Stuart Ramage, ecommerce director at Dixons Carphone, tells Dominique Hammond why it pays to listen and respond.
In a world where electronic and digital devices are increasingly central to our lives, it’s perhaps unsurprising that a leading retailer in this field should be doing rather nicely right now. Despite challenging economic conditions overall and a stalling mobile phone market, results from Dixons Carphone [IRDX RDXR]– whose brands include Currys [IRDX RCUR], PC World [IRDX RPCW] and Carphone Warehouse [IRDX RCAR] – suggest that economic uncertainty is doing little to dent the buying public’s love affair with electronic goods.
In its 2016/17 annual report, the company – whose brands cover the spectrum of electrical goods from white goods to computing to mobile phones – reported record pre-tax profits of £501m, up 10% on the previous year. This success has come on the back of a strategy to close large numbers of stores (80 shut during the year) and move the business mostly online, while updating remaining stores into three-in-one digitally enabled hubs that house all three brands in one location. At the time, group chief executive Sebastian James said the work done to future-proof the retailer was paying off. He singled out the positive effects of digital investment, strong leadership and improvement to cost base, but also flagged up the importance of customer experience and the company’s focus on customer satisfaction in keeping the picture rosy. “Above all, the enormous shift in customer satisfaction and price competitiveness that we have driven leaves us well-positioned to flourish in the years ahead,” he said. “While the UK consumer environment seems to be holding up for us, there will undoubtedly continue to be changes in the way people buy all of the products that we sell, from phones to washing machines… We are excited about our plans in services and about the myriad of initiatives that will drive long-term relationships with our customers.”
The group’s focus on keeping their customers happy is borne out by IRUK’s latest research that ranked both Currys and PC World highly in The Customer Dimension. The brands (rated separately) performed particularly well in response times for dealing with a customer query and how satisfactorily an issue was resolved. The quality of PC World’s customer service when contacted via Facebook was near the top of the ranking, while Currys performed well in the time it took to process refunds. “We believe our role is to be the customer’s trusted guide and navigator for all of their technology needs and our customers expect their shopping experience with us to be seamless,” says Stuart Ramage, ecommerce director at Dixons Carphone. “They also expect nothing less than top-rate customer service whatever their questions or problems. Offering a seamless experience if and when they want to cross our channels is also vital and we have an extensive programme of work in that space.”
A wide range of products, competitively priced, is obviously a base-line expectation for customers but to highlight its strength in this area, the retailer recently introduced a ‘compare prices’ app so that customers can see how prices fare against the competition. Customers are also able to compare collection/delivery options – which include same-day delivery, same-day collection and next-day collection in Currys PC World – against their main competitors. In the UK, the retailer currently makes more than 50,000 deliveries every week.
The retailer goes to great lengths to make sure it is aware of its customers’ priorities, says Ramage. “Our Marketing Insight team conducts extensive customer research to discover what our customers want,” he says. “This, in combination with our web and store surveys helps us stay on top of customer priorities, as well as identifying areas for improvement. We also work on auditing our UX and benchmarking versus market expectations regularly, to keep on top of the market and ensure we’re focusing in the right areas. “Having been one of the first major sites globally to deliver a responsive mobile-friendly website, we have continually invested in our capability to deliver changes that are customer-centric, none more so than in the area of user experience. Every change we make to the website is validated with customers. From using customer feedback to identify the changes in the first place, to guerrilla testing in the local coffee shop, all the way up to full-blown usability testing with members of the public.”
And what of the future? “We don’t see customers being any less demanding any time soon,” says Ramage. “We believe that delivering a more personalised experience for our customers will become a necessity, along with increasing the convenience with which they can shop with us. That might mean increasing the ways to pay or increasing their delivery and collection options. Another trend we see is the need to seamlessly transfer customer journeys from a digital world into a store environment, allowing customers to easily switch between the two, supported by our store colleagues, and really leveraging the power of our fantastic supply chain and store estate.”
Mentioned in this piece…
Dixons Retail plc is one of Europe’s largest specialist electrical retailing and services companies, with 530 outlets in the UK and Ireland and 320 in northern Europe as of 2014.
In May 2014 a merger with Carphone Warehouse was announced.
Dixons operates Currys, Currys Digital, PC World, Dixons Travel and Electro World stores along with many other brands across Europe.