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Customer Service: The John Lewis Way

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I recently had the pleasure of working inside John Lewis and experiencing first hand how they deliver customer service that’s admired. I enjoyed working with the company. The customers and staff (partners) are in general happy, very polite and helpful and the company has a great atmosphere which is a credit to them. This has not happened overnight. The trust that customers have in John Lewis takes a long time to build but much easier to lose. How have they created this? First are the founding principles of Customer Service in John Lewis –

“Be honest; give respect; recognise others; show enterprise; work together; achieve more.”

Then my impressions…

1. “We’re Based on the Notion that if we Treat our Partners well, it will lead to Good Customer Service.”

This is a simple idea but one few companies really put into practice. John Lewis implement it in a number of ways:

  • Partnership
    • Staff are called and treated as partners
    • All partners are owners in the business and get a yearly bonus based on performance
    • Managers served staff at Xmas lunch
    • Partnership concept breaks down barriers and creates meritocracy
  • Respect
    • Respect for each other and for customers is a core value within John Lewis
    • Managers and staff were generally very helpful to one another and to customers
    • No difference between how customers and partners were treated…indeed partners were often customers
  • Trust
    • Trust partners and empower them to do well
    • In general partners were given space to to their jobs and to succeed and
  • Soft Benefits to create family effect
    • Subsidised canteen, discount card, subsidised, sports , subsidised concerts, holiday homes etc…
    • Social club with great parties etc.

2. Empower Staff

  • Train staff well
  • Empower them to make do the right thing. This may be asking a manager or acting on the customer’s best interests depending on the situation. They are encouraged to think outside the box once the basics have been understood and acted upon. Staff are expected to show enterprise in the right context
  • Staff are product experts in their areas and have built up this expertise over time and through training.
  • Be honest – if you don’t know do not waste the customer’s time. Find somebody with the right answer. Bring the customer to the answer if required.


3. Get and Act on Customer Feedback

  • Headquarter staff spend a few days serving over peak periods. This helps to give better customer service overall but also gives them immediate insight into the problem areas that customers are facing.
  • Staff are expected to communicate issues regularly and many forums are created whereby this is done in a  formal way

4. Make Online and Store seamless

  • Returns for online can be done in store at any till with systems work behind the scenes to improve this process ongoing. This can be much better than having to repackage it and post it back to other online retailers.,
  • Maintain exceptional customer service online. Customers have access to people when they need it and can use Waitrose and John  Lewis stores to pick up their purchase rather than missing the delivery at home.
  • Online is becoming a huge part of the overall service offered by John Lewis allowing customers to purchase when stores are closed. The John Lewis Clearance sales started on Xmas eve.

5. Make Customers Life Easy

  • Shopping can be stressful and unpleasant in the wrong environment. John Lewis try to help make it a pleasant environment.
  • Create a calm environment that is pleasant to look at and products are easy to find. Do not overburden with selling messages in flash colours
  • Keep queues to a minimum by hiring temporary staff for peak times to help at till as and free up existing staff to answer questions and give advice. Also deploy HQ staff to help out.
  • Provide a customer collection point that will collect all customer purchases in one location to ensure that they are not overburdened with bags
  • Provide home delivery options from store
  • Provide delivery options to John Lewis or Waitrose stores
  • Provide extensive gift list and gift wrapping services
  • Staff are honest and if they cannot answer will say so but will find someone who can and will not leave the customer until they are assured that the customer is being served by someone able inside John Lewis.

6. Be Different

  • Never knowingly undersold
    • John Lewis will match competitor prices if evidence is presented that is relevant and reasonable.
    • Staff are empowered to do this on the fly with manager’s approval.
    • Systems will support on the fly one off discounting.
  • Have an exceptional returns policy
    • John Lewis customers are trusted implicitly and when they bring back a product that they are not happy with it is changed often without question. This could be abused but at a macro level this creates tremendous good will and indeed more purchases. Often customers need to see the product in the home environment before being really sure and if they could postpone or not purchase if the returns policy was too difficult.
  • Have an exceptional warranty on electricals
    • John Lewis provides market leading warranties on electrical items whilst maintaining competitive prices.. This has become more important a sthe options on the high street narrow.

7. Hire people who share the John Lewis vision

  • Hire people who will take on the values of John Lewis and take it forward. The gatekeepers that hire staff  into John Lewis have an important job to hire people that will not abuise the trust and respect gievn to them by partners and customers.


Sales Strategy

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February 28, 2012 · by Ray · Sales Strategy

StrategyStrategy & Tactics

Strategy is best defined as “doing the right things” while tactics is best defined as”doing things right”

Strategy is a planning process and tactics an action process. The borderline between the two in a sales context  is market and customer contact.

The Strategy must be effective for the tactics to succeed longer term. Tactics may have some shorter term success with a bad strategy but will not compensate over the longer term.

A good strategy is simple, written and contains flexibility to adapt to reality.

The ultimate victory is to win before action. It will win without conflict. In business this is about choosing the markets and accounts with care and ensuring that the company  is best organized to win.
The right strategy is essential but normally  the battle is still only half won. The strategy requires and only succeeds with professional execution of tactics.

Combine Planning & Action

Problems arise if there is separation of planning and execution.
The important thing is to get started as too much planning can breed indecisiveness and error. It is often better to engage in some form of simultaneous planning and implementation.
A decisive plan may often only be created following some preliminary actions in the Market to determine competitive resources and customer real requirements.

Strategy seeks superiority and a good strategy ensures overwhelming superiority that as a result will guarantee success with effective execution of tactics.

Attributes of an effective Strategy

Customer comes first.

First satisfy the needs of the market. Then and only then can you profit from your actions. It cannot be the other way around.

Knowledge is power

Know yourself,your team,your product, your company, the market, the customers,the competition, the influences.

Fight battles that you can win.

Only compete with superiority. Look to win with ease. Concentrate  strengths. Operations succeed because strengths are concentrated against weakness.

If real superiority is not achieved then we cannot predict success and may well fail. A business destined to fail competes in the hope of winning.

The objective is not an equal match but an unequal advantage in your favour. As Napoleon said “God is on the side of the heaviest artillery”.

Choose when and where to take on the competition.

Create a strong position

Try to become invincible and await for vulnerability in the competition. Use resources wisely.

Be flexible.

Adopt different strategies for different market and competitive conditions. No victory is the same as another.Take advantage of opportunities. Act when others are unprepared or make mistakes. Take the initiative.  Make time your ally.

The strategy is driven by how early the opportunity or market is entered and the status of company resources and product.

  • Preferred Strategy:- Get in first and lead the way. Set the requirements, be the one that the competition is compared to.
  • Secondary Strategies:- Where the opportunity or market is already active and in progress and there is most likely a competitor leading the way.

Seconary Strategies are split into Lead and Fallback strategies in order of preference:-

  • “End Around”:- Change the requirements to suit vendor differentiators.
  • “Head to Head”:- Compete head to head – best when resources are much larger than competition.
  • “Divide and Conquer”:- When the vendor can’t win the whole opportunity. Often used as an account or market entry strategy.
  • “Stall”:- Used when in account and when the vendor needs time to develop a competitive product.

Build a Committed Team

Engage team fully. Create a team fully committed to objectives. Ensure that the team is at its best more of the time

Use organization, process, training & communication.

Cultivate resources.

Use allies, partners & network effectively.

Keep them guessing.

Use surprise to ensure that competition does not know all about you.


An effective strategy delivers results.

Contents of an effective Strategy

  • Ensure that the Customer Profile is an addressable market segment with common needs and buying process.
  • Ensure that the value proposition and sales process appropriate to address this customer segment.
  • Update the Go-To-Market strategy as appropriate to best use sales and marketing resources and channels to efficiently address the sales process by product, by territory and achieve market segment coverage.
  • Review and Update the Sales Team design to ensure it is fit for purpose including appropriate structure, size, roles, responsibilities and territories assigned.
  • Review and Update the Market Share, Revenue, Margin and Sales Cost targets to ensure they are realistic and achievable.