A Tale of Two Businesses!

The following is my experience of two businesses after a trip to Brighton this week for one night. My girlfriend and I stayed at a lovely B&B for her birthday, and also went shopping for the two days we were there. The two businesses in question are the B&B we stayed at ‘The Twenty One‘ and a clothes brand called ‘White Stuff‘. They are not in competition with each other, but one could learn lots from the other as you will hopefully learn.

A Welcoming Smile For Your Customer

The Twenty One – We arrived and were asked to leave our luggage as it would be taken to our room for us and offered tea and coffee. The welcome we received was warming, not overly exaggerated so it sounded false. The owners, Matt and Andy, knew it was our first visit so we were given a guide to the B&B and a map showing local points of interest. They took interest in what we had planned for our stay and recommended places to eat.

White Stuff – We entered the shop and there were three staff on the shop floor mainly hanging out by the till point. My girlfriend and I made our way round the store and not once were we welcomed or asked if we would like any help. This could be our first time in a White Stuff store, I could be a seasoned regular, a mystery shopper sent from head office, or Stuart Wooster who is now writing a a blog post comparing your service 😉

Appreciate The Customers You Have

The Twenty One – As standard there is a breakfast tray stacked up with goodies (please see the pic to the left) and everything supplied to make our stay as comfortable and hassle free as possible such as iron and ironing board, hair dryer, toiletries, fridge cooler stocked with water and more. Matt and Andy have thought of everything possible to help you enjoy your stay and make you feel wanted. It is obvious they want you to feel welcome and they appreciate you choosing their B&B over the many other options in the city. Also, when we went to our room there was a card and box of Thornton’s premium box of chocolates for my girlfriend’s birthday, how sweet!

White Stuff – Of course White Stuff don’t know it is my girlfriend’s birthday as they have not even spoken to us (maybe their central marketing department do, but that is besides the point). This next action really got my back up and is the reason for this sub-title… There was a manager/supervisor on the shop floor, who asked some of the staff to attend to stock out back (if I remember correctly), and then he took a phone call. I assume the phone call was from another store or business associate from the nature of the conversation, which went something like this:

It is so nice that is quiet as it just gives me some space to think and breath with everything that has been needed to be done, ‘Project A’ and ‘whatever else has been taking up the poor manager’s time recently’. So yeah this wedding has allowed me some time to catch my breath.

Meanwhile my girlfriend is taking a second look at a top I pointed out to her on our first pass through the store, and still no one is paying attention to the only customers in the shop. By this point I’m thinking “You don’t appreciate the customers you have and they should be your priority at all times.” It is hard enough to get a customer through the door, let alone speak out loud in an area that your customer can hear every word and then understands that for today you want to kick your heels back and relax.

Always Add Value To Your Service

The Twenty One – Where do I start? There was use of DVDs which we could access at any time we felt like watching a movie or series in our room which had a flatscreen LCD with built-in DVD player. The complimentary wine or beer provided in the dining area before we left the B&B in the evening and also the plate of mini cakes that we found in the room after returning from the shops in the afternoon. The cooked breakfast was of a high standard and my girlfriend had Dorset Cereals with yoghurt, her favourite!

White Stuff – As the day we visited the store was when the Royal Wedding was taking place, it did seem like the staff had thought of a way of joining in the celebrations and creating an atmosphere. Unfortunately they were not using the idea effectively as the jug of Pimms, selection of pretty cakes and cheese straws were sitting on the table tucked away to the side by the entrance unused. My girlfriend loves Pimms too! By this point though I was fed-up with eaves dropping on the conversation on the phone and the lack of service so I beelined for the door cheesed off and seeing the unused food as the final straw (all puns intended).


Every contact you have with a customer is the chance to show that your company shines. I can’t ever imagine Matt or Andy at The Twenty One thinking “Today I will kick my heels back and relax because this week has been so hectic with more than usual happening.”
Maybe as true small business owners they know they can’t afford to do that, where as the employees at White Stuff know that they will get paid their wage packet no matter what.
Having worked in clothes retail I understand that there is a need to do other work at times that customers distract you from, and I’ll be truthful, being a sales assistant/advisor is bloody hard work! But if your focus is not on helping every customer who walks through the door, you are not the right person for the job. That may sound harsh, but I don’t believe in hard sell, just simply being there, engaging in a conversation and giving five minutes of your time makes the world of difference to the contact you make with your potential customer. They may not leave via the checkout, but if they leave knowing that they can communicate with you, then there is a better chance they will come back.

Two businesses, two marketplaces, two potential outcomes. The one outcome you always want is a happy customer no matter what. It is down to you to make is happen, but start with these very simple three basic ideas as I outlined above to help you achieve that outcome:

  1. Engage with a warm welcome.
  2. Appreciate the customer and their needs.
  3. Add extra value (or surprises) to your service.

After the recent fiasco with the kitchen floor that induced 10 Bad Habits That Will Hurt Your Business! post, it is nice to see a small business such as The Twenty One setting a high standard for others to follow no matter what size your business is.

If you enjoyed this post subscribe to the blog for free updates!

I do not share Email addresses, simple!

6 Responses to A Tale of Two Businesses!
  1. Gavin Ryan
    April 30, 2011 | 4:22 pm

    Hi Stuart,

    You got it spot on. I am fed up with some of the muppets you get in some shops! It’s easy engage be happy and never push a sale!

    Nice post.

    • Stuart
      April 30, 2011 | 4:40 pm

      That is certainly what it is all about, engage and relate to the customer. A good read about engaging and goes back to the basics of ‘Marketing’ is Scott Stratten’s book called Unmarketing.

      Thanks for stopping by Gavin!

  2. Sue Portman
    May 4, 2011 | 9:51 am

    So unusual for Brighton! My sister Vicki and I took a trip down there a few weeks back – in practically every shop we went into we were greeted cheerfully and chattily – no hint of salesy hassle, just genuine interest and friendliness.

    Mostly these were the small, privately run shops in the Lanes, but some of the bigger ones were equally welcoming. Not all, but most.

    Set Mary Portas on them – she’ll sort them out! 😉

  3. looloo
    May 18, 2011 | 8:00 pm

    I have to say I went into White Stuff in Chichester recently where the staff are usually very good, but it was the same scenario … a table laid out with goodies to entice and keep the customer in the shop .. but no one offering them out and us Brits too polite to just help ourselves ! 😉
    I love it when I go into l’occitane and they give me a free glass of cheap bubbly, and definitely spend more in the shop on thos occasions 🙂

    • Stuart
      May 18, 2011 | 8:30 pm

      Been a few weeks now and White Stuff’s head office have not replied back to my Email I sent either…

  4. looloo
    May 18, 2011 | 8:01 pm

    PS .. I would recommend staying at The Twenty-One to aneveryone .. lovely place indeed !

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL http://stuartwooster.com/tale-of-two-businesses/trackback