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For Tejal Modhvadiya and Suraj Agath, customer service is everything. They tell Priyanka Jethwa how they’ve adapted their store to serve their community’s needs
Located in the peaceful parish of Rutland, on the outskirts of Leicester, Whissendine Village Store & Post Office has been serving the community since 2015 with the sole intention of providing the best customer service to its residents.
Owned by couple Tejal Modhvadiya and Suraj Agath, who took over the running of the store from their family in May, the pair have transformed the once quaint store into the heart of the village, so much so that even the locals know their Friday night curry menu by heart.
“When we took over, we knew that customer service was what was going to differentiate us from the rest. The first step was to expand our bakery selection by adding more cakes and doughnuts,” says Tejal.
“We then installed a coffee machine selling freshly ground coffee for £1.50. The coffee machines alone increased footfall by 20%. It’s really popular in the morning.”
But they didn’t stop there. Suraj adds that since they obtained permission from the council to add a parking bay in front of their store, footfall increased by a further 10%.
“We have a primary school near us, as well as a lot of passing trade, so the parking bay is helpful for those who want to pop in and out. It also makes the lives of parents and carers picking up their children easier, especially after school, as they can park for up to 20 minutes,” Suraj explains.
Being based in a village, Tejal says it’s easy to get to know everyone, so when they first took over, they immediately set up shop save accounts for regular customers.
We increased our footfall by 10% after we were granted permission for parking spaces in front of our store
“Some customers pay in advance and some people pay on the day. These customers are great because they are loyal. If they can’t pick up a paper on that specific day, we keep it for them until they can,” she says.
Another reason why they have successfully acquired loyal customers is because of the additional services the store provides, including having a Post Office counter and offering freshly cooked curries on Friday nights.
Tejal says despite nearby towns, such as Oakham, having a Post Office, most residents still prefer to come into their store to use the service to avoid long queues.
“We introduced Friday Night Curries, where people can chose what they want off the menu and place their order during the week, and then pick it up on Friday at 5pm. The curries are freshly made at home on the day.
“We normally offer a chicken curry and a vegetarian option, alongside sides like roti,” says Suraj.
With each curry costing £7.50, he says it is very profitable addition to the shop. Plus, the pair have struck a deal with a nearby caravan site to list them as a local takeaway service, which also helps with footfall and promoting the store to more potential customers.
It’s easy to see that their business strategy revolves around offering the best customer service from the relationships they have with their shoppers, but Tejal says it’s also important that the business strives to be as sustainable as possible.
“We added a reduced section near the till where foods near their best-by date are sold for less. This has allowed us to reduce the waste in store,” she adds.
Tejal says they would like to extend their frozen range, a category that is continually gaining popularity as more shoppers are looking for quick and convenient meal solutions. “This will be our biggest challenge in the short term, and we’ll need to find a way to streamline our chilled section to make room for frozen,” she adds
Looking to the future, Suraj says they would like to extend the store space. “This will ultimately be the long-term plan, but for now, we’re keen on finding ways to continue to provide the best service to our customers,” he concludes.