“We want to engage with customers in a way that makes them love us more and makes us understand them better, so we can better deliver what they want.”
— Jonathon Brown, Head of Online, John Lewis
UK retailer John Lewis is dedicated to customer service. “We differentiate around service, and that service is about understanding and engaging with our customers,” says Jonathon Brown, Head of Online for the multichannel retailer. In his talk at the Bazaarvoice Social Commerce Summit Europe in October, Jonathon explained how the company’s focus on excellent customer experiences drives them to rely heavily on their in-store employees, called “Partners.”
Partners are experts in their product areas. As the face of the brand in stores, these passionate product gurus give shoppers expert opinions and answers, and are a large part of what makes customers love the in-store experience, says Jonathon. “We want to be the retailer which is most trusted, and where people love to shop.”
John Lewis recognizes the important of expanding the exceptional service and expertise of their in-store Partners – a differentiator for the brand – into the online channel. They launched reviews both as a way to bring Partners online and as a way to get customers talking. “Customers quite easily tell you what’s wrong, and they’ll also tell you what’s right,” says Jonathon. “And if you act on both in a way that moves your business forward, you’ll make a big difference.”
The retailer initially identified 70 in-store Partners to participate in their Expert Partner program. Expert Partners complete a training program, then receive products to review. They publish their reviews with an “Expert Partner” badge on JohnLewis.com.
What makes Expert Partner reviews especially helpful is that it’s not just the Partner’s expertise driving the review. “We get the experts that work on Oxford Street on the sixth floor every day telling us what they think about the products and what customers are telling them,” says Jonathon. “So rather than one person’s view that can be biased by their lifestyle, you have an Expert Partner on the shop floor who plays with the [product] every day and has multiple discussions with people about the product as well… Customers recommend our Expert reviews more than customer reviews.”
John Lewis gathered reviews from both customers and Expert Partners before launching review content on the site. The retailer went live with 2,000 Expert Partner reviews, 30,000 customer reviews, and 25% product coverage. Since launch, the retailer has noticed a positive uplift in key online metrics, including conversion. Jonathon is proud to point out that their online Net Promoter Score now matches their in-store score.
Investing in partners with training, and expanding their impact on the business, brings value to John Lewis. “We’ve increased our sales rate by 40 %, so we’ve really improved the way we are delivering profit back into the business… which allows us to invest back into our partners, which allows our partners to invest in our customers,” says Jonathon. “We’re really happy with the way that virtual cycle is delivering value for us in the long term.”
Expert Partner reviews helped John Lewis win the Impact Award at Social Commerce Summit Europe. The retailer is already looking into additional ways to involve both Partners and customers, such as product Q&A and pre-launch advocate testing groups. “We want to enhance our customer experience, and differentiate in the medium and long-term through making partners happy and then making customers happy,” says Jonathon. And for John Lewis, this means never fearing what Partners or customers might say. “If you love your brand, set it free. Occasionally you have to accept people do things you might not want them to do.”
Jonathon’s full talk includes more tips and examples of using social to deliver a fantastic customer experience. You can watch the full talk and other sessions from Social Commerce Summit Europe here.