 2011, he took the plunge and opened Hayre Convenience Store in the Midlands village of Leicester Forest East.

“I became a retailer because I love it,” Jagjeet says. “Not just because you can be your own boss, but because you can interact with your customers directly.”

Convenience retailing requires a wide range of skills, and in those challenging early years he was able to draw on knowledge developed during his DHL days.

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“You learn a lot from that trade, such as communicating clearly and meeting targets and deadlines,” he says. He quickly realised that building personal relationships with customers was a key way to set apart his 700sq ft family business from nearby competitors.

“Customers can tell me exactly what they want, so when someone gives me a list in the morning of 15 items or so they need for a party, I’ll have it ready for them by 4pm,” he says. 

“That personal relationship is not something you get from the big shops.We have a Sainsbury’s further down and a Co-op around the corner, and people still come to me.”

The store is in a predominantly residential area and is located near several schools. Basic household and grocery products are essential, while other perennially popular items such as alcohol are vital revenue generators; Jagjeet sells around two cases of vodka a day, bringing in an average of £350 a week.

Talking with his customers has also helped Jagjeet tailor his store to the local area. A couple of years after opening, he started a delivery service, which quickly became popular with the many elderly or disabled residents living nearby. 

He also agreed to sponsor the local football club, Epworth Forest Juniors, providing funds to buy jerseys and equipment and netting an advertisement spot on their shirt. With initiatives such as these, Jagjeet has positioned his store at the heart of the local community.

Now, all those years of hard work have paid off. Sales are strong and his business was featured in 2017’s Independent Achievers Academy list of the UK’s top 100 independent stores, praised for its
customer service and clever layout.

“Not many people make it into the top 100 stores, and I’ve done it a couple of times,” Jagjeet says. “Some people have stores for 20 or 30 years before they get there. Being in the top 100 gives you an incentive to carry on and keep improving. Even if it is step-by-step, if you keep improving, you will see achievement over time.”

Chatting with customers and asking the right questions allows you to know what your audience wants, and they will keep coming back

Jagjeet continues to seek out opportunities to enhance his business model and drive sales. Most recently, he has sought to maximise the rapidly multiplying opportunities offered by digital technology for marketing, as well as developing services he thinks will benefit customers in the area.

“We use Facebook and online advertising, and we want to keep improving our work there,” he says. “I would also love to add an online click and collect service, so I’m looking into that.”

Regardless of the adaptations he makes to his store, Jagjeet’s passion for the business and his focus on customer service will remain constant. “Chatting with customers and asking the right questions allows you to know what your audience wants, and they will keep coming back. 

“That’s the main reason I opened my own business, and I’m totally satisfied with the results.”

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