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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.