Waitrose: The difference a brand can make

WaitroseA couple of years ago I wrote an article about my observations of customer engagment at my local branch of Focus DIY. The branch closed just weeks after I wrote the article as the Focus group went under (not as a result of my article I may add).

Just weeks ago Waitrose opened their new store having repurpsoed the same building that Focus once occupied. We all know where Waitrose sits in the supermarket stakes, part of the John Lewis brand famous for it’s high quality and excellent service.

Well this Saturday I got to sample this excellent service as I finally got to visit the new store. You could tell it was new. There was an expectant buzz about the place, every thing was new, people still finding their feet, no one was set into the mundaneness of routines and patterns (and I hope they never are).

Anyway the reason I’m writing this is that at the point of checkout I had probably my most genuine enjoyable conversation with the checkout operator I’ve ever had. I was buying some beer, good quality real ale and the operator spotted it and asked if it was any good. I commented on it and then he explained how he was a CAMRA member and so was I and so a discussion started about the subject and continued until I’d paid and was ready to go.

I was quite happy to continue the discussion but others in the queue probably weren’t so keen. What a difference it made. So often I find that conversations at checkout are not genuine in fact quite contrived and forced.

I wonder what is the difference at Waitrose? Is it the high quality training (I’ve written about bad retail training before)? Was it the fact it was new and shiny? Perhaps (as the sign a the back of the store told me) was it the fact that staff own the business and so naturally care more?

What are your thoughts and experiences? Do you shop at Waitrose and if not what conversations do you have at the checkout?


I love: Norfolk | Food | Cooking | Community | Speaking | Marketing | My Wife x | Great customer service & engagement | Running a business (or 2) | Humour

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  1. John Wilson Smith

    We also visited the same Waitrose about a week after it had opened. I was immediately struck by the willingness of the staff to guide customers, locate products, etc. At the wet fish counter, knowledge and enthusiasm.
    In the wine section, a pleasant young man who admitted his wine knowledge was not great, eager to learn – I’m sure he’s taken on board and will pass on the suggestions I made for wines that would go particularly well with fish.
    I found the aisles a bit narrow, but staff re-stocking shelves were very attentive to moving out of the way when I wanted a product obscured by their “cages”.
    And finally the friendliness at the checkout, and the added bonus of a token that I could put towards the Cromer & District Food Bank. Yes, many of their products are more expensive than Sainsbury’s, but the eagerness to please has a pleasantly infectious quality – I hope it continues that way.

  2. I enjoy a bit of a natter at the checkout, as long as its genuine and unscripted. On my last few visits to Sainsburys however, I have found the checkout operators are almost invasive in their efforts to make conversation… “doing anything nice today?”, “Have you got the day off?” etc. All a bit forced and inappropriate, I thought. Hats off to Waitrose if they are teaching their staff to master a free-flowing conversation and to know whether to pursue a dialogue or whether just to shut it and scan stuff!!