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Blackwell’s bookstore sets standard in returning employees to the high street

31 March 2021
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Iconic Oxford-based retailer Blackwell’s, has been praised by leading Customer Experience Specialists, insight6, for prioritising staff’s wellbeing by checking in with them to ask ‘how are you?’ in preparation for employees returning to work on the high street.

The City’s most famous bookshop took it upon themselves to find out how their team felt coming out of a furloughed period - owing to non-essential retailers having to close their doors - and to ask what they could do to make staff feel safer returning to work.

Teaming up with Customer Experience Specialist Graham Hill from insight6, Blackwell’s used the company’s COVID-19 Team Safety Checker to survey staff.

Encouragingly, most employees felt safe to return to work (89 per cent), with the number increasing further to 96 per cent one week later. Staff reported that one of the key contributing factors for their high level of confidence was the ‘clear communication’ they received from Blackwell’s, their employer, throughout the process.

Employees also highlighted how they were ‘delighted to have been asked how they felt’ and how reassuring it was to have an opportunity to give feedback.

Kate Stilborn – Customer Service & Operations Director of Blackwell’s Oxford, said: “Creating a culture and environment where our people feel comfortable and safe is key. The Team Safety Checker has been a useful tool for us to demonstrate we care about our staff and take their safety seriously. The ability to access the data in real-time is invaluable, helping us to quickly identify how the team is feeling and identify any potential opportunities for improvement.”

Graham Hill, a Customer Experience Specialist at insight6, said: “How people are feeling about returning to work, be it in a busy office or shop is just as important as the measures we put in place to protect them. Often as employers, we assume we know the answers to many basic questions about our staff, workplace, or customers. But, you can’t know the answer until you ask the question, and that can sometimes lead to some surprising results.”

insight6 developed the Team Safety Checker in response to the pandemic as a quick and easy, instant feedback solution accessible to all levels of businesses.


Nicky Godding is editor of The Business Magazine. Before her journalism career, she worked mainly in public relations moving into writing when she was invited to launch Retail Watch, a publication covering retail and real estate across Europe.

After some years of constant travelling, she tucked away her passport and concentrated on business writing, co-founding a successful regional business magazine. She has interviewed some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs who have built multi-million-pound businesses and reported on many science and technology firsts.

She reports on the region’s thriving business economy from start-ups, family businesses and multi-million-pound corporations, to the professionals that support their growth and the institutions that educate the next generation of business leaders.

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