WHERE IT ALL STARTED
Walking onto the shop floor at Harrods in 1986, I learnt the art of customer service, in one of the most traditional environments available. Over the ten years within Harrods, I developed a passion for using technology within the consumer's journey.
These passions were fed through a secondment, as an internal consultant, to a project to improve Harrods' shop floor efficiencies. Working with the line management, we reviewed regular tasks and working practices across the store, developing their ideas as part of a plan to engage them in the change management process.
At the time, the major sales driver across the store was the twice yearly sales, for decades these sales were promoted to the stores customer database, through mail order brochures. The volume of telephone and mail orders generated was large enough to support a dedicated contact centre, however order volumes were small enough that departments could fulfil their orders from shop floor stock. Having centralised the fulfilment, I started my journey focusing on Direct to Consumer commerce.
There then followed four years developing the operational processes and systems witinh Harrods, working across the store with teams from selling departments, logistics, technology and marketing. We produced a unique approach to the use of technology across the customer journey.
SETTING UP A CUSTOMER PROPOSITION...
My next step was to join Thorntons - if you are not from the UK think about the UK's version of Godiva chocolates - there I was challenged to launch a mail order confectionery business. Adopting the processes developed at Harrods, with a seconded Thorntons marketing manager.
I appointing an out sourced call centre and fulfilment partner, developing packaging, writing the legal and service terms and policies, and selecting a product range. We launched the first catalogue three months later, all timed to allow the business to report a wonderful new channel to the City in its half year results presentation.
The launch was a crash course in a new topic called 'channel conflict'. Despite us finding ways to use our store network to take orders on the shop floor, and giving them credit for the sales. The stores feared that the new service would take their sales away, instead of realising they were experiencing an Omnichannel world fifteen years early.
ECHRISTMAS AN INTRODUCTION...
Later that year, 1997, I received a phone call from Microsoft to see if we were interested in joining a new online initiative they called eChristmas.com. For a few thousand pounds our Christmas range would be listed on this pan European eCommerce site, along with some of the best retail brands in Europe. It seemed an logical step for our growing business, with a few little issues, the IT department were not keen to allow me to have internet access to manage the site. We bridged all of the obstacles ready to take orders as planned, and then we sat waiting.
We finally received four orders over the six week period, most came from UPS email addresses, the start we wanted. We learnt and moved on.
So the following Easter AOL.com called and asked if we wanted to promote our Easter Eggs on their member only site, we agreed and then almost forgot about it. AOL had a more active approach, showing every user who logged on a splash screen offering our eggs, on the day they launched orders started to arrive. The IT team would still not let me access the AOL secure pages from my work computer, so I was forced use my miniMac at home. Having run out of printer ink on the second night, my miniMac was in to the office the next day.
I knew that we had found something that was going to be the future when the HR Director visited me, and asked why my marketing manager was packing boxes in reception. As we had run out of Easter Eggs in our warehouse which was 90 miles away and we had hundreds of orders.
PROOF DIGITAL CAN DELIVER...
Later after I joined Tempur, the role the digital tools influence the consumer journey did not take long. Our Japanese MD was one of the more enlightened around the world, already selling online and busy building a chain of company owned shops.
We started to explore how we could improve Japan's online presenceHe quickly produced a long job list of tools and enhancements he wanted for his site and . Often challenging, always interesting, we focused on one element, how we promoted the Ginza flagship store. We quickly started to receive updates telling us that store was seeing big steps in the numbers of consumers visiting, and more importantly a clear sales benefit. Lessons that could easily be applied across our extensive global business.
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