Dobbies: customer service

Case Study



Type of Work

Customer experience
Cultural change programme

Helping Dobbies to refocus on customers in store


Dobbies is a well-loved chain of garden centres. A visit to Dobbies can be a whole day out for families – with plants and fish to look at, gardening clubs to take part in, large, lovely coffee shops to visit and vast selections of kitchenware and gifts to browse.

The teams at Dobbies are made up of expert horticulturalists, retail and catering specialists – all of whom take incredible pride in working for the brand.

But customer surveys had begun to surprise senior managers. In essence, Dobbies teams loved the brand so much, they had begun to find its customers disruptive to the calm and order of the store. One question asked customers how visible teams were. “We only see their backsides!” was the answer given on more than one survey.

We’d been working with the brand at their Edinburgh HQ, helping the organisation to develop a tone of voice and a distinct approach to written communications. It was about using language to create a warm relationship between Dobbies and its readers. In the light of the survey, senior managers asked us to help find a way to make that relationship come to life in stores too.

What we did

The Dobbies teams actually liked their customers very much. They’d just got into the habit of prioritising store presentation over talking to and helping customers. So displays were tidy – but customers sometimes went unacknowledged.

To get teams to re-focus on customers, we created an acronym that reminded them to smile and ask customers if they needed help. It also reminded teams to let customers know they were there if needed – and to offer advice and get into conversation if customers wanted this.

We created training to go alongside the acronym, and we created collateral to go into team rooms. The acronym was also printed onto aprons.

Members of Dobbies in-store teams were appointed as members of the Bright Squad – and their role was to encourage team-mates to interact positively with customers.


The whole approach gave teams the focus and confidence to share their expertise with customers. In later surveys, customers were super-happy with their experience in Dobbies stores. And just as importantly, as a result of re-focussing on customers, teams themselves reported enjoying work more.

You might also enjoy reading our FAQs on customers and commercial environments and our blog on why it’s important to know your customers.