I am off to Portugal in October for a Yoga retreat with my daughter Eloise.
Apparently pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is good for you. We are subjecting ourselves to two hours of yoga each morning, and 90 minutes each evening in a women-only villa with plant-based meals, meditation, swimming and relaxation all round.
The course instructor looks like one of these impossibly bendy sorts who probably does headstands and the splits just to warm up. I am mildly terrified.
When I asked Eloise to come away with me for a girly, mum-and daughter break, I’d actually envisioned something more like a beach, a spa, sunbathing and cocktails.
A smile and polite manner makes all the difference
But here’s an example of a company that got it right. My friend’s expensive Gucci sunglasses suddenly fell apart. One arm literally fell off leaving her looking like she was wearing a pair of lorgnettes.
We looked in vain for the missing screw but it was gone.
There was a branch of Vision Express nearby which she was reluctant to go into as it was nearly closing time and she hadn’t bought her sunglasses there.
We went anyway and were served by a friendly, polite girl who’d fixed a new screw in seconds and cleaned her glasses too. When my friend asked how much she owed, she was told there was no charge. Now, that’s how you retain customers.
Poor service is the quickest way to lose customers
Round of applause for Superdrug customer service.
Picture this: Last weekend I walk into the store (which I won’t name and shame here, let’s just call it ‘local’).
I have a little mooch around, spy a nail varnish and decide to buy it on impulse. So I approach the till, wallet in hand.
It was the end of the day and there appeared to be no-one but me in the shop, in fact it was as quiet as a church with just one, bored looking girl leaning on the counter inspecting her nails.
I stand adjacent to the counter, yet she says nothing, in fact she doesn't even acknowledge my presence.
So I take the initiative and smile anyway, walking up and plopping the bottle down in front of her as I open my wallet.
Barely looking up, she dismissively snarls a few words which conclusively proves she’s a charm school graduate:
‘With someone. You’ll have to wait.'
Now this ‘someone’ has evidently gone back to find something else, or alternatively they’ve evaporated.
But more than likely, they’ve died of boredom while trying to summon assistance and will be found behind a gondola of shampoo bottles next Tuesday by the cleaner.
Anyway, I continue that great British tradition of waiting obediently – I would say queuing, but it was only me – while she returns to her nail inspection.
Looking around, I note there’s actually another assistant nearby…but she’s far too busy faffing with something on a shelf to help customers.
Hallelujah, missing customer returns, with two friends in tow, only to begin arguing the toss about whether the item she selected was actually on the three-for-two offer.
Still I wait, expectantly, rapidly losing the will to live. The girl still says nothing, just blankly scans it, confirming this is correct, so the customer begins deliberating with her mates on what else to get.
I then look objectively at the nail varnish, decide I really didn't want it that badly, plonk it back on the counter and leave.
And retailers wonder why high street shopping is dying!