PC World

PC World operates stores across the UK that specialise in selling computing solutions to both personal and business customers.

After a change in their stores’ organisational structures, PC World needed help to ensure that their staff could provide excellent customer service and improved sales performance.

Key performance indicators for the project were identified as being conversion rates, add-on sales and the customer satisfaction measure of Net Promoter Score. Net Promoter score is a measure based on the question “How likely would you be to recommend this store to a friend or colleague?” with a score of 1 (low) to 7 (high). Results are split into Detractors (scoring 1, 2 or 3), Neutral (scoring 4 or 5) and Promoters (scoring 6 and 7). The final Net Promoter score is determined through the subtraction of the number of Detractors from the number of Promoters, and is proven to be directly related to the growth of business.

Huthwaite began working with PC World to measure current levels of KPIs and identify opportunities for improvements.

The first stage of the project was to analyse and benchmark current behaviours and performance in stores, so as to accurately determine a detailed picture of customers’ experiences, identify opportunities for improvement and gather information to be used in training content.

UK pilot observations allowed the development of a robust methodology that used a specifically designed behavioural analysis framework so as to record the verbal behaviours of Customer Advisors during interactions, and the outcomes of interactions – including conversion, add-on sales and customer service levels.

Statistical analysis enabled the identification of those verbal behaviours that had the greatest impact on conversion, add-on sales and Net Promoter score, and allowed detailed analysis of the optimum sequence of behaviours.

Using this analysis of behaviour against outcome, Huthwaite was able to create a ten-stage model for optimum customer interactions:

Each stage corresponds with a stage of an interaction and contains information as to levels of competence and related behaviours.

For example, the fourth stage of Milestones is Explore, and its measurement framework is demonstrated on page 3 (Fig. 2). The Milestones framework is incremental – therefore for a Customer Advisor to attain the top score of blue, they must demonstrate red, amber, green and blue.

The Milestones framework, coupled with the detailed findings from the research stages, allowed Huthwaite to work with PC World to develop a training programme that would enable Customer Advisors to demonstrate effective behaviours in interactions so as to increase sales and service performance.

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Huthwaite worked closely with PC World to develop a series of training initiatives to embed Milestones into stores throughout the UK:

Pilot Programme
So as to test the delivery mechanisms for the Milestones project, Huthwaite conducted a training pilot in one store – Junction 9 in Birmingham. The store gave their support of the project, identified an impact on conversion, add-on sales and customer satisfaction as a result of the training, and helped Huthwaite modify the delivery mechanisms so as to further improve the training for UK roll-out.

Management launch
During the annual PC World conference, attended by all Senior and General Managers from PC World and some from the DSGi Group, Huthwaite launched Milestones in conjunction with the PC World Learning and Development Manager – Tim Gallimore. Tim, with Claire Cologne of Huthwaite, presented a topline overview of Milestones to the audience, positioning the model by over-viewing the research findings and presenting results from the pilot programme in Junction 9 – including a video interview with the company’s best performing Customer Advisor discussing the performance benefits of Milestones.

Assistant manager training
Huthwaite designed and developed a two-day workshop to be delivered to an Assistant Manager from every store in the UK, in groups of ten.

These workshops were designed to enable Assistant Managers to:
• Demonstrate best practice in Milestones – i.e. ‘blue’ level for each of the ten stages
• Effectively train Customer Advisors in Milestones through the use of five 2-hour training sessions delivered to groups of one to six delegates
• Accurately measure Customer Advisors’ performance using the Milestones framework in observation of interactions
• Give performance feedback to Customer Advisors based on Milestones observations
• Effectively select Customer Advisors to proceed to the following stage of Milestones training, based on an achievement of ‘green’ in those stages already trained
• Deliver effective coaching sessions to Customer Advisors, based on Milestones observations
• Support Customer Advisors attaining ‘blue’ consistently in all stages to help coach and support their colleagues
• Manage the delivery of Milestones within their store, for example, mapping the first stage of training against store rotas and identifying colleagues that could support the measurement and coaching aspects.

The Assistant Managers were given a store training pack each, which included workbooks for Customer Advisors, a Trainer Manual with guidance on training, observing and coaching, pocketcard reminders of Milestones behaviours for all colleagues, Milestones observation forms, Milestones pens and an interactive DVD which included example interactions for each training stage of Milestones.

One Huthwaite trainer and one PC World trainer delivered each regional workshop, so as to ensure high levels of behavioural training and operational application. The workshops were delivered in store training rooms, so as to allow roleplay interactions to take place on the sales floor.

Feedback from Assistant Managers attending the workshops was excellent, with comments such as:
• “Excellent tool for new colleagues. Good opportunity to improve feedback skills.”
• “Gives colleagues the confidence they need.”
• “Will help the reputation of PC World as a whole.”
• “Proper, structured sales process, which is currently not used by most staff, particularly new starters.”
• “Provides clear criteria for one-to-ones.”

Internal support
Huthwaite worked with the PC World Commercial Team to explore how the Milestones research and framework impacted on the current commercial functions in the business, including marketing and in-store merchandising. Using the Milestones findings, the Team were able to implement improvements to marketing and merchandising materials to better reflect the requirements of customers and staff.

Regional Training Advisors attended a two-day workshop with Huthwaite so as to enable them to effectively support the rollout of Milestones across the stores in their areas. This was done through accurate observation of interactions and coaching and support of Assistant and General Managers.

Huthwaite worked extensively with PC World trainers to enable them to co-deliver the Assistant Manager workshops, and to ensure that they had the skills and capability to work with new Assistant Managers and stores into the future, without the need for Huthwaite support.

Huthwaite worked with PC World to design and deliver an evaluation project, so as to achieve the following objectives:

• Measure the key performance indicators benchmarked in the original research, including conversion, add-on sales and net promoter scores, with regards to the impact of Milestones in each of these areas
• Identify the highest performing stores regionally and overall with regards to Milestones behaviours to allow ‘Best By Miles’ bonuses to be awarded
• Determine the current application of Milestones so as to assist PC World in further supporting their stores with implementation.

The evaluation methodology followed was identical to that used in the research stages, which ensured accuracy of results. Each interaction was assigned an average Milestones score (as per the colours on the framework) based on the behaviours demonstrated during an interaction.

Conversion rate
Overall conversion rate of interactions observed rose from 47% in the research stage to 52% in the evaluation stage. Sales and Advances (advances are where a customer has not purchased but has given a ‘likelihood to buy’ score of 6 or 7 out of 7) are directly related to Milestones interaction score, as shown in Fig.3.

Add-on sales
Add-on sales have improved from research to evaluation stages (See Fig. 4.) Add-on sales are also directly related to Milestones interaction score (see Fig. 5).

Net Promoter Score
Customer satisfaction was also found to have a direct relationship with Milestones score (see Fig. 6).

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The Milestones project is an excellent example of where a collaborative relationship with Huthwaite results in the development and implementation of a highly successful programme that brings measurable performance improvements to business key performance indicators. The combination of accurate and credible behavioural analysis used to create a behavioural model with a practical and effective implementation plan has ensured that Milestones is embedded into stores across the UK as the operating platform for both B2C and B2B interactions. Huthwaite continues to work with PC World to provide ongoing measurement and support of the implementation of Milestones across stores.

Claire Cologne Huthwaite Consultant