POLL: Mystery shopper’s mixed verdict on customer service in Sheringham shops
Sheringham's shopkeepers were given a boost - and told a few home truths about their customer service - as they heard the results of a 'mystery shopper' survey of their businesses.
The report, which is part of a drive to bolster the town ahead of the 2013 arrival of Tesco, was largely positive, praising the majority of shops and calling Sheringham 'a marvellous town'.
But the person employed to do the survey highlighted a number of businesses where staff appeared 'underwhelmed' by the town, and said there was some places that she 'would not go back to'.
A host of shop owners gathered at St Andrew's Methodist Church hall on Cromer Road on Thursday evening to hear the results of the survey, carried out by Sally Williams from Retail Revival during October half-term.
Mrs Williams - who, along with her husband, two-year-old son and parents, was the 'mystery shopper' who visited 50 town centre traders - was unwell and could not present the report. Jason Bell, from Upcher Community Partnership, stood in to deliver it.
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The survey was commissioned by Sheringham Moving Forward, which includes Sheringham Chamber of Trade, Upcher Community Partnership, North Norfolk Business Forum and Sheringham Town Council.
Mrs Williams assessed first impressions, interaction with traders and the level of local knowledge and interest.
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She found that, when asked questions about alternative services, 16pc of people working in shops sent her to another town, while the majority did not recommend other Sheringham business if they could not meet her demand themselves.
Twelve out of 50 shops scored less than 50pc on 'first impressions', while the majority failed to acknowledge the customers as they entered the business.
Mrs Williams said 'most of the initial poor impressions were turned round during the sale'. She added that 'very few' businesses asked customers questions to ascertain their needs.
She said in 16 of the 50 cases, she 'wouldn't return to the shop because of apathy, abruptness or poor products'.
And she added that some businesses 'focused on the negative' about Sheringham, with comments including:
? There's nothing here for children
? You could try the museum, but I don't suppose that would keep you interested for long
? You have to go to Norwich for that.
But Mrs Williams praised the majority of shops and said: 'All of us thoroughly enjoyed our break in Sheringham and felt it had much to offer. It's an incredibly attractive town.'
She enthused about Sheringham's strengths, including its car parking, the 'wonderful uplifting feel as you enter the town', and good local knowledge among shop workers.
Ian Doughty, chairman of Sheringham Moving Forward, said: 'We are building on a strong opening position. We just need to get better. There was a feeling that some people felt Sheringham just is what it is, and that Holt, Norwich and even Cromer have more to offer.
'We strongly disagree with that.'
Mr Doughty said it was important use the 'very solid' research to come up with some pointers to help businesses and the town to improve.
At the end of the meeting, experts were on hand from the business forum to offer advice about their service.