Lizzie Callan - Asst. Manager, National Trust Shop, Dartmouth
Lizzie Callan, assistant manager at Dartmouth’s National Trust shop, smiles brightly at her customers while I wait to do our interview. She chats to one couple about the delights of Greenway and helps the next customer choose a book to give as a gift.
The National Trust shop has barely been open two minutes when I walk in and yet the assistant manager is in full flow, giving her total attention to the customers in front of her.
When we start the interview I ask her about her attitude to customer service.
“The National Trust is a well respected organisation,” she says. “If they come and get a bad customer experience, they will remember and they will remember where! So we are proud that we look after everyone and go the extra mile.”
In the whole hour I’m with Lizzie she doesn’t stop smiling – she clearly loves her job and people in general. Her zeal for Dartmouth is all the more fervent because she is not originally from the town.
Lizzie was born and bred in Pewsey, Wiltshire, where she also met her husband Andy – a Dartmothian.
A change in circumstances left them looking for a new home – and it seemed a natural move to consider Andy’s hometown of Dartmouth. The family made the move 13 years ago and have never looked back.
Andy is now a full-time fireman, connected to the station at Paignton and the retained station in Dartmouth.
Lizzie started working at the National Trust Shop six years ago – and clearly loves it as much as she loves being a member of the local Girl Guide group: it allows her to be part of the community and have lots of fun too.
“It’s a wonderful job and a wonderful place to have a shop,” she says, “The whole team are great – every member of staff brings different skills and strengths which make us a good team. We work hard here and make sure we show off the best of Dartmouth.”
The Dartmouth shop has made the most of the harbour town base by using images of its most beautiful and recognisable places for products on sale in the shop.
“We have branded food and gifts – notecards and jigsaw puzzles - for which we took the pictures ourselves,” she says. “They are products which the National Trust normally uses for its properties – but we thought Dartmouth is so beautiful we should do it here too. We are all really proud of them, because we are proud of Dartmouth. They sell really well.”
The team pride themselves on trying to solve any problem and help any customer. This can sometimes lead to them getting some interesting requests for information:
“We are asked about parking. A lot!” she laughs. “So I collared the traffic warden and typed up all their answers on the rules and regulations in different parts of town – we have it ready to hand out if anyone asks!”
But Lizzie and the team can also be quite the travel consultants too.
“One couple came in on the off-chance and said: ‘we don’t want to spend our time reading about this beautiful place, we just want to see it. Can you plan our week?’
So we did! We had them visiting all the National Trust properties around here of course, but also sent them on great walks and to nice places to eat.”
The ethos of the National Trust informs the attitude of the staff at the Dartmouth shop, with its focus on all generations.
“The idea is to preserve the beautiful and the important parts of British heritage for future generations,” she says. “Which is why we try to make sure we attract younger people too. We have books for children – like “50 Things to Do Before you are 11 ¾” - which will hopefully instill a love of British heritage in them and inspire them to get involved when they are older.”
Lizzie smiles when I ask why she loves her job.
“Dartmouth is a wonderful place to be.”
First Published October/November 2012 By The Dart