You don’t have to be Posh to be Proficient

Marks and Spencer is celebrating 125 years and rightly  prides itself on its customer service. As a boy I can remember the days in Glasgow in the late 60s and 70s when many of their assistants and especially the supervisors were formidable blue rinse women who spoke in  Glasgow’s poshest accent (Kelvinside).

Whether they were from Kelvinside (where a crash and a crèche could easily be confused), or not, they felt they had to act as if they were! They had to meet the expectations of the customer. They were also highly engaged and proud, strutting about like duchesses in their green St Michael uniforms.

Today  In a an outer London M&S when offered a carrier bag, I asked if M&S was still carrying out its much admired policy of charging for carrier bag use. The assistant a whey faced, unengaged girl just mutely looked at me. I asked her again and she shrugged her shoulders and looked downward.

I left concerned. Don’t get me a wrong it’s difficult to engage everyone and staff can’t be watched all the time.  I don’t expect her to have studied the environmental policy in depth, and to have known her store’s carbon footprint, but it was a brand tarnishing experience.

It leaves me reflecting on how you can ensure that front line staff really deliver your brand promise without them sounding as reluctantly polite as automated railway announcements, or as withdrawn as moody teenager at a disco. It’s also about making sure that staff have at least rudimentary product knowledge. How do Line mangers review and monitor issues like these without disengaging employees.

Answers on a retro 1970s postcard please.

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