Meet Jeanette Southwood, Visual Merchandiser / Sales Assistant
Jeanette started working at Winchester Caravans and Motorhomes soon after her husband James bought the business in 2015.
She loves chatting to customers and ensuring they have what they need to make their caravanning trips the best they can be! Outside of work, Jeanette is an ambassador for Hambledon Vineyard and enjoys cooking, being outdoors and spending time with family and friends.
What does your role involve?
I do a bit of everything! My primary role is in the accessory shop; I’m a visual merchandiser so I have lots of ideas on how to display the products so that they look attractive and are easy for customers to find. I also help design the window displays and dress the caravans for seasons and occasions such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter. I’ve got an eye for design and like to ensure that everything is looking its best so that customers can see items in use.
Myself and Lewis, the shop manager, have sourced a number of new suppliers to bring new stock into the shop in recent times. We research the different products available and go to shows to see what is out there and what’s new. It’s important to us that we have an excellent range of accessories and products to offer, things that are a little different that will keep customers interested and wondering what they might find next time they come in! I also help with sales in the shop when I’m needed - I love chatting to customers and finding out what they’re after and guiding them towards items that might be suitable or of use to them.
In addition to that, I do whatever jobs need doing to ensure the dealership ticks along nicely! That could be anything from making cups of tea and coffee for customers, keeping kids occupied who are in with their families, washing the cloths used for cleaning the caravans, ensuring the foyer and central areas are clean and tidy, cleaning the caravans themselves if they’re short-handed, placing orders, dropping off parts, literally whatever needs doing!
My main aim is always to ensure that the customers are happy so I do all I can to make sure that they have a pleasant visit, get all the information they need from us and leave with whatever they came in for. I’m on hand to advise if customers ask for assistance and always happy to make them a cuppa! We even have branded handmade biscuits in the shape of a caravan which we give to customers as a thank you; it’s something a bit different and they’ve been well-received so far!
What is your career background?
Whilst our children were little I worked school hours in pubs and restaurants and evenings in Waitrose. Later on I landed a job as a chef de partie at Champneys, which was an exciting place to work, with lots of celebrities to serve! I left Champneys in 2015 after nine years and went to work in the boat building industry for a year until I joined the Winchester team in 2016. Although my roles have been quite varied, they’ve all been very customer-oriented roles, which has enabled me to develop strong people skills and build up lots of customer service experience, which has been invaluable since joining the team here.
What do you like about caravanning?
The freedom to go anywhere and do anything at any time! We get away whenever we can and it's so nice being out in the fresh air, enjoying the great outdoors and connecting with nature. The pandemic has encouraged people to get outside more and it's nice to be able to carry that on with some caravanning trips. I’ve always been an outdoor person myself and it’s great for kids as it keeps them off their screens!
What do you find most rewarding about your role?
Meeting people and helping them find what they need to make their trip the best it can be. I know the product ranges well so it's easy for me to advise and guide people on what might best suit their needs. I love chatting to the kids and helping to keep them occupied while the parents are talking to the sales team - we aim to make it a great experience for the whole family!
What achievements are you particularly proud of?
I’m so proud of how much the company has grown since James took it over. I also think our company ethos is great; we’re a close-knit family business with a team of happy, healthy staff. We go out of our way to ensure that our staff are content in their roles and this really shows through as they all get along so well and support each other whenever it’s needed - it's a great team!
I’m also proud of the awards the company has won - three awards in four years at the Practical Caravan Owner Satisfaction Awards! Consistent hard work goes into maintaining high customer service standards day in, day out, so to have that hard work recognised with these awards is fantastic. Everyone is good at what they do and the managers work hard to keep everything running smoothly at all times. It’s amazing what can be achieved through hard work!
Do you have any aims or plans for the coming year?
To keep doing what we’re doing and to maintain our high levels of customer and staff satisfaction! I also want to continue helping to source lovely products for our customers and keep stock levels as high as we can to continue giving our customers as much choice as possible. Our priority is to provide excellent customer service so everything we do revolves around that.
Why is Winchester Caravans & Motorhomes a great place to work?
The team is fantastic and everyone gets on well. The atmosphere is relaxed and we pull together to support each other and work as a team. We always ensure that we put anyone who walks through the door at ease; we’re a friendly, approachable bunch, keen to help in any way we can.
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