Our Retailer Customer Service of the Year award at the Bridal Buyer Awards always receives a huge amount of entries – great customer service is a key selling tool so it makes sense that shops want to be recognised for the level of service that they provide.
We caught up with our five finalists and our winner to find out what they do to make sure they stand out when it comes to customer satisfaction.
Abigail’s Collection has been a fixture in Colchester for 11 years now, meaning they definitely know a thing or two about what customers want. The shop opens five days a week, but will also open up especially in the evening or when it’s usually shut to cater for brides who can’t come during the typical opening hours.
The team are also on hand to answer queries that come in from social media around the clock and answerphone messages are responded to on days when the shop is closed – they understand that customers want to know professionals are always on hand to help, and by getting a prompt response, they feel valued.
“Our brides are, quite literally, the absolute centre of our world, they are the heartbeat of our business,” says boutique owner, Abigail Neill. “We aim to wow, we strive to delight and we relentlessly chase our customers’ happiness.”
Brides are able to book completely private, VIP appointments at the boutique free of charge. They strive to ensure that every bride, no matter what their size or budget, is made to feel exceptionally special from start to finish.
When it comes to going the extra mile, the team at Abigail’s Collection go above and beyond. In the past they have delivered products to customers’ homes, collected customers from the airport and driven them to the store and they even throw bi-annual Wear Your Wedding Dress Again parties for previous clients.
To make sure the staff are all up to speed with the level of service that Abigail expects to be delivered in-store, they have a personalised training manual, consisting of ‘how-to’ guides, processes and photos to help staff understand what is expected of them.
All new starters spend their first four weeks shadowing appointments and reception to allow themselves to understand the business inside-out. All staff also attend four annual compulsory training days with external trainers and top-up training is provided every morning at company staff meetings.
What customers say: “All of the girls at Abigail’s Collection were lovely. They treated us like we were their only customers. We were never rushed and their expertise is second to none. We loved the little extras, too. Two of my bridesmaids lived far away so it was difficult to get them in the same place at the same time, but Abigail’s made sure everything went to plan with a late appointment and even an offer to meet us at the station.” Bride Rebecca Turner.
It’s not hard to see why Abigail’s Collection won our prestigious Retailer Customer Service of the Year award with an endorsement like that! We also caught up with the rest of the amazing finalists to find out how they ensure their customers always leave feeling special.
Bellissima Weddings didn’t win Retailer Customer Service of the Year, but they did scoop the prize for Long Standing Retailer of the Year – with 16 years of experience in the industry, they definitely know their clientele.
Based in Chelmsford, Bellissima Weddings is run by Laura Daly and her team and their ‘Bellissima Bible’, which all of the consultants use as a guide to customer service. They are open six days a week and offer round-the-clock contact via email or social media. “Styling advice at midnight is becoming a bit of a thing,” explains Laura. “Our customers are our brand ambassadors. They come first – everything else comes second.”
The team will deliver dresses personally to homes or venues when the situation calls for it, and will also help to dress brides on their special day if they’re needed.
Staff attend regular out-of-hours team meetings to reinforce the company ethos, and there is a team meeting every morning before the store opens too.
“Bellissima Weddings were fantastic,” reveals bride Jemma Bennett, “I had to change my dress as a friend had the same gown six weeks before my wedding. They bent over backwards to get it changed and in from the supplier in time for my big day. They were so understanding and my second dress was perfect.”
When it comes to offering amazing customer service, Creatiques Bridal Boutique have it in spades – with over 26 years’ in business, it’s fair to say they have an innate understanding of what makes for a happy customer.
Based in Southsea, the store has a reputation for making sure their customers are happy from the moment they walk through the door to when they leave – garment bag in hand. Co-owners Andrew and Robert Pearce go above and beyond to guarantee great customer service – from hosting the VIP events the shop is so famous for, to the full fashion shows at their designer events and the hair and beauty advice on offer, they cover all the bases for making clients feel special.
They offer every bride a totally unique and personalised experience, allowing them to establish a relationship built on trust with their clients. Robert and Andrew describe their current team as the best one in the shop’s history – each team member goes through a neurolinguistic training programme that has been tailored to suit them, teaching them practical techniques that will result in a happy customer.
Their team training also includes getting an in-depth knowledge of fabrics, how dresses are constructed and the delivery time on gowns, as well as an in-depth Q&A session so staff know everything about the gowns before they spend time with clients.
They really understand that it’s about going above and beyond: “Some things are out of our control, but we strive to deliver a second to none customer service to the best of our ability,” explain the team. Some examples of this include when bride-to-be and Creatiques customer Lucy was diagnosed with bowel cancer – the team travelled to hospital on the morning of her wedding to surprise her and to help her get ready with a makeup artist and hair dresser they’d arranged. What a perfect way to make a client feel cherished!
Offering appointments daily, even on public holidays, this Edinburgh boutique makes sure it is always available for their clients. Appointments are totally private too, with only one bride hosted at a time, to guarantee a luxury experience. Brides can also take advantage of the in-house alteration service too.
Owner Rachel Sneddon understands that brides want to feel special when they’re shopping for their dress: “In the past 12 months we’ve run two luxury events, starting with an intimate salon show in a five-star hotel. Clients were treated to a professional model presentation whilst our guest designer and I showcased the collection and styling options.
“Private follow-on appointments took place over the weekend, having given customers time to reflect.”
As a family business, the core values are at the heart of the company – there are monthly in-house staff training evenings, and a pre-set annual training plan focuses on areas that have been identified by staff as needing attention. Personal development is taken very seriously – bespoke training packages are designed, covering everything from jewellery making to website design.
Mystery shoppers are used to measure the level of service offered and to identify areas for improvement. The brand’s reputation is built on being flexible and prioritising the clients’ needs.
“This year we arranged to meet a client at 6.30am,” Rachel explains, “after she’d called me late the night before – just so she could show a friend her dress. Another client’s relationship broke down and we cancelled her order beyond the standard cancellation time. The welfare of our brides is our priority, so we wanted to ensure any additional stress was minimised. We offered to hold the deposit indefinitely, for the client or a friend’s future use.”
This Newcastle-upon-Tyne boutique has a company ethos centred on honesty, sincerity and quality. Every bride that visits Y.A.P Bridal receives a unique retail experience that is tailored to them.
There are a number of special out-of-hours services, including an alterations service, the ‘Your Night’ package and the ‘Y.A.P Dressing Experience’. The team are also available around the clock to clients via social media, emails or on mobile.
Y.A.P has a five-step customer service plan, which was written by boutique owner Jo Stott when she opened the boutique in 2010: “This document looks at confidentiality, ethics, duty of care, quality assurance, conduct, equality and more,” explains Jo, “Staff are trained from day one to ensure they can guide brides through their appointment, and we ensure our consultants deliver a service with quality and continuity.”
Y.A.P will always strive to go the extra mile – like when it came to bride-to-be Kelly, whose impending wedding was put on hold whilst she tried for a baby. “She asked us to store her gown for her,” explains Jo, “and her big day was rescheduled twice. Finally the date was set and she fell pregnant as the date drew nearer.”
Kelly needed a new dress to accommodate an eight-month baby bump, and Jo spotted one similar to Kelly’s original choice on a visit to a bridesmaid company. She wanted to order it, but couldn’t. However, Kelly could so the team guided her through the payment process and then did the alternations and made a custom belt for her. On the morning of her wedding, Jo made sure to ring her even though she was on holiday: “It was my utter priority to send her my love on the morning of her wedding.”
Nine to five isn’t a thing for North Yorkshire based shop The Little Pearl Bridal Boutique. They offer their clients appointments outside of normal operating hours – for consultations and fittings.
“We are always really flexible to make sure the bride is happy,” says owner Diana McCann. They have recently taken on another seamstress located just a few miles away which allows them to offer more evening appointments.
They host lots of events at The Little Pearl, including accessory events, trunk shows, sample sales and collection previews. They also cater for brides with a limited budget who still want that in-store experience – they have a ‘Sale Studio’, where brides can book appointments to visit outside of the dedicated sample events.
“We hosted a ‘Very Important Bride Appointment Day’ in conjunction with talented hair and makeup artist Catherine Elizabeth. The concept was that brides could come to the boutique, have a mini hair and makeup trial and then try dresses on. It was fully booked and our brides loved seeing their whole look in one go,” says Diana.
The Little Pearl specialises in offering brides special touches – for example, when one bride wanted a bespoke gown, the shop adapted the neckline, fabric and bow of one design to give her that custom feel. They also enlisted a local accessory designer to help with bespoke beading, working around the clock to give the bride the bespoke gown of her dreams.
What do you do to ensure your brides have a faultless customer service experience? With trust being the key factor in retail relationships, it’s more important than ever to ensure you’re providing the best service ever.
Want to find out more about the award winners and finalists? We've got everything you need to know about the Bridal Buyer Awards 2017 here!