Traders in Cork city have been urged to buy-in to a ‘customer service charter’ initiative which has helped Leeside be crowned Ireland’s friendliest city.
It comes as the city prepares to switch on the Christmas lights on Sunday ahead of the festive retail rush.
Businesswoman Joan Lucey of Vibes and Scribes, who helped pioneer the charter earlier this year - believed to be the first city-wide initiative of its kind in Europe - urged traders to focus on the positives and their strengths and get involved.
“There are some things traders can do nothing about. But some things we can. Being defeatist or negative won’t get us anywhere,” she said.
“Working with what we have, realising what we have - things like great staff, a really attractive city, interesting shops and restaurants - that’s what we should be doing.
“Retail has been challenged on many fronts in recent years. You can give up and be negative but nothing will come of that.
“So we should be fighting back with what we’re good at. There are things we can do and influence. And we’ve shown that it brings results.”
Ms Lucey was speaking after Cork scooped The Friendliest Place award at the prestigious Retail Excellence Annual Awards.
As high streets face mounting pressure from online sales, the customer service charter was developed with input from the CIT School of Business and launched earlier this year to put the customer at the heart of everything the city does.
With the support of Cork City Council’s local enterprise office (LEO), staff from dozens of businesses have undergone customer service training courses.
The biggest event, held last week, saw some 400 frontline retail and hospitality staff attend a motivational and educational customer service training session in the Everyman theatre with Alf Dunbar, one of the UK’s top performance coaches.
Ms Lucey described the event as “mindblowing” and said it has inspired traders to refocus on their offering and continue to improve.
She said while most of those who have engaged in the charter process to date are in retail and hospitality, she encouraged others, including the taxi and hackney sector, to get involved.
“We think this is for everybody. We always knew this would be a journey and we are in this for the long haul,” she said.
Cork enjoyed triple success on the awards night with Ms Lucey’s independent bookstore, Vibe and Scribes, winning best national bookstore and Nano Nagle Place winning best visitor store.
Meanwhile, the city’s Christmas lights will be switched on this Sunday, on St Patrick’s St from 6pm.
Tens of thousands are expected to visit the annual Glow Christmas celebration event Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from November 29 to December 22, with the market and ferris wheel open from 12 noon to 8.30pm and the Bishop Lucey park experience open from 4.30pm to 8.30pm.