Garden Retail Awards 2009: Best Customer Service

WINNER: Whitehall Garden Centre

Whitehall Garden Centre is an enduring horticultural success story. Owners the Self family say the Wiltshire garden centre has triumphed over the past 40 years thanks to its customer service.

The 10ha garden centre in Lacock launched in 1969 now has around 180 staff. The Selfs have farmed in the area since the 1880s.

Three generations of the family work in the centre, including 102-year-old Phyllis Self, who received an MBE and the Garden Retail Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2008. Her son Christopher, 71, is company chairman, his son Peter is managing director and his other son Mark is marketing director.

In 2001, the Selfs branched out with a second centre in Bristol. The garden centre turnover is now £7m.

Whitehall's objectives are to deliver good, old-fashioned customer service combining 21st-century facilities, products and plants with early-20th-century standards of customer care.

The challenge for Whitehall is to maintain high levels of customer care throughout the garden centre within a large and diverse team.

Customer care is headed by Phyllis Self MBE who oversees activities, which is key to the development of customer care policies. Mrs Self trains staff by example and is an advocate of the standards she was brought up with.

There is a positive bias in employing over-70-year-olds throughout the business to staff telephones and reception and customer-care desks.

Mrs Self encourages staff to train at Wiltshire College Lackham campus. More than 40 per cent of staff have over 10 years' service.

The centre has a high-quality planteria and a well-developed website, which includes a blog.

Customer numbers grew 20 per cent last year and turnover is anticipated to rise from £7m to £7.1m in 2009. The centre shows customer service above and beyond the norm.



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Greenfield Software Greenfield Software is the leading supplier of labelling systems to nurseries and garden centres in the UK and Ireland. It offers complete systems, printers, labels or consumables. Its software has been developed in the UK to ensure it only supplies the best quality at the most competitive prices.

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