We devised a ‘GREAT’ customer service principle and train our staff accordingly. It’s a handy aide memoire, where each letter stands for a particular aspect of our service.

As you would expect upon entering one of the shops G is for ‘Greet’ the customer. This of course is much easier, with fewer of them present, but even with a busy shop it is possible. We train our staff to acknowledge the customer by making eye contact or sending a big smile across the room.

R stands for ‘Read’ the customer. Not every customer is the same and wants to be approached to a cookie-cutter format. At first, the shy and hesitant prefer to hover around the edges, browse at leisure and be mostly left alone. Someone arriving in a hurry for a speedy lunchtime snack may not want to hear the full menu of cake-decorating classes also on offer. Others delight in giving their exuberant persona a full airing. They want to be responded to accordingly - charmed, loved, entertained and of course served with utmost attention.

What really makes a difference to a customer’s experience is ‘Exceeding their expectations’, so it is rather handy there’s an E in GREAT. Recently a customer’s birthday cake order went AWOL. Yet by trying to solve the riddle of the missing cake, those dealing with the situation misread the significance of the event it was meant for and upset the customer in the process. Definitely not an E!

It’s never too late to make amends, as even a disappointed customer can be turned around. Besides a full refund, a voucher to the same value usually restores the customer’s confidence. Offering a staggering centrepiece for another occasion actually exceeds their wildest expectations and is not that much of a cost to us.

There’s always an opportunity to offer ‘Additional’ products and that’s what we get with the A. Some might call it up-selling, but offering additional product does not have to be as cold-blooded as the word sounds. There is a fine art to it; it could be a simple recommendation of a complementary product, pointing out a special deal, highlighting a new product that the customer may not have noticed, or perhaps telling them a story of what others have bought alongside their chosen item. If it’s a celebrity customer that can be woven into the exchange, it’s better still.

Thank you

No transaction is complete without offering the receipt and more importantly a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ or the letter T.

One would expect GREAT service in smaller or village shops, but there’s no guarantee. Some proprietors are amazing at making things but might not realise the importance of the service aspect that should go hand in hand. The soft power and loyalty some carefully directed engagement with a customer can yield is priceless.

I have noticed it first-hand in my same local supermarkets, operated by the same chain - one I can combine with a dog walk. I can tie the mutt up outside while I scramble for a few groceries and get glumly passed through the checkout. The other is a lively 24-hour affair, constantly under pressure from hordes of commuters, yet the staff are keen to help and, at the checkout, they manage to engage in a little small talk despite the chaos.

Too much barking… I know where I prefer to spend my pounds.