St Stephen Street traders accorded client service award

Billy Gray is manager of The Gramophone Emporium
Billy Gray is manager of The Gramophone Emporium
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There’s no excuse for not having “a nice day” while shopping in this street – the first in Scotland to be accredited with an international accolade in customer service 

Business owners in St Stephen Street, Stockbridge, have become the first retail destination in Scotland to be recognised for their polite manner and care of customers.

Traders in the smart, “destination” crescent enrolled on the gold standard WorldHost Customer Service training programme – which was used to ready volunteers for the London Olympic Games – after a successful pilot at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

To win the accolade they had to learn a variety of skills including how to manage difficult customers, how to better welcome people with disabilities and – most importantly – how to display the sort of pleasant behaviour that ensures visitors return again and again.

Tips were also given in how to keep a client contact list, to encourage repeat business, while boutique owners also received training on how to ensure tourists are welcomed to the area.

Lynette Parker, co-owner of Cherubim, a furniture restoration shop, believes other business could benefit from the scheme. “A lot of the business owners on the street got together to discuss what we could do to try to lure more traffic down the road,” she said. “This is a fabulous, quirky little street with lots of unique shops and businesses, but it just doesn’t get the footfall. Some people who live in Stockbridge don’t even know about it!

“During the course we would be taken through scenarios, such as dealing with difficult customers, or how to make the shopping experience more pleasurable and less stressful for disabled customers. It’s really just about giving that little bit extra. The fact that all the business owners were together really took things up a notch too, we were all suggesting ideas and tips. It definitely taught me a lot.” Billy Gray, manager of The Gramophone Emporium, believes modern shoppers are more discerning and expect the sort of five-star service you’d get in a top hotel or designer tourist destination.

“I learned a lot from the course, and from the other people who work in the street,” he said of the course. “Many of the business owners didn’t really speak to each other until this really pulled us together.

“The big stores probably have training schemes but it’s not the same for smaller businesses, and this has completely changed my attitude. Frank Ross, the city’s economy leader, said Edinburgh’s global attraction means customer service standards will inevitably have to be brought up to scratch across the board.

He said: “High quality customer service is key to ensuring that your customers want to use your business again and again. This is a tremendous achievement for everyone working in the street. and this will help to put the location firmly on Edinburgh’s retail map.”