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WHSmith: efficient service across channels

Over the last year, WHSmith has focused on offering customers a more relevant and efficient service.

Online, the books, stationery and gifts retailer has a dedicated customer service account on Twitter (@whsmithsupport), which takes an active role in resolving complaints and answering queries, as well as the @whsmith handle and WHSmithUK Facebook page.

InternetRetailing’s research shows WHSmith boasts strong customer service, both online and over the phone. During test calls made to customer service, issues were resolved in just under two minutes – below the average time of other IRUK500 retailers.

Queries over Facebook were dealt with in 1h 6m and it’s worth noting that many retailers still don’t respond to Facebook messages and queries at all. WHSmith’s responses received top marks for issue resolution.

Its latest full-year results, to 31 August 2016, show WHSmith has taken stock of issues affecting customers in a “constantly changing consumer environment”. It has worked to improve the customer experience across sales channels, meeting shoppers’ needs while also improving

the range available to buy.

This is particularly true of WHSmith’s substantial airport, or Travel, presence. During a busy week, WHSmith says it can run 100,000 transactions in a single airport store. It has addressed the pressures that this creates through stock management strategies, such as overnight replenishment to stores with significant footfall and introducing new floor sales techniques to keep track of declining stock.

Another problem for WHSmith’s Travel stores is limited space. To confront this, the company adopts stocking strategies store-by-store that are designed to drive the greatest returns. For example, WHSmith expanded both its ‘food to go’ items and headphone range to meet the demand for snacks and entertainment for customers running between flights. It also introduced specialist bookstores to serve those customers preparing to go on long-haul flights by getting some reading material ready.

In its main business, WHSmith has invested in improving in-store logistics and layout, while also investing in staff training to ensure that its staff know enough about products to provide a satisfying experience for customers.

One major update to in-store customer convenience has been the introduction of ‘try before you buy’ fixtures. These allow customers to test merchandise such as headphones before buying, giving them greater power over their selection and satisfaction. After a successful trial in London Victoria, this year WHSmith rolled out these modules to 23 stores across the UK.

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