Dreamforce 2017 – John Lewis never knowingly underselling Waitrose customer service


John Lewis’ Waitrose grocery business is tapping into Salesforce clouds to boost customer satisfaction levels.

Winterson and Cullen at Dreamforce

John Lewis is one of the most beloved UK retailers. The brand has successfully embedded itself into the British consciousness via a triple-pronged approach: being ‘never knowingly undersold’; being owned by its 90,000 employees who get direct shares of the profits; and, most importantly, the John Lewis Christmas TV advert, which sees millions of us shedding a tear or two every November.

But even for such an iconic brand, the current retail climate brings challenges, with high street stores fighting to evolve for a digital world. UK retailers like John Lewis also face the additional challenge of Brexit – the retailer’s most recent financial results saw profits more than halved, a decline it attributed to the uncertainty around the UK’s upcoming split from the EU causing weaker customer demand.

Against this backdrop, it is crucial that John Lewis, with its 50 high street stores, and its supermarket chain Waitrose with 350 branches, retain customer loyalty and meet shoppers’ expectations. To ensure a high level of customer satisfaction, the business turned to Salesforce, implementing Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud.

John Lewis is using Service Cloud to help it keep customer promises, explains Eva Cullen, head of Customer Fulfilment Operations at the retailer:

Customer service really is how customers decide whether they shop with brands. Particularly for our current competitive world and particularly in the retail space, we are under pressure all the time to be very innovative with new services, new products. But how in reality are you able to do that across all channels?

John Lewis came up with the customer promise management ecosystem, prioritizing how it meets promises made to customers. Cullen said this was quite a shift, as within the business there were various service level agreements in place that didn’t always put the customer as priority.

The challenge for us as a retailer is we can get caught in the mechanics of our organization, particularly in a busy contact center where there’s always the challenge of how you can juggle all those priorities.

Our journey has been a cultural transformation because meeting that customer promise requires you to think differently in an organization. Internally you need to build a level of scale and complexity to manage your business across many customers and many channels and many products.

The first step for businesses wanting to succeed here should be to design “very effective customer resolution processes – really challenge yourself about what’s fit for purpose for a customer as opposed to internal rules”, Cullen advises:

It is also vital to take an omni-channel approach, getting the ability to see a single view of where customers are and the service they are getting at any given time to help prioritize resources.

Using Service Cloud has let the company prioritize customers, so a highly valued or disillusioned customer who has had a problem before get pushed up the chain. Once the firm has agreed a customer promise, at any stage it is at jeopardy of failing that agreement, the system sends an alert so the issue can be accelerated internally to make sure expectations are hit every time.

Cullen says the system is built on milestones, the different steps needed to meet a customer promise. Service Cloud will host data about a complex delivery, for example, such as the customer lives on the ninth floor or three delivery staff are needed, and the team work internally to fulfill the order based on that information. Service Cloud is also being used to update customers on their delivery schedule and any delays.

An additional benefit is that since deploying the technology, John Lewis has seen a huge improvement and reduction in complaints, Cullen adds

Marketing overhaul

Sam Winterson, Manager, Customer Loyalty at Waitrose, adds to the story by explaining how the supermarket chain is using Marketing Cloud to keep customers happy.

Part of this has been a shift to a more localized and customized messaging approach, aided by the Salesforce marketing platform. Winterson cites the examples of customers being more interested in receiving notification that a new sushi counter is about to open at their local store as opposed to a message telling them about a current half-price deal; while someone who has just had a baby will want to know about offers on diapers rather than the latest Halloween or Bonfire Night offers around this time of year. He adds:

As marketers, we would have sent the Halloween message and then the diapers message. Now we need to build a customized journey for each customer. When we find those right niche products, we can actually see about a dollar’s worth of incremental sales per customer contacted.

Last April, the supermarket launched its biggest product of the last 10 years, the Waitrose1 own-label premium food range. The firm wanted to avoid taking a siloed approach to marketing the launch, and made sure that the same day a customer received a direct mail through the post, they also got an email, and then a follow-up text message; the communications all had the same look and feel.

Achieving the consistent journey around Waitrose1 was a success, and the store saw about 40%  open rates from emails over a four-week period. Winterson advises:

You can’t just send a one-off message to customers and expect them to absorb the message and change their behavior. It’s quite hard to take a month view, but the right thing to do is to nudge them slowly with the same message again and again and again.

Next up for the Marketing Cloud at Waitrose is building in greater personalization. Winterson explains that the business wants to stop thinking in segments of millions or hundreds of thousands of customers, and instead drill down into really small groups of people. Location data will also be integrated into the system to help identify when a particular customer is in a particular store, and use that data to more effectively target communications.

For Cullen and the John Lewis team, there are plans to use Artificial Intelligence to help with the speed of resolution for customers and employees. She adds:

Rather than them spending time re-keying data, we want to free up people to have more of that value-add conversation with our customers.


Image credit - Madeline Bennet

Disclosure - At time of writing, Salesforce is a premier partner of diginomica.