Cheshire Charity Shops Achieve UK First for Customer Service Excellence

A charity based in Cheshire is leading the way in customer service after becoming the first charity in the UK and the first business in the North of England to achieve WorldHost Recognition Status for its high street retail shops.


The Hospice of the Good Shepherd, which provides highly specialised care for people living with an incurable illness, achieved the award after a group of retail managers and staff completed the WorldHost Customer Service Training through Cheshire Oaks Retail Academy (CORA).


WorldHost, an internationally recognised training programme, was launched in October 2011 through Skillsmart Retail and The National Skills Academy for Retail. It has been adapted and developed to raise the standard and delivery of customer service in the UK and is the new national standard for retail.


Steve Bridge, from CORA, which was set up by West Cheshire College and The McArthurGlen Group, explains: “A retailer needs to put 50% of their frontline staff through the WorldHost training before applying to have WorldHost Recognition Status. It’s a fantastic achievement for The Hospice of the Good Shepherd and recognises how far the charity retail sector has come over the years in terms of delivering excellent customer service.”


Honora Crisp, Promotions and Retail Manager at The Hospice of the Good Shepherd, said: “We are so proud to have achieved this recognition. We are known as the centre of excellence locally for care and therefore it’s important for us that all parts of the business, including our retail shops, reflect this excellence.”


The charity, which has seven shops located across Cheshire West, currently generates in excess of £500,000 from retail sales with 80p from every £1 going towards patient care.


Honora adds: “For the hospice to survive we have to generate £2.6m each year – so the money raised from our shops is crucial. All our shops are run as a professional retail shop where we train and develop our staff accordingly.


“The charity retail environment is a competitive sector so it’s important that we set ourselves apart. The WorldHost training was excellent and we now have a world-class toolkit which we can implement throughout the business ensuring we have a high standard of customer service.”


Suzie Stockell, who has owned and managed pubs and coffee shops for 15 years and now runs the charity’s Hoole shop in Chester, said: “Since I commenced working for The Hospice of the Good Shepherd  we’ve tried to offer customers something different.


“We change our window displays every week so customers see something new; we’ve just introduced an art gallery; we now have a special children’s section – and  reorganised the layout of the shop so mums and prams are welcome.


“One of the key services we have introduced is a personal shopper service. We listen to our customers and help them find what they’re looking for – from outfits through to matching hats, shoes and accessories.


“Whilst I’ve worked in the retail industry for many years, the WorldHost training reinforced the great work that we already do. It also gave me the confidence to pass on the training and knowledge to my team of volunteers.”


Gillian Bills, an experienced retail manager who has worked for Antler, Mountain Warehouse and Kurt Muller, now runs one of the charity’s shops in Ellesmere Port. She said: “When I took the job here I wanted a completely different challenge. There has always been a stigma about charity shops but at the Hospice we all treat our shops as a serious high street store concept.


“Our shops pull in a much younger generation now – our typical customer is a savvy young mum. We care about our customers – we talk and listen to them and give them ideas to help pull looks together.  To know that our service has achieved international recognition is wonderful.”

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