The White Company won Best Customer Service Team of the Year at the 2018 European Contact Centre & Customer Service Awards. And according to its head of customer, its focus on collecting and utilising customer feedback is key to this success.
At a time when the outlook for retailers of all sizes is increasingly bleak, The White Company is a rare ray of light.
One of the fastest growing multichannel retailers in the UK, the luxury lifestyle brand has over 1 million customers and more than 50 stores in the UK, with more opening all the time.
Boasting a strong brand based on minimalism and simplicity, it goes without saying that the catchword of ‘simplicity’ also has to extend to the service experience it delivers.
Daljeet Kaur, head of customer at The White Company explains: “Our brand and products play an important part in our customer’s most special moments and we see all generations of the family shop with us. We understand how important that gifting experience is for them and will always strive to make this better and aim for perfection. From the minute they place their order to the minute they open their parcel, we want to make sure we are offering them an effortless, seamless and enjoyable experience.”
And evidence suggests that the brand is succeeding, having scooped the prize for Best Customer Service Team of the Year (Large) at last year’s European Contact Centre & Customer Service Awards (ECCCSAs), as well as landing a Gold Trusted Service Award from Feefo.
For The White Company, a great customer experience means being “personal, engaging, easy, convenient and reliable”. Therefore, while some other large retail organisations appear to hide away contact details for their service centres (yes, we’re looking at you Amazon), The White Company overtly communicates that it has a customer contact team - “to ensure we can be there for our customers if they need us,” says Kaur.
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And there is a fringe benefit to these service engagements with customers – the insight they provide.
In the following interview, we'll explore some of the secrets to The White Company's success, and specifically how it is using customer feedback, including:
- How customer feedback is collected.
- How insights are shared across the business.
- Who has ownership of customer insights.
- How customer feedback is used to steer company KPIs and personal objectives and performance-related bonus schemes.
Why customer feedback is so important
“The Voice of the Customer is such valuable insight,” she explains. “Businesses can spend thousands and thousands of pounds on market research to get an understanding of what the customer says, but we have around 400,000 interactions coming through our contact centre every year where customers are giving some form of feedback.
“It's just so valuable for us to understand the things that keep them engaged to us as a brand, as a product, as a service, and also understand what are the pain points and why are they calling in. There's just so much insight, which can ultimately make us a commercially stronger business.”
Indeed, one of the company’s key tenets is ensuring that the customer voice is represented in all of its decisions and objectives.
To reinforce its philosophy that customer service isn’t a department, and that every employee has customer goals, the organisation has developed its #customerfirst programme. As part of this, The White Company has appointed customer champions across its stores and in its contact centres, to ensure that everyone in the company understands they have a part to play in putting the customer first in terms of the service they offer, no matter what sections, sectors or departments they work in. Internal social platform Yammer is also used to share customer success stories and spread the message. And, crucially, the customer champions are also there to share the Voice of the Customer.
Every ops board and trade meeting has a relentless focus on the customer, and we even have an empty chair in each meeting which represents the customer.
“Every ops board and trade meeting has a relentless focus on the customer, and we even have an empty chair in each meeting which represents the customer - an idea inspired by Jeff Bezos,” says Kaur. “At every meeting a customer representative talks about what the pain points are from the customers' perspective, what the customers are saying, and gives examples, and shares trends. For instance, what are the customers saying about the product? What are they saying about the service? Are they happy with the delivery proposition? There is a constant questioning, because we understand that is the key to our success.”
Another very simple way of sharing – and acting upon – customer feedback is the ‘Voice of the Customer Board’, a whiteboard in its contact centre that enables advisors to paste Post-it notes of key trends or concerns following the day’s calls. These could be related to products, processes or anything else that might need further examination and fixing.
“We encourage that constantly, and it helps us to identify problems before they become a bigger issue. We can put quick fixes in instantly. We might find out something in the morning thanks to the customer board, and by the afternoon IT are working with us to fix the problem. We can rectify it really easily because we’re listening.”
How reviews and surveys are used for feedback
In addition to the Voice of the Customer collected via its contact centre, The White Company also utilises the Feefo reviews platform and the Bright Navigator survey tool. Regardless of the channel they have shopped on, customers receive a survey to tell The White Company about their online or in-store shopping experience and the product itself. Every negative survey response or review is responded to personally.
“It’s not that they can change the negative,” explains Kaur. “But we’re really keen to learn why we were not able to delight. What was wrong with the service? Or how can we improve? Every store member or contact centre representative that receives a negative comment will reach out to the customer, so there isn’t a negative comment that doesn’t get a response. And that is something that our customers really appreciate.
“Obviously being online and mail order, we also get a lot of feedback on our couriers, so it helps to also give us that insight to work better with our third parties, to improve the delivery service that we have and explore different options.”
Taking ownership of insights, as well as quality feedback coming off of the call monitoring, are the contact centre’s continuous improvement manager and continuous improvement specialist.
Kaur adds: “The key is that we are turning that insight into action. If we don’t, then it’s a vicious cycle for customers and employees, discouraging them to share insights, and also reducing engagement for both of them.”
To ensure that feedback – whether it be via reviews, conversations with contact centre agents, or satisfaction surveys – results in positive action, The White Company has processes and teams in place to drive response.
The company’s digital team work across Feefo throughout the week, examining reviews and responding to customers where necessary, while the voice team, digital team, social media team and email team all use the Voice of the Customer board to flag issues as and when they arise.
Taking ownership of these insights, as well as quality feedback coming off of the call monitoring, are the contact centre’s continuous improvement manager and continuous improvement specialist, who not only use the feedback to improve service standards but also collate it to produce a weekly management information (MI) report detailing important trends. This is then fed to Kaur, who provides updates for the director of customer to take into board updates every Monday.
“MI is produced on a weekly basis to understand trends regarding particular products or services,” explains Kaur. “We are the hub for collating that information.”
How feedback is used as KPIs
The feedback that is collected also represents the key measurements for team and individual success, explains Kaur.
“Within the contact centre we have a performance-related bonus that is based on feedback and the CSAT scores from the Bright surveys, so we measure our success from that. Then for the Feefo within stores, our in-store teams are targeted against a set of objectives to make sure that we are, as much as possible, delighting the customer wherever we can. So every individual within the contact centre and the retail environment will have a customer objective built in within their performance-related bonus scheme.”
There is plenty of evidence indicating that The White Company is reaping the benefits of its insight-driven approach. Not only has it seen internal metrics such as agent engagement, first contact resolution and avoidable contact all improve in recent years, but there are other endorsements, including its success at the ECCCSAs.
Every individual within the contact centre and the retail environment will have a customer objective built in within their performance-related bonus scheme.
“It’s not something that we do without having a confirmation that it is working,” Kaur emphasises. “Our NPS scores are 71 across both channels. In terms of Bright, which is recognised industry-wide, we’re currently in the top three across all the organisations who have signed up for it, and we are leading in the retail sector. We’ve also received a Gold Trusted Service Award for Feefo. So we know what we're doing and we're reaping the benefits of the insight that we’re getting, It's a tried and tested method for us, so we'll continue to focus on it.”
And Kaur recommends that other service centres follow in their footsteps.
“Many businesses hire experts to come in and tell them what customers are thinking, but it’s such a wasted opportunity if you aren’t using your own service centres to understand,” she concludes. “The more we can understand why customers are having t make the effort to contact us, the more we can do to champion the resolution and champion process improvements.
“On the other hand, the more we understand about what they love about us, the more we can develop the bond with the customer. I would recommend that for all contact centres who are thinking of using outside expertise to get customer insights, just trying looking inwards first of all – because the information is all there.”
About Neil Davey
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.