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John Lewis – a customer service case study

John Lewis are very well known for their brilliant customer service. How do they do it? This article tells the story behind the four key elements, as they see them. Please note, we are not John Lewis. To contact their customer services department, click here.

As Partners in the business, we want to provide the best possible choice, value and service to customers. To be able to do this consistently, we need to know what customers want, which means constantly finding opportunities to listen to them, being open to feedback, and acting quickly on what they tell us, particularly if we’ve got something wrong.

Many of our Partners have worked for the business for many years. They’re interested in what they sell, and have excellent product knowledge: all our Partners are trained on products, sales and service. We treat customers as individuals and take them through their purchases from start to finish: we are delighted that so many customers remark on our Partners’ friendliness and helpfulness.

We also use formal methods of research and feedback, such as customer surveys, panels, focus groups, online feedback forms and regular mystery shopping. These help us monitor levels of customer satisfaction and give us a broad spectrum of customer opinion to respond to.

Recognition for our Partners

The efforts of our Partners have led to the Partnership being recognised in multiple customer satisfaction surveys and awards. For example, in 2010, a survey by retail analysts, Verdict, saw John Lewis voted Britain’s favourite retailer for the third year running. The survey quizzed customers about where they shopped most frequently and asked them to rate those stores in terms of range, price, convenience, quality, service, ambience, facilities and layout. John Lewis has come either come first or second in the survey ever since it began back in 2000 (seven times first place, four times second place). John Lewis increased its overall satisfaction score since last year, and has now been ranked first for service for nine years. Waitrose have also featured in the top ten for many years and this year came fifth in the survey and top for food and grocery in the poll of over 6,000 shoppers.

Also in 2010, Johnlewis.com was named Best Online Retailer in an annual survey by consumer magazine Which?. We achieved impressive scores from a 14,000-strong panel of shoppers, topping the home and garden, electricals, baby and toddler and toys and games categories.

In 2009, the Partnership scooped two of the top three places in the UK Consumer Satisfaction Index from the Institute of Customer Service. John Lewis came first and Waitrose third (behind the Fire Service) in the index which pegged ‘world class service’ at a customer satisfaction score of 80 per cent: John Lewis scored 90.9 and Waitrose 87.1 out of the maximum 100 rating. The study asked 25,000 consumers to rate service across 13 sectors, considering factors such as professionalism, quality and efficiency, ease of doing business, problem solving and timeliness. Waitrose was also voted ‘favourite supermarket’ in an online poll of 36,000 viewers of BBC1′s Watchdogprogramme, and by readers of Good Housekeeping magazine for the fourth time.

Our  partnership card™ credit card has also been recognised as the top UK credit card when it comes to the level of service it provides its cardholders. partnership card™ won the ‘Best Achievement in Customer Service’ award at The Card Awards 2009 in London. The award follows partnership card™, which was launched in 2003, topping the most recent Which? Credit Card Customer Satisfaction Survey for the second year running, as well as being voted Which? Best Credit Card Provider in June 2008.

Acting on customers’ feedback

We listen carefully to what our customers tell us. Although it is rare for a single customer suggestion to lead directly to change, when we hear similar views on an issue, or have a business opportunity suggested to us, we do our best to respond quickly. Customers’ views have driven the development of Waitrose’s By Invitation and WaitroseDeliver services, and Quick Check, our scan-as-you shop service. In John Lewis, we introduced name badges for selling Partners to make customer service more personal, in response to customers saying they wanted to remember who had helped them, in case they wanted to return for further help.

Building accessible shops and services

Whatever the format of our shops and services, we want to ensure all customers can access our products. We integrate the principles of accessibility into the design, construction and operation of our shops and services, and aim to meet each customer’s individual needs, whether they need assistance due to hearing, sight or mobility issues, or require information in different formats and languages.

Some of our stores are in old buildings, built before access for people with disabilities was fully considered. Changes to the Disability Discrimination Act ( www.direct.gov.uk ) mean that, since 2004, businesses and organisations, including retailers, must improve accessibility by taking reasonable steps to make it easier for disabled people to access their buildings.

A professional opinion

To meet the spirit as well as the letter of the DDA, we worked with an Accessibility consultant – Access Matters – on more than 200 access audits, looking at areas such as entrances and exits, customer catering facilities, fitting rooms and toilets, and improve access to our older buildings. We continue to review our service and physical access levels to ensure we meet the individual needs of all our customers.

John Lewis

When designing and building shops, we aim to make them accessible for all customers, and our Partners work hard to improve access and respond to customer feedback. To help disabled customers, we have reserved parking bays close to shop entrances where possible; and we have installed accessible lifts, toilets and till points, and mobile fixed hearing loops. We’ve made changes to signage and lighting, and are always looking to improve the layout of our shops to make them easier to get around. Customers can get our information leaflets in alternative formats, such as large print, Braille and audio CD.

Services we offer to all customers such as free delivery and purchase collection points are particularly helpful for disabled customers, and our multi-channel approach internet sites and call centres means people can access our goods and services without having to visit our shops.

Waitrose

Waitrose shops offer a wide range of facilities and services to make shopping easier for disabled customers, those with prams and pushchairs, and customers with other accessibility needs. These include: packing assistance at checkouts; accompanied shopping; customer collection points; carry-to-car services; wheelchairs; specialised trolleys; wide-access lifts where required; toilets for the disabled where space allows; hearing loops at customer service desks; clearer signage; designated parking areas; service call facilities at petrol stations; Quick Check, our scan-as-you shop service; self-pay checkouts; home delivery; and online ordering. We provide information leaflets, literature and corporate documents in alternative formats such as large print and audio CDs. Many of our Partners are specially trained to make it easier for them to help disabled customers.

Offering value

John Lewis: ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’

John Lewis aims to provide the best value on the high street by offering a wide range of great-quality products, which are fairly priced and supported by excellent service. Never Knowingly Undersold has represented this commitment to value since 1925 and remains central to our business. Our quality standards are high, we are committed to responsible sourcing and have a regular programme of benchmarking John Lewis branded products against the competition.

The wide range of products we sell means we can offer items to suit most budgets, from our value range launched in 2009 to exclusive products from the best British designers. And, with a dedicated team checking and matching the prices of our competitors, our prices are some of the most competitive on the high street, even during sales. Our Partners’ vested interest in our business success is reflected in the impartial advice and excellent after-sales support we provide. We have recently strengthened our Never Knowingly Undersold promotional material, to better communicate these value messages to our customers.

Download a copy of the John Lewis Never Knowingly Undersold leaflet (PDF size: 91KB).

Waitrose’s ‘Price Commitment’

Because Waitrose has such an enviable reputation for quality, and doesn’t try to grab the headlines with price-cuts the way other supermarkets do, it’s easy to assume that we’re expensive. This simply isn’t the case.

Each week we price check thousands of everyday items we all need to buy – like bread, toothpaste, milk, etc – against those in other supermarkets, to make sure our customers are getting consistently good value for money. Our Price Commitment is a promise to continue bringing you quality food that is honestly priced and represents excellent value. To reinforce this commitment, in 2009, the new ‘Essential Waitrose’ identity was launched across our range of own-brand, everyday products. The Essential Waitrose range provides an easily recognisable brand of products at affordable prices, without compromising the quality standards and sourcing integrity that customers expect from Waitrose.

We are committed to keeping prices for customers as low as possible, but not at any cost. We pay our suppliers fair prices, and believe in paying for quality: what food tastes like; where it comes from; whether it contains additives; and, if it’s an animal product, how the animals have been treated. Waitrose’s ‘Price Commitment’ is our promise to bring customers quality food that is honestly priced and represents excellent value. Each week we check the price of more than 350 of the everyday items like bread, toothpaste and milk against those in other supermarkets, to make sure our customers are getting consistently good value for money.

For more on John Lewis, including their approach to product development and consumer research, see their website here.

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