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91% of shoppers will return if customer service is good, Cambridge BID survey finds

Customer service is essential for the future of the high street, a survey by Cambridge Business Improvement District has shown.

Ian Sandison at the sixth Cambridge BID Awards evening held at St John's College, Cambridge. Picture: Richard Marsham
Ian Sandison at the sixth Cambridge BID Awards evening held at St John's College, Cambridge. Picture: Richard Marsham

It revealed that 91 per cent of shoppers are likely to return to a local business if they receive good service, with 42 per cent describing it as essential in their decision-making.

The BID questioned 542 people about their shopping habits against the backdrop of ongoing threats to the high street from online shopping.

Some 74 per cent of respondents said they shopped in Cambridge at least once a month, with 92 per cent also shopping online - mainly for gifts (78 per cent) and clothing (73 per cent), but also groceries (36 per cent).

Just under half of respondents use click and collect to pick up web purchases from businesses in Cambridge.

And 65 per cent of respondents said they visit the city at least once a month to dine in local restaurants and eateries.

Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge BID, said: “Although Cambridge regularly tops the ‘vibrant cities’ charts, online shopping remains an ongoing challenge: it’s available 24/7, it’s convenient and prices are highly competitive due to lower overheads. Every high street across the UK is trying to work out how best to adapt.”

The survey suggested customer service may be a way for businesses to combat the threat of online shopping.

“Web-based stores are impersonal. They can’t provide the personal service and attention to deal that is available on the high street,” said Ian.

“Our survey shows that excellent service, from staff who know their products and show genuine interest in helping their customers, will encourage the holy grail of repeat business.”

Forty per cent of businesses reported that revenue was down on last year, but 38 per cent said turnover was level with 2018 figures or up. Some 61 per cent of businesses expected trading to improve or stay the same this year.

Parking was a key concern: 96 per cent of respondents wished to see a reduction in parking costs and 74 per cent of these view it as a priority issue.

Cambridge BID developed a mystery shopping and training programme to help more than 150 local businesses how to bolster their customer service.

Afterwards, businesses are given bespoke feedback and a personalised report, together with the opportunity to sign up for a specialist training course.

Ian Sandison, chairman of Cambridge BID. (13853896)
Ian Sandison, chairman of Cambridge BID. (13853896)

Harriet Kelsall, founder and chair of Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery Design, one of five overall winners in 2018, said: “Being mystery-shopped by Cambridge BID was great for us. The team relished the feedback and were very motivated by the positive comments about their customer service. Our high score gave us a great marketing opportunity and it also gives potential customers the confidence to buy from us.”

Cambridge businesses achieved an average score of 85 per cent last year, higher than the national average of 81 per cent, making it one of the top UK locations assessed by Storecheckers.

Ian said: “Our mystery shop participants see it as a priority to put smiles on their customers’ faces, training staff to deliver excellent service and a great experience. We’re working together to ensure that, across the city, customers feel well looked after and valued – because we all want the high street to thrive long into the future.”

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