Customer Service Excellence Award - Winner: Tong Garden Centre

Promoting Yorkshire values among staff and investing in training and customer engagement through a proactive and proud team have allowed Tong Garden Centre to take the initiative in customer service.

Customer Service Excellence Award - Winner: Tong Garden Centre
Customer Service Excellence Award - Winner: Tong Garden Centre

The first job of the new owners in 2016 was to enthuse the team by sharing their vision, passion and financial commitment.

Tong differentiates by service, with every member of the team being a brand ambassador encouraged and empowered to ensure all customers enjoy an informative, engaging experience. It has been essential to build a culture that recognises and rewards excellent service.

Wows - those tiny acts of kindness delivered by staff to delight customers - are not taken for granted. Tong's reward and recognition programme celebrates those team members who go the extra mile with any employee able to nominate a colleague for an award worth up to £100.

Customer engagement has been exceptional, most notably with 3,000 sign-ups to Tong's customer database in just 10 days over Easter 2016. Tong has embraced social media as a tool for communicating with customers. Its Facebook following has been built up from zero to more than 10,000 with a typical response time of less than an hour. The Grass Hoppers adventure playground Facebook page has more than 9,000 followers.

Customer engagement initiatives have grown the database to 10,000. Grow With Us is Tong's mailing list and the centre uses strong hooks to drive sign-ups, welcoming each new customer with a free hot drink. Evergreens is its over-60s card, offering 10 per cent discounts for cardholders on Wednesdays.

An exceptional customer service experience is central to Tong's vision of becoming one of the north's leading garden centres. Reinforcing a "customer first" culture through training, reward and recognition has been very successful and will continue to be important. Customer feedback is actively encouraged and acknowledged in store through comment cards as well as online.

Highly commended

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As the trade association for the sector, the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) helps its members flourish by representing, promoting and developing the garden industry. Key events include the HTA Catering Conference (13-14 June), HTA National Plant Show and Nursery Supply Show (20-21 June), HTA Garden Futures Conference (4 October) and HTA Marketing Forum (15 November).


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