Independents and customer service

Not for the first time I’ve tried to support our local independent retailers, but unfortunately not for the first time they’ve come up short.

The task in hand was to buy a new mattress. Now thinking about it, it’s not the sort of thing you buy every day, is it? One in-store poster suggested we should all be changing our mattresses every 8 years, and I figured the one in question we’d had for at least 10 years, if not longer, so its days really were numbered.

So you’d have thought that with such an infrequent purchase cycle we’d have been jumped on by the nearest assistant as soon as we entered the shop. Not so. Now it wasn’t as if they were particularly busy that afternoon either. In fact there were no other customers in there when we arrived and none came in during the 15 minutes of so we were in there looking around. The shop wasn’t small either, having full displays on two good sized floors.

The assistant eventually came over to us but didn’t really seem to understand what to do.

“Who is the mattress for?”

“What size bed is it?”

“Do you have any preferences for type of mattress?”

“Do you have a budget in mind?”

“Have you looked at any of the items we have in our 25% off sale?”

These might have been just some of the questions we were asked, but unfortunately none of these were.


customer service

It was left to us to sort of interrogate the sales assistant to get some basic information out of her. Unfortunately it got worse. Her answers were vague and unclear, so that when I asked how long their offer was running she could only say that “Oh, it might still be on at the weekend.” Although we managed to find something suitable that was in stock and was also in the sale (remember the one that might or might not finish at the weekend) we left the shop feeling that we really hadn’t been served at all.

With a bit of time on our hands that afternoon we jumped back in the car and drove to an out of town Retail Park where we found a national bedding retailer. The assistant was the exact opposite of the lady in the first shop. She was quick, friendly and knowledgeable and pointed out details of their latest sale – all without being pushy. Not only that but we were able to choose a mattress at an even better price than the one we had intended to buy in the first shop. (The mattress itself was delivered for free just a few days ago).

The point of this story is that whilst we might want to support our local independents they do have to make a bit of an effort to serve us. We accept that they probably can’t compete on product range, or on price, and although they may be able to play the local card that really isn’t enough. I would argue that they have to give more attention to customer service. I wasn’t expecting to be wowed, but I wasn’t expecting a ‘self-service’ approach either, after all I can get that online.

So unfortunately for them the chain store multiple got the sale. I’m sure I’ll give other local independents a try, but for a new mattress, well in our case they’ll have to wait for at least another 8 years.

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