How British companies are becoming the new masters of customer service excellence

28 October 2015 -


The Americans have always been regarded as the masters of great customer service. But, as these three customer-obsessed UK companies show, the centre of gravity for customer satisfaction may be moving…

Michael Heppell, guest blogger

The best customer service stories used to come from over the pond, but now all that’s changing with some brilliant British businesses who are wowing their clients and giving the Americans a run for their money.

UK-based Red Carnation Hotels are leading the way in the service stakes, recently taking four of the coveted positions in the 2015 Condé Nast Traveller 100 Best Hotels and Resorts in The World reader’s choice awards.

Their flagship Milestone Hotel in Kensington is delighting travellers (especially Americans) with their amazing levels of care. For example, every guest’s preferences are researched – even if they are a first-time visitor – so that staff can provide ‘TNTs’ – Tiny Noticeable Touches. Be it a favourite soap or a rare bottle of wine. If it’s important to the guest, they’ll make it happen.

Andrew Pike, the Milestone’s General Manager explained how their philosophy of ‘No request too large no detail too small’ can be tested to the limits by confident customers who know what they want.

“In the past 12 months we have had two requests for a piano to be installed in guest suites. Something that most hotels would say ‘no’ to for a variety of reasons (guest noise complaints, potential damage to furnishings etc),” he said. “On both occasions we arranged this as it was especially important for these guests – it involved taking doors off hinges, moving furniture to accommodate and also being careful with our room allocations for other guests.”

Fine jewellers Boodles are as quintessentially British as afternoon tea. The 217-year-old family business is steeped in history; they design and make stunning jewellery and host some of the best social events in the calendar. But it’s their level of customer service that sets them apart.

Jamie Bennett, the manager of Boodles’ flagship Bond Street store told me how they ensure lifelong loyalty in an increasingly competitive global market. “I recently flew to Hong Kong to take a client to lunch”, he said. This particular client had wanted a rare Patek Philippe watch. When Boodles were allocated one, Jamie decided to deliver it, personally.

“That particular client could source Patek watches from anywhere in the world but I know he will always buy from us, he’s a customer and a friend.”

Boodles are famous for making the sometimes stuffy world of buying fine jewellery relaxed, fun and accessible to everyone. “We spend huge amounts of time, money and energy on training our staff to engage with customers at a higher level,” explained Nicholas Wainwright, the chairman of the company. “We want everyone who visits a Boodles store to have a joyful experience. Whether it’s to buy a million-pound necklace, try on an engagement ring or simply to browse. Everyone will feel very special in Boodles.”

But you don’t need to be a 5-star hotel or luxury jeweller to give amazing service. Brilliant Bikes is a Surrey-based cycle shop that specialises in everything to do with Brompton folding bicycles. With more than 1,000 reviews on Trust Pilot, its remarkable 9.8 out of 10 score makes it one of the top-rated businesses in the world.

Brilliant Bikes founder Andy Page summed up how they built their reputation: “We focus on lots of small successes rather than big stories. We always do what we say we will do, so if we say free 1st Class shipping, that’s what we’ll do – no excuses. We look for ways to help cyclists get more from their bike. If a customer turns up at the shop early, we open early. When someone phones, they get a human. It’s not rocket science is it?”

Brilliant Bikes, Boodles and Red Carnation Hotels are a snapshot of the amazing organisations who are living and breathing outstanding customer service. They understand the lifetime value of a customer and have moved from simple transactional business to building customer love and loyalty.

Michael Heppell is a business speaker and author of the new third edition of 5 Star Service, the UK’s best-selling Customer Service book by a British author, published by Pearson, priced £12.99.

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