Gillies continues to evolve the customer journey

Back in September last year, independent furniture retailer Gillies of Broughty Ferry announced the appointment of Jonathan Creese as its new, and first, Customer Experience Manager. Almost a year on, Big Furniture Group sat down once again with Jonathan to find out how his initial plans have been implemented and what’s next in the company’s customer journey.

Having been with Gillies since 2013, Jonathan’s role has evolved with his key responsibilities including the development of new customer experience ways of working for the business. His remit when appointed as Customer Experience Manager was to undergo a full assessment of operational processes in order to establish any areas for improvement. Back then, Jonathan planned to introduce new procedures and staff training, increase modes of communication, re-frame employee attitudes, and deliver a level of service above customer expectations.

So, how has the last nine or so months been in the role?

“The time has absolutely flown by and I have really enjoyed leading the team over this period,” Jonathan said. “With the acquisition of Grampian Furnishers in Elgin, this caused a fresh challenge to the Customer Service Team which required a team re-structure and onboarding of a new colleague. As expected, the Team met this challenge head on and performed brilliantly to ensure customer service expectations were unaffected.

“We have been focusing heavily on the Customer Journey; reviewing our customer procedures, obtaining customer feedback, and then implementing operational tweaks to enhance the overall experience. From the outset, I identified a lack of clarity on Customer Service procedures and how these are communicated to customers. This led to the creation of an automated e-mail and Customer Service Journey document, which helps manage customer expectations, breakdown the complaint process and highlight approx. timescales for resolutions. Customers have received this change positively and now appreciate that some resolutions can take a little time when dealing with suppliers from around the world.”

Furthermore, and in order to obtain customer verbatim, Jonathan has rolled out Customer Experience Calls throughout the business, whereby Salespeople re-connect with their customers and ask probing questions to gain insights into the Customer Journey experience, obtain any significant feedback and/or suggest improvements.

Jonathan explained: “Each salesperson is tasked to complete 2x CX Calls per week, who then submit the feedback to their Line Manager for review and consolidation. Customer reactions have been positive; they appreciate being contacted after delivery/installation and to check if everything went to plan. It allows us the opportunity to express our gratitude for their business, but also, the customer to voice their experience from start to finish and highlight an area that they wish to be addressed.”

During the period under Jonathan’s strategy, the business has seen some initial wins as detailed above, but also across specific areas of the company, including their Flooring Installation Team, which has made “great strides” on improving the level of service delivered to customers by its Carpet/Flooring Fitters and Customer Service. “The active service files have dramatically dropped from 120 down to 35 within a relatively short period of time,” Jonathan revealed, continuing: “This is all credit to an overall team effort, by prioritising customer experience and reacting swiftly to any complaints. As a business, we actively invite customers to review their overall customer experience on Trustpilot. This provides a great insight into how the business is performing and another way to obtain customer feedback.”

Other successes include the Customer Experience Call, which was first piloted but has now become a key component of Gillies’ journey process. “The Customer Experience Call project has been a success; however, it was a challenge to convince sales staff of the benefits in the beginning. We are currently undertaking approx. 10 calls per day across the business, totalling over 300 calls per month. All this feedback is funnelled through Store Managers and then onto myself, where any key insights are captured,” Jonathan said.

“We have discovered that many of our sales approaches are a USP to customers and sets us apart from competitors; allowing customers time to browse and establish styles they like before an active sales approach. This feedback helps leadership to identify these positive touchpoints and then reinforce this behaviour across the business.”

A much bigger project than first anticipated for Jonathan has been ongoing staff training and re-framing employee attitudes. He said: “This has turned into a much larger project; as the intention is to roll out Customer Experience Workshops to all sales, customer service and delivery employees. These workshops will tackle the concept of CX, leadership vision, customer promise and company culture, all supported by frameworks and performance measurement. The timeframe for this project is Summer/Autumn 2023.

“In addition, we have implemented a product and service training programme for our Customer Service Team. This involves team members attending our Head Office branch to spend time with experienced Salespeople, Buyers and Managers, where they can discuss specification of goods, features & benefits, warranties and common complaints. This arms the Customer Service Team with increased knowledge and confidence of the products.”

Alongside implementing key changes to the customer service journey, Jonathan found time to undertake a Professional Diploma in Customer Experience by The CX Academy. Backed by the Board, this helped provide a vital understanding, skills and frameworks which will be employed within the business over the next couple of years. Gillies will also be moving into phase two of its customer experience project later this year, as highlighted above, whereby a full Voice of the Customer (VoC) programme will be established, encapsulating Customer Experience Calls. This programme will include the launch of a public Customer Satisfaction Survey and Customer Focus Groups too.

“We are also in the process of developing an ‘in-house’ Customer Service analysis tool which pulls together all our gathered data into a complete dashboard,” Jonathan revealed. “This will be the first step in our development of a Technology & Data strategy in creating an infrastructure that supports and drives seamless experiences.”

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