Last night I settled down to watch Mary Portas’ new programme on Mystery Shopping and watched as Mary began to in her words trying and fix Britain’s “broken customer service”.

The show focused on the fast fashion retailers, H&M, New Look etc and Mary went into the stores wearing a microphone, hidden camera and a wig.  The results were not really surprising for anyone who has ever shopped in these stores.

The stores themselves were messy and disorganised and the staff appeared at best disinterested and at worst frankly rude.

Interestingly there were no positives to come out of any of Mary’s visits.  In our many years of delivering customer service training courses we have always found that there is an exception in every situation, whether this is the 16 year old Saturday assistant who really cares or the temp who is simply a natural.  I suspect that even if there were some very positive people or interactions these might have been edited out as they did not fit with the shows overall premise.

As the show progressed Mary focused on working with the CEO of Pilot stores, a rising star in this industry, and looked at their customer service provision.  First of all what was really surprising was the staff had been given no customer service training at all, be this formal or informal.  Much of the management appeared to be carried out over the phone and a customer service mission statement of sorts was pinned to none other than the back of a toilet door.

We have said before on this blog that your customers will feel the way your staff are treated.  Never has this been more apparent than when the staff from Pilot’s Braintree store went to work in a new concept fast food restaurant called Leon.  Here the staff are energetic and “buzzing”, and management are regularly at the store motivating and encouraging.

When given the opportunity to shine the Pilot staff were excellent, bright, bubbly and full of life.  A really stark contrast to their behavior in their own stores where they were flat and lifeless.  After this exercise the boss of Pilot said “well it is clear we have selected the right staff” but he couldn’t quite join the dots up between recruiting the right people and then ensuring they get the right training.

Finally something which passed by almost unnoticed was that in the store in Braintree the fancy purple lighting that was supposed to adorn the counter had long since broken.  This had been noticed and raised by the staff but nothing had been done about it by the management.  For me there is a direct correlation between this lack of care for the building which rubs off on the staff and in turn manifests itself in bad, or in Mary’s words, broken customer service.