Listening to your customers is key

This year Landmark Wholesale won him!’s ‘Best Wholesale Group 2009′ award. The award is based on the customer satisfaction ratings for speed of service, staff helpfulness, quality of fresh produce, ease of finding products and availability of products and promotions. A total of 6,000 cash and carry customers are quizzed by him! as part of the cash amp; carry retailer and caterer customer tracking programmes.

So him! thought it would be appropriate to ask Martin Williams, MD of Landmark Wholesale, to discuss how Landmark Wholesale is using the feedback it receives from customers via the programmes to shape Landmark’s offer.

Martin says:

First of all I must say that Landmark Wholesale was absolutely delighted to win the award for ‘Best Wholesale Group’. Out of all the industry awards which we receive, this one which is voted for by cash and carry customers is extra special to us.

Landmark Wholesale wants to be the cash and carry of choice. We have been part of him!’s cash amp; carry retailer and caterer tracking programmes for a number of years now and the information provided to us by him! has proved to be invaluable. We act upon the customer feedback to shape our business strategy.

For example, the research told us that retailers use on average four other cash and carries as part of their shopping repertoire. If we are aiming to be their cash and carry of choice then we realised that we really needed to understand our customers in order to deliver against their needs and keep them returning to us time and again.

We know that retailers like the buzz of shopping at the cash and carry. It is a chance for them to talk to other retailers, pick up information and advice, whilst stocking up. him!’s cash amp; carry retailer programme told us that retailers like receiving business information on range, planograms, top tips etc. from their wholesaler as they feel they can trust the information as it is not biased towards one specific supplier. Following this insight we have developed ‘information stations’ in all our depots to provide our customers with the information they want and need each time they visit.

him!’s cash amp; carry programme also informed us that a high proportion of retailers do not know what the top sellers are in each category. For example, in soft drinks and crisps 25% of retailers said they did not know the top selling lines. Using this information we devised leaflets which are now displayed in each aisle and can be picked up at the information stations to help retailers with their purchasing decisions. We have also added this information to our PLOF and newsletter ‘Retail Matters’.

him!’s cash amp; carry programme also told us that our retailer customers like profit on return figures to be communicated to them in pounds and percentages so we are currently working with suppliers to improve this signage in the depot.

When it comes to our catering customers, we are focusing on improving our catering range following the feedback we received from him!’s cash amp; carry caterer programme. This information told us what type of caterers we are attracting (mainly fast food caterers) and confirmed to us they are coming in to top-up shop, buying a small number of items. Now we are developing the range and marketing ourselves to all kinds of caterer with information on our range and promotional offers.

There are plenty of challenges facing the sector, in particular legislation. We suspect that once government is finished with tobacco, alcohol will be next and then probably even a review of confectionery will follow. We need to understand what impact this will have on our customers’ buying behaviour.

Keeping retailers on board is a tall order. We know there are probably too many cash and carries for the number of retailers in existence and that is why we need to get more from our existing customer base by really meeting their needs.

Availability continues to be an issue and, even though Landmark’s customer ratings for availability continue to improve, there is always room for improvement. We will be looking to our supplier partners to make sure that we have enough stock, particularly of promotional lines. By listening to our customers via him!’s cash amp; carry retailer and caterer tracking programmes we hope to keep meeting our customers’ expectations and delivering against their needs.

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