Getting the basics right at Terminal 5

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Sunday morning, 8am, London Heathrow Terminal 5, writes John Rimmer.

Too early for a full meal, tempting though the breakfasts look, and while the Belvedere promotion at World Duty Free is impressive, I just can’t face even a thimble of vodka (sorry Torben). A coffee and a read of the sports pages is about all I’m good for.

So I visit two of T5’s ‘bread and butter’ concessions, both staples of the commercial mix but often poorly perceived with regard to service.

WHSmith recently made public its pledge to improve the customer experience at its airport stores, and judging by my visit, the retailer is making good on that promise.

So often I’ve been stuck in a snaking queue at WHS at Heathrow, wondering whether I can get a paper AND make my flight while a solitary staff member sells Haribos to the hordes.

Judging by today’s visit, the snaking queue remains butĀ at least it’s beingĀ dealt with rapidly and courteously by a full batallion of staff, all tills manned. The ‘corralled’ queue system can irritate, especially when impulse purchases seem foisted on customers (a contradiction in terms, surely?) but when it works, it is a highly effective means of service in a fast-moving retail environment.

Newspaper acquired, I head for Starbucks and groan when I see the length of the queue. But I need a coffee.

Fortunately, the operator has also invested in quality and speed of service. I’ve been queuing for a matter of seconds when a roaming ‘barista’ wearing a headset walks up to me and asks if I would be ordering a hot drink, and communicates my choice to his colleagues upon my reply. By the time I’ve reached the till a couple of minutes later, my drink is ready.

Hardly revolutionary stuff, many readers might think. But it matters, especially here at Heathrow. We hear a lot of talk about the importance of customer service, and it’s gratifying to see the talk put into practice.

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