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Ann Widdecombe presents award to Ilfracombe as UK’s first courteous town in new business initiative

Ilfracombe in North Devon is the first town in the UK to complete a new programme run by the National Campaign for Courtesy to recognise businesses for their courtesy. The Right Honourable Ann Widdecombe presented the Mayor of Ilfracombe with a certificate marking this achievement after more than 100 businesses took part.

(from left) Lynda Courtnadge, Mayor of Ilfracombe, is presented with the courteous town certificate by the Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe, watched by Robert Zarywacz of the National Campaign for Courtesy
(from left) Lynda Courtnadge, Mayor of Ilfracombe, is presented with the courteous town certificate by the Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe, watched by Robert Zarywacz of the National Campaign for Courtesy

The 15-week pilot initiative – supported online at pleaseandthanks.co.uk – recognised courteous businesses in the town after validation by customer testimonials and unsolicited nominations from members of the public. Shops, restaurants, cafés, pubs and hotels participated in the programme along with garages, accountants, builders and other sectors. A weekly theme focused on different aspects of courtesy and online materials supported participating businesses.

Following the success of this pilot, the National Campaign for Courtesy is receiving interest from other towns keen to run the initiative in their own areas.

Robert Zarywacz, who is courtesy consultant for the campaign and whose previous experience includes monitoring worldwide customer service at British Airways, says: “The courteous town initiative ensures we recognise what is good in business at a time when there is a tendency to focus on the negative. It provides a process for assessing courtesy, based on independent verification, which can be replicated in towns across the country to create a recognisable standard.

“Millions of people in the UK spend many hours each week at work or in business and a polite environment not only makes working life more enjoyable but plays a key role in increasing motivation and productivity. As well as making everyone feel better in their work, it can have important economic benefits, especially relevant when every business is looking to improve performance.”

Ann Widdecombe congratulated Ilfracombe on such a worthwhile initiative and said she was delighted to present the certificate at Ilfracombe Library on 8 June 2012.

Lynda Courtnadge, Mayor of Ilfracombe, said: “It was a great pleasure to receive the Courteous Town award, presented by the Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe, on behalf of Ilfracombe.

“Since moving to Ilfracombe 12 years ago, I have always appreciated the warmth and friendliness of local people, and so it was lovely to learn that we are the first town in the country to be awarded the Courteous Town Award, a national initiative promoted by the National Campaign for Courtesy.”

Robert Zarywacz continued: “The response in Ilfracombe has been phenomenal. When presenting certificates and window stickers to individual businesses, many have been overwhelmed that people have taken the time to nominate and thank them.

“It’s a powerful reminder that it takes only a moment and costs nothing to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, but it means so much when we do.

“The National Campaign for Courtesy would like to thank Ann Widdecombe, the Mayor and the businesses and members of the community who have participated in the courteous town initiative and who make Ilfracombe such a courteous place in which to live and work.”

See full details of the Ilfracombe courteous town initiative.

For details of the National Campaign for Courtesy, please visit campaignforcourtesy.org.uk

Ilfracombe courteous town initiative starts today

What’s it all about? Here’s a short video introduction . . .

If you’re a business in Ilfracombe and would like to join in, please register on our Ilfracombe page.

Thank you.

Is courtesy from customers important?

We often hear stories about rude shop assistants and poor service, but how polite are customers? And does it matter?

If a shop assistant is rude to customers, there’s a number of problems that could be the cause. If that’s how they normally act, there must be a management problem or they would have resolved the situation.

But what if customers are rude? Should sales assistants and other customer service staff have to put up with it?

Customers can become impatient and dissatisfied if they have to wait a long time in a queue, if service is slow or a shop doesn’t have required items in stock, but these are no reasons to abuse staff. If there is a problem, it isn’t necessarily the fault of the sales assistant, so why should they get the blame?

From a sales assistant’s point of view, they have to deal with possibly hundreds of people every day. Their job could be repetitive or tedious, but that doesn’t prevent them trying to give good service.

Customers saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, making eye contact and being helpful can make shop assistants’ working life more enjoyable. This behaviour also acknowledges the value of the person’s role: we want to buy something from the shop and they make the transaction possible.

In shops with busy check-outs it’s not always possible to have a conversation, but in some shops it is possible and it tends to make shopping a more enjoyable experience for us.

If we are really annoyed in a shop, being rude achieves nothing. If we think if makes us more important or gives us more authority, we’re wrong. If we’re rude to staff in a big shop, they have very little opportunity to act outside the shop’s processes, so they probably become more frustrated and upset than we do. If we have a gripe, it’s best to take it up, firmly but politely, with the management. If we don’t get a fair resolution, we can exercise the ultimate sanction: take our custom to a competitor.

It costs nothing but a few seconds to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and it’s just as important whether we are the customer or the supplier.