I spoke to an employee in John Lewis. I was assisting someone who was pursuing her research in retail management. The interviewee is named Anderson.
1. When did you join John Lewis and what attracted you to join John Lewis?
I joined John Lewis 5 and a half years ago. While I was looking, I selected John Lewis among many as it has a good name and if you want development, then John Lewis provides you with all the scopes.
2. You said ‘good’. What exactly do you mean by ‘good name’?
The company looks after you, provides training, gives bonus, discount tickets, looks after you as a partner and makes you feel as if you are a real part of the business.
3. What does it mean be a partner?
I am proud to be a partner. I personally feel that I should be treated well, that I get good benefits.
4. What do you think are the values of John Lewis, the values that you think are important?
To give good customer service, we have good products, we make sure that our staff has good product knowledge so that we give the best to the customers what they need and I think that’s what makes the customers come back. This is how we build our own customer.
5. How old were you when you joined John Lewis?
I was sixteen.
6. You are very focused. Aren’t you?
Yes. And John Lewis helped me develop.
7. Elaborate a bit more on John Lewis’s expectation or values on customer service relations?
It makes sure that everyone is trained, that everyone goes through the same amount of work so that everyone works in a similar fashion. We have promised two shops so that we can test ourselves on how we do it.
8. Ok, so how do you do it?
Another company comes in and tests us with how we acknowledge, how we build the sales and close the sales. We can develop our sales from that. When we are not doing that, we can find out where we are not doing it and why.
9. We have slightly touched on that. So what makes John Lewis different from other retailers?
What we offer the customers. We offer great services, product knowledge, we offer guarantees.
10. What are the guarantees?
They can bring stuffs back to us, we look after the customers we can get them get in touch with the manufacturers so that the customers feel that they are not dealing with someone who will just say ‘ I’m sorry’.
11. In terms of customer service, you said good product knowledge, good service, what else?
I think it is a tiresome work on how we handle the customers, how we help them.
12. You have a uniform?
Yes, we do. Everyone sticks to it.
13. Tell me a little about the men’s wear as you are in men’s wear itself. Tell me about the department and your role there?
I am in the trainee section manager. I’m in the department of accessories. I deal with all the problems of accessories.
14. What, according to you or what do you understand by excellent customer services?
Making the customer feel that their plight is being dealt with at a quick speed. Dealing with complaints straightaway.
15. You have been for a person of five and half years in retail, which is quite a long period. Tell me about an incident that you recall where you consider that you gave excellent customer service?
When I used to work in kitchenware, there was an elderly couple who weren’t happy with a bread machine. Due to the weight of the machine; they could not carry it themselves. I asked them, where they lived and when I finished work I went to their house, collected it and sent back their receipts.
16. Going to the other extreme, what do you understand by poor customer service?
Sometimes when there are tasks to be done or when the team is too busy involving themselves in tasks, then they don’t give proper time to customers and ignore them. They are vague in helping or if there is some problem that a customer is facing, there is something that we can do. But there are times when they don’t.
17. Do you recall any incident where someone indulged in poor customer service or was unable to deliver proper customer service?
18. So what could be the reason or what how would you rectify or what could be done?
But is there a systems problem when it comes to poor services or is it individual?
Sometimes there are systems problem with Johnlewis.com but that is rare. It is individual. The person might not be happy in the area, might be focusing on some other things, might be retired.
19. Going to the other part of my research which is personnel, what do you think that the personal department does for you in terms of its activities?
They help me with my development. They are supportive with any kind of help. They provide guidance and training. When they recruit people, it is a good opportunity for me to help with the recruitment.
20. Learning, support, training, recruitment, anything else? What sort of support? How well do they implement these things that you have talked about?
They support in development. They implement very well and it is getting better with time.
21. What kind of messages does the personnel department tell you? And how do they influence you?
Their support acts as a positive force. Such a support helps in driving me more towards my work. They give me guidance. They help me in improving and the ways to do so. They help achieve my goals in a better and quicker fashion. I see them in my overall development. They act as a kind of mentor.
22. Do you think John Lewis differ among the departments, in the level of customer service they provide?
No, we are trained on the same level, so we deliver similar customer services. But certain departments might require a certain kind of service which may differ from the other departments. Although we strive to do the best but there are individual problems which might affect customer service.
23. Does the perception of John Lewis change with the department manager? What is his role. What is the role of the department manager in giving you the positive message?
Has to be supportive, driven, upbeat, good professional knowledge, good relation with the partners.
24. What are the personnel practices that help you deliver good services?
They offer training, they offer fact sheets which gives product knowledge they support in terms of busy times like Christmas clearance, they employ new starters, they support work experience.
25. What could be done to improve the level of customer service?
I think if every partner had a better understanding of why we need to offer good customer service. Though we are trained yet it is the passion that is important.
26. And why do you need it?
To keep our customers happy. To make them come to us. To increase our profits. This gives us good bonuses.
27. Do all of you get he same bonus?
Yes,we get the same percentage.
28. Does the bonus differ from manager to partner?
We get a certain percentage. The amounts differ.
I spoke to a part time employee in John Lewis. I was assisting someone who was pursuing her research in retail management. The interviewee is named Margarita.
1. So you are one of the new gang members, so why did you apply to John Lewis?
Probably because of the partnerships and it’s a place where everyone stands to be equal. It is a place which has style and will give me better standing in the company.
2. Have you finished your A Level?
I’m doing my A levels. I’m working part-time.
3. What does being partner mean to you?
It means that everyone gets a “say” and my opinion is regarded with equal respect as the next person.
4. Do you actually feel that?
Well, it did originally but probably because of my age (I am the youngest in the Department). My opinion isn’t as respected as the others.
5. What are the values of John Lewis?
Probably, everyone is treated with respect. The customer comes first. So, you have to know your professional behavior in the shop with customers.
6. How does John Lewis differ from other retailers?
I have worked in Marks and Spencer earlier. John Lewis treats you with more regard than the other places, though I’m young. It’s good to be here. Your experience is as equal as other. Everyone is friendlier here.
7. Tell me about you job in the men’s wear.
I am sales assistant on the floor.
8. So you have sales assistant, merchandiser, section manager, department manager. That’s how it works. So, what do you sell? Probably, you are the one I will come and talk to.
In casual section, there are men’s clothes like shoes and T shirts. I have trained overall in suiting. I can measure men and recommend shirts.
9. So is the department something that you asked for or was it offered to you?
After the personal development training of 3 months, I was in casuals. Then my manager suggested in a different area. Then I picked up suiting as my preferred area.
10. What does the learning comprise of?
Sometimes we works with suiting for about 3 hrs with different suiting. I also do alterations.
11. It’s not a very long time but I think you have enough experience to explain to me what you understand by excellent customer service?
You do everything you can to help the customers. You acknowledge the customers’ presence. They do not have to come up to you.
12. Give an example where you felt that you provided excellent customer service?
13. Did you get training for it?
14. Have you seen anybody delivering poor service or anybody unable to deliver good service?
Yes, once there was a customers who wanted to know about a certain stock of T-shirts and instead of assisting him by looking and checking into the computer, they just said “No, we don’t have stock”.
15. What do you the personnel department, do in terms of its activities?
They provide training. Handle the managers. Recruit fresh people. Look after the interview process.
16. So, recruitment and training. Can you think of anything else that the personnel department does?
If there is a problem with your manager or with your colleagues, then the personnel department can help sort out that problem.
17. Who looks after you personnel development planning?
18. So they look after you training and development needs or personal development planning?
Training and development needs. They will look into my personal development plans and find out the areas that I need to improve.
19. So what sort of message does the personnel or the managers who are giving this training communicate to you?
It is a very well organized company and it’s the same in all the branches.
20. How different is it, specifically for you from Marks and Spencer?
Communication is far better. We do it on Saturday. Marks and Spencer had no communication.
21. How does it affect you and how you feel about your customers?
If you know what is going on in the company, when you know that your opinion matters, you take more interest in the company. You tend to perform better and make more effort in serving your customers, making sure my customer service is perfect. So all the profits do affect the bonus and other benefits.
22. When you joined, did you have any induction?
Yes, conducted by the personnel. It is a whole day. In the morning we are told about the fire safety and then in the afternoon we are told about the different types of customers.
23. Tell me about the different types of customers.
There are three types of customers. One who comes and knows what he wants. The second enjoys shopping but doesn’t know what he wants. The third knows what he wants but wants assistance, as they are the regular customers of John Lewis.
24. Once you know about customers, what do you do?
They are taken into departments and given the help that they ask for.
25. Do Departments differ in terms of customer service? Why?
I guess they do. Probably, because of the lack of communication in some departments. In my department, there is Margaret who is always communicative.
26. That is interesting. Communication is a personnel function but people don’t see it that way. Margaret is managing personnel and she is being personnel herself. Her communication is the signal of personnel’s commitment to you. Isn’t it?
27. Is there anything that you would like to change in John Lewis?
May be, the pay-value system for under-18s. When you are under 18, the system is different from over-18 pay. For under-18s, there is no pay value as such.