One of my favourite shops in Swindon is Rays Ice Cream, and apart from the fantastic ice cream ( you’ve got to try their Turkish Delight ) I’m always impressed by the quality of the customer service in the shop. Whether we are the only customer or whether there is a queue on a beautiful summers day, the service is always attentive, personalised and helpful.
So I met up, virtually, with Hadi who runs Rays Ice Cream ( no apostrophe! ) to understand how she built her business and has developed such customer focus in her business. Here’s our conversation
What’s your background in customer care?
I have always worked in the service sector.
I started early, at 13, with my first job in a leisure park giving pony rides to kids. My degree was funded by several bar jobs. I then went on to join the graduate scheme at what was then Bass Leisure Retail – a giant in the pub restaurant sector who provided me with a great grounding in customer service and hospitality.
They were sticklers for fantastic service, nothing else would do, we were expected to live it and train it – the guest came first. I took this ethos with me when I started Rays Ice Cream, people need to enjoy the experience, to feel special.
What made you set up an ice-cream business?
I was made redundant whilst I was heavily pregnant so going straight to another job was not an option.
I fancied starting a business and it seemed sensible to do that close to where I live in Old Town Swindon.
I had grown up by the seaside in West Wales and always loved fresh home made ice cream.
No one was making ice cream in Swindon so I thought that was my opportunity.
People thought I was mad, perhaps I was!
But 9 years on we have gone from strength to strength and now have the original shop in Old Town, a wholesale and an events business. And we survived lockdown by developing a home delivery business which we will continue while there’s still demand for it.
Why is good customer care it so important to you?
It is everything.
No one ever needs ice cream.
I am always telling my staff we are not like a tyre outlet or the dentist where sometimes you have to go.
People never need to come to us, we are a treat and there are plenty of other places you can buy treats, or take people to treat them.
People will come to us partly because of our great quality home made ice cream, but it needs to be more than that.
They need to have a memorable experience so that they leave wanting to come back and so that they tell their friends about us.
If that’s going to happen then they need to be made to feel special and this often means the simple things, an acknowledgement when they arrive, free tasters of flavours they have never tried before, a genuine interest in their day, a cheerful ‘thank you’ or ‘good bye’ as they leave. It’s all very simple, but sadly often lacking in ‘service’ businesses.
And what’s your secret – recruitment or training?
We recruit mainly on attitude and people skills, we can train the rest.
Recruits need to be confident talking to people and to genuinely want to provide a great experience.
We insist on (paid) trial shifts and if people don’t demonstrate the people skills we look for then they won’t pass the trial.
The successful recruits get lots of training and are buddied up with our most experienced team members.
Customer service comes second only to food safety in all of our training. It’s so important, people don’t want to be served by someone who barely spares them the time to look up from their phone.
Any customer service or management tips for people in hospitality?
Be genuine and be confident in the product you’re selling. In our case make sure you’ve tried the different flavours so you can really let people know what you think of them when you’re asked.
Focus on the customer and listen to what they are asking.
Answer questions to the best of your ability, don’t just fob the customer off or blame ‘the boss’ or ‘health and safety’.
Take an interest.
Acknowledge people. Even if you’re rushed off your feet, it takes no time to look at someone and smile or say ‘hi’.
Smile, smile and then smile again.
There are some great customer service and business tips here. Thanks Hadi for sharing your thoughts.
You can find Rays Ice Cream here.