Do It All to recruit customer care staff

NIGEL COPE

The stakes were raised in the DIY wars yesterday when Do It All, the loss-making joint venture between Boots and WH Smith, announced it was creating 1,000 new "consultant" jobs to improve customer service.

However, the move was immediately denounced by rivals as little more than a belated attempt by Do It All to catch up with similar moves already operating elsewhere in the market.

Do It All says it will recruit five or six new staff in each of its 200 stores to provide advice on DIY products and projects. The staff will be trained in certain skills such as carpentry, plumbing and electricals and will not be asked to work on tills or to stack shelves. The company says it is looking for people with good interpersonal skills to fill the roles, whether they are retired bank managers or pub workers.

Do It All's customer care director Geoff Kidd said: "DIY stores have not enjoyed a good reputation for customer service and we are the first to recognise that freely available, professional advice from friendly staff will go a long way towards bridging the confidence gap that affects many DIY customers."

The comments cut little ice with rivals such as B&Q which says it has been offering this kind of service for some time in its larger format Warehouse stores.

Sainsbury's Homebase, which took over the Texas Homecare chain earlier this year, says the idea of "dedicated in-store experts" has been imported from America and was not necessarily what customers wanted.

Ross McLaren, deputy managing director of Homebase said the Sainsbury's stores concentrated on general staff training but did provide horticultural experts to advise on plants. He said: "It is difficult to produce experts in every field. What people want is to know where things are in the store and how things work."

B&Q was among the first to recognise the need for more experienced staff when it began a policy of recruiting older workers who are more likely to be knowledgeable in DIY matters.

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