In focus: DFS

8th Jul 2016

You were the former commercial director, retail director and trading director at high street retailer Boots – how does your role at DFS compare? 

Customers in Boots have a two-minute dwell time and buy an average of two items each. At DFS, customers spend an average of 45 minutes in stores, will see us 2.4 times before buying, will visit multiple competitors, and will only buy a new sofa once every 6.5 years. As a result, our advertising campaigns are deliberately more directed at women, because women predominantly make the buying decision. 

What changes have you made since joining the team?

The lack of women on the DFS board was something I noticed very early on. When I joined, our top 26 managers were all men. I’ve been slowly feminising the board. I feel it helps reposition us very well. To me, it’s a no-brainer. I’m a team person, and diverse teams bring new qualities. 

I also discovered there was no traditional executive committee. Now there is and I’ve brought in people I previously worked with before – people that know what we need to do as a business to ensure we set the right strategy. 

So where does customer service fit in to this strategy?

I now have a net promoter score for every one of our 700 sales managers and we have scores at four stages of the sales journey; everything from the purchase of products, to the delivery of them, and then how we talk to the customer six months later to see how their purchase has been. 

At DFS we’re all about creating an experience. We do a lot of advertising – some might joke too much – but it means that we know there’s always going to be someone else to look at, and this means we try to make the customer experience a good one. A key part of this is training our salespeople to expect that it may well be their colleague that did all the leg-work with a customer when they first called, but that the second or third time a customer comes in it may be someone else that closes and gets the sale. Our message to them is that what comes around goes around and the next time it could be the reverse, so it evens itself out. 

How is technology supporting your focus on the customer?

We have details about when people purchase – and therefore when they’ll need to re-purchase – but we’re still debating whether to capture data in-store as people look around. Logic tells me I’d like to capture data earlier in the process, so it could well be something we look into more. I can quite easily see the day when teams are texted or alerted in some way when people we know about come through our doors.

How do you ensure your staff are prepared to handle disgruntled customers when things go wrong?

We call it the “heroic recovery” – that is, making sure we do the best for people if there is an issue. We spend a few million a year on this, and believe that if you deal with people in a certain way, a negative experience doesn’t always have to stay that way. 

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