Getting customer service right

Getting Customer Service Right

Customer service is much more than the interaction of serving a customer and satisfying their needs. Customer feedback in Focus Groups suggests most dissatisfaction comes from areas least expected.


Bill Brett writes
Good customer service is best defined as ‘making customers feel good – giving them the warm fuzzies’. Not as easy as it sounds  because it means incorporating a huge list of factors:

First, good service takes on board all the factors involved in the three main drivers of buying behaviour: 


  • Car parking
  • Paved walkways
  • Good Signage
  • Easy to use trolleys
  • Assisting to the car  
  • Bootliners
  • Delivery 
  • Toilets
  • Refreshments
  • Seats
  • Potting up service
  • Design service
  • Umbrellas



5YearGuarantee2.jpgPriced at perceived good value. Achieved by:

  • Being competitive on known value lines
  • Signs which create a perception of value 
  • Frequent promotions




  • Design service
  • Display concepts
  • Demonstrations
  • Garden Classes 


Second, to deliver good service we must start by eliminating all practices that are known to, or likely to annoy customers and leave a bad taste. Common reasons listed by customers for changing allegiance and shopping elsewhere include:


  • Rigorous unbending rules
  • Queues
  • Restrictions on payment methods (credit cards not accepted)
  • Discount restrictions and limitations
  • Onerous delivery rules / charges
  • No price on products
  • No labels or adequate information
  • Advertised product difficult to find or not available
  • Plant / product guarantee limitations or restrictions and slow resolution
  • Opening hours
  • Loyalty programmes - 
    • Discount restrictions
    • Redemption restrictions / difficulties
    • Lack of transparency for rewards systems
    • Unfriendly newsletters –too wordy, too technical



  • Slow service
  • Rude or indifferent staff
  • Being ignored
  • Making assumptions
  • Pushy sales people
  • Lack of product knowledge


Most bad customer experiences occur at the check out and usually are centred on price, payment, credits, vouchers, discounts, redemptions, loyalty programme benefits, and slow service.


Commonly rules and systems are put in place for the benefit of the garden centre – not the customer. These rules are usually to save the garden centre cost or to save them from being disadvantaged by the odd unreasonable scheming customer. Unfortunately the rules upset the majority, creating a very negative perception of your business.


Therefore it is essential that:

  1. All onerous, unbending rules are eliminated – keep it simple
  2. All check out staff are friendly, personable, fast and efficient
  3. All check out staff fully understand company policy and are empowered to keep the customer happy


And a few more tips:

  • Resolve complaints quickly – to the customer's satisfaction
  • Offer rewards not bribes
  • Involve children, encourage and be kind to them  

Footnote: Loyalty programmes are a marketing tool for the purpose of improving customer satisfaction and loyalty, but in many many cases, the programme has the opposite effect by upsetting customers through lack of transparency and numerous rules and restrictions. We have assisted a number of garden centres to exit or re-construct a loyalty programme to improve customer loyalty so it becomes a win win for customers and the garden centre.