SCOTTISH Grocer’s Employee of the Year 2015, Lorraine Doddicott, should be well-used to receiving compliments. “Friendly”, “helpful”, “polite” and “lovely” are words that show up time and again in the scores of comments her customers have submitted through the ‘Tell Scotmid’ feedback programme.
Even so, when it came to the night of the awards, to hear herself announced as the winner still came as a surprise.
“It was fantastic. I’d never been to anything like that before and the atmosphere was brilliant,” she said. “I didn’t actually think I would win and when they got to the award I felt so sick. When they said my name I could have burst out crying.”
Lorraine earned praise from the judges for her impeccable work behind the bakery counter of Scotmid Lesmahagow, where she has worked for five years. The bakery, a partnership with Aulds, was introduced 18 months ago as part of Scotmid’s efforts to make itself the first choice for bakery goods in Scotland.
Though all the store’s customer service assistants are multi-skilled, qualified and capable of working behind the bakery counter, Scotmid preferred that one member of staff take responsibility for it. Lorraine’s obvious enthusiasm for the category and excellent customer service skills marked her out.
“I take a lot of time on the counter and I like to look after it. I’m proud of the way I set out everything. I think you take more pride if you know it’s yours,” said Lorraine.
“I like the fact that I’m looking after it and I want to make it as nice as I would have it if it was just my own wee shop. That’s how I see it – as mine. And I love working in there.”
As it is based in a residential area of Lesmahagow, half a mile away from the nearest competitor, the store tends to see the same people every day. And it doesn’t take long for Lorraine to build up a rapport with her customers, predicting what many of them want before they even get to the counter.
She enjoys selling to people, tempting them to try new cakes and pies, letting her own passion for the product shine through. She consistently tops the store’s league tables on its upsell challenges – and makes it look easy.
“Of course, I’ve tried it all, too,” she said. “You’ve got to know your stuff before you can sell it.”
She gets very excited about seasonal events and any chance to put a costume on.
“I’ve already started getting stuff in for Halloween and I’m looking for outfits. Christmas is a big thing for me. I make up a song usually, and dance about in an elf costume. It’s daft, but makes people laugh.”
It may not be an official part of her job description, but to Lorraine, bringing a smile to someone’s face is one of the most valuable services community retailers can provide.
“I just talk to people as if I’ve known them for years. It comes naturally to me, I’ve always been like that. But the thing is, as soon as I take my apron off, I’m really quiet. Outside of the shop I’m a different person.”
Every community store could probably benefit from having someone like Lorraine behind the counter. Not everywhere can, but her advice to others is simple: “Always smile and put the customer first.”