Great Customer Service… the Mary Portas way

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I love Mary Portas. I love her style, her no-nonsense approach and her business savvy. What I’ve loved about her latest series, Mary Portas: Secret Shopper, is that she’s moved beyond the shop environment and into the customers’ world.

It’s been a one-woman crusade to change the way people in Britain shop: raising our expectations of what the shopping experience should be all about and raising the bar on customer service.

And what’s been the secret to great customer service, according to Mary? Her main point is that understanding what your customers want and giving them the service that they want is all about great listening.

And, IMHO, that holds true whether you are selling a product or delivering a service to a client.

Being on a bit of a soapbox myself about effective listening (see 1 February blog, Are you really listening?), I thought I’d pick out a couple of Mary Mantras from last week’s episode, where she talks about great customer service to Fone House staff.

The most important thing is the question… You’re assuming. You’re not listening, you’re telling. And that is the problem all the time

Mary, when talking to ‘H’, self-styled ‘Mr Big’, Larmborghini driver and owner of a Fone House franchise

Maybe when you feel you’ve got to do the sale, [that’s what creates] the pressure. Whereas, if you genuinely approach the customer wanting to give them the solution because you have the knowledge, that puts you in a much more confident and powerful position.

Mary, when talking to ‘H’, self-styled ‘Mr Big’, Larmborghini driver and owner of a Fone House franchise

People don’t want hard sell. They don’t like it. They want people to be themselves”

Mary, to a member of staff at the Islington Fone House branch

Although Mary relishes in her reputation as a tough-talker, she actually cares deeply about helping people to get it right. And if you watch her when she’s working with people, she’s not scary at all. She’s getting to know them, sympathising, asking lots of questions and putting them at their ease. Once people are in that position of trust, they are then in the best possible position to receive her specialist advice. Which, ultimately, is what great customer service is all about.

At Zomi Communications, we design and deliver communications, management and leadership programmes that inspire people to locate and release their inner excellence. We work with individuals to uncover their own style and apply it to motivate and inspire others. For further information about our training and coaching solutions, go to

To share your secrets for great customer service, tops tips for great selling and thoughts on effective listening, please comment on the blog.  Or email me at

To watch all of the Mary Portas: Secret Shopper episodes, go to and look out for this week’s episode, Wednesday 9th February, 9pm, Channel 4.

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