A caring and committed approach to customers and staff, combined with a sturdy development strategy, makes Premier Broadway Convenience Store a winner.

Customer service - you can’t succeed without it, but if you really want to excel then there needs to be a lot more to it than a fleeting hello to everyone who walks through the door, as Edinburgh retailers Dennis and Linda Williams know only too well.

The duo scooped the Best Customer Service award at the recent Convenience Retail Awards, and there are no end of examples of employees at their Premier Broadway Convenience Store going the extra mile for customers. Staff guide elderly customers round the store and make time to have a bit of banter with younger shoppers, too.

They not only deliver shopping for less mobile customers, but pay bills at the post office for them, pick up their prescriptions, and post letters. And they even read out food labels for partially sighted customers. “One gentleman has a white stick,” says Linda. “He comes in every day for a Pepsi Max and a sandwich. We read out all the flavours for him as he likes to know his options, but he nearly always chooses tuna!”

These are just a few of the many ways that the Williams and their staff bend over backwards for their customers. But this commendable ethos hasn’t just evolved by chance. It is the result of a continual strategy involving bespoke training, supervision, encouragement and unwavering dedication.

From the second they are in the store, new recruits are told what is expected of them, and their social skills are put to the test in a four-hour till trial. “We’ve stopped advertising for staff - we try to hand pick instead,” says Linda. “Whenever we’re interviewing anyone for a job, I’ll always observe them on the till as part of the process. No matter how technically minded someone is, they have to be able to stand at the till and chat.”

If people have the drive and the social skills, the rest can be taught, states Linda. Take Jack, a troubled 16-year-old the couple took on when no one else would give him a chance. Dennis was unwell one day, so Linda asked local lad Jack if he would mind unloading the delivery van. He proved himself worthy of more responsibility, so she took him on permanently and he hasn’t looked back since.

Says Linda: “Jack can barely read and write, but I’ve put him on an NVQ and he’s so keen to get there and enhance his skills. It’s really heart-warming.”

The couple go far beyond the basics, though, even employing an outside company to independently survey both staff and customers to learn how to improve their performance. The most recent staff survey asked staff what the most satisfying aspects of their jobs were what areas of the job they felt they brought special skills to and whether or not they felt appreciated. Shoppers were asked whether or not staff did a good job whether they up-sold and why they chose to shop at the store.

Linda and Dennis then held a meeting at their home to give staff the results. “Whenever we do customer surveys, staff always come out really well,” says Dennis. “We’ve seen growth in the business over the past two years and a lot of that is to do with good customer service, as well as good ranging and merchandising.”

Linda explains that the meetings also help to decide protocols where there is any doubt and give staff an opportunity to air concerns. “It is a chance for staff to talk about what they bring to the job, and to understand different people’s impressions and to address any misconceptions,” says Linda.

Ensuring a happy ship is only half the battle, though. An ongoing schedule of events is also crucial. The store regularly gives out free samples and holds tastings, and even puts on a barbecue in the summer. A whole week of activities takes place every year to celebrate the My Shop is Your Shop campaign, including a Cuppa Day with free tea, scones and crumpets a Community Day, where customers can meet their local environmental and community wardens and a Fun Day featuring local musicians and performers.

One of the most talked about events is a competition where one lucky shopper wins a one-minute trolley dash around the store. “People always want to know how the trolley dash went - who did it, what products they picked up,” says Linda. “We videoed the last one and played it on a loop in-store.” The video is also available to view on the store’s website.

And despite the Olympics not being particularly popular in Scotland, Dennis and Linda still hope to engage their customers. “We’re planning promotional activity with P&G, Cadbury and Coke,” says Linda. “We’re getting the Winter Olympics torch here through Cadbury, so that’s bound to create some excitement. We’re tying it in with a healthy eating day to go with the sports and health and fitness theme.”

Linda and Dennis’ ability to co-ordinate such a varied agenda of activity, while constantly developing their workforce’s talents, is what makes Premier Broadway such a success. This is a store that truly inspires its employees, and considers its shoppers. “The most important people in our store are the customers,” says Dennis. “They’re the jewel in the crown.”■

Best Customer Service

Winner: Premier Broadway Convenience Store

The judges were blown away by Linda and Dennis’ commitment to continually improving their customer service. Staff go out of their way to help the elderly and infirm, and are well aware of the importance of tailoring their approach to the needs of different customers. This is in many ways thanks to their employers’ impressive training programme, which ensures staff are always on top of their game.

“Customers are treated to an exciting programme of store events, and the store’s vibrant atmosphere clearly rubs off on everyone who shops there,” said award sponsor Today’s Group.

” Staff are great here. They always offer to help me. It’s handy to shop here and you know you are going to be looked after “

Peter Smith, 72

” It’s very handy for me to come here. The staff are really good - they always say hello when I pop in and they’re happy to help me find a product if I can’t spot it “


Doreen Costello, 76

” It’s a local store with good quality food and a friendly atmosphere. The shop always gives back to the community, so I like to come here rather than the supermarkets “


Naomi Lindsay, 31