WHSmith has been ranked as the UK’s worst retailer in a nationwide survey of shoppers by Which? members.

They were criticised for offering poor value for money, unhelpful staff and cramped, messy and dirty stores. I can personally vouch for this and I think it’s sheer luck that they have survived for so long. A recent focus on outlets in railway stations and airports has saved them from going under, simply because they have a captive market in these areas.

Other retailers such as Homebase and Sports Direct didn’t fare much better and were criticised by customers saying that they couldn’t find anything on overcrowded shelves and it was difficult to find staff for guidance. Sports Direct’s criticism was primarily focused on having a very oppressive atmosphere.

THE BEST RETAILERS

Richer Sounds, Rohan and John Lewis topped the ranks at the other end of the spectrum. Customers praised Richer Sounds for its ‘stellar’ customer service and in-store experience. Shoppers noted that they appreciated staff going the extra mile by carrying their goods to their cars and the store paying for parking charges. Rohan and John Lewis were highly rated for reliability and trusted products.

This survey is quite timely given that the future of the high street is hanging in the balance with many high-profile brands announcing a raft of store closures and falling in to administration.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

In an era where everything is much the same, exemplary customer service sets a brand apart from its competitors. I wrote about the importance of great customer service, and it is something that cannot be ignored if firms want to thrive and have a future.

Every business has to be customer-centric to succeed. This is no exaggeration given that consumers are becoming increasingly savvy and are more than willing to slate firms on forums such as Google Reviews, TripAdvisor and Trustpilot. Potential consumers often check these platforms before committing to making a purchase.

Bad experiences travel much faster than good experiences and firms will struggle to have a future if they do not focus on staff training, being customer-focused and going the extra mile.

Furthermore, fobbing customers off with blatant lies and trying to muddy the waters on consumer rights can only exacerbate a firm’s future problems as consumers are more aware of their rights now than ever before and will often swallow up as much time, money and resources as it takes to seek redress.

GET IT RIGHT

My advice to firms is to try and get it right first time. In the event that something goes wrong, make sure your staff are fully equipped and trained to put things right by telling the truth, being straightforward and polite and not hide behind a raft of legalese jargon and lies to fob them off.

By doing this you can restore a customer’s faith and trust in your brand, improve customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and increase sales.

That’s a win-win for everyone. Not really that difficult is it? Except it is in the UK, and I specialise in slicing through everything based on a lifetime of having to deal with rogue firms and shoddy service over the years.

Do you think WHSmith deserved that accolade? Can you think of any other firms that beat WHSmith on being the worst retailer in the UK?

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