ADVICE & OPINION COMMENT A true customer centric approach is something that many organisations strive for, but few genuinely achieve. By Ceri Vaughan-Jones 8 FEBRUARY 2017 CLEANING HYGIENE TODAY for everything that you do. Listen to them, work on behalf of them and take the burden off them. This is the core message that we communicate and the core offering of the business today,” comments Richard. Now under the careful watch of managing director Bruce Blackledge, he believes Arrow’s work to increase value to their customers through product innovation and a concentrated customer-first approach is what sets them apart from their competitors: “Our expertise in the cleaning industry enables us to be able to advise our customers in a way that other businesses may not be able to. Knowing the market and sourcing new and innovative products allows us to provide customers with solutions that deliver simplicity and compliance to cleaning operations. We are more than just the supply of a product; our service provision embraces a larger customer journey.” However, no matter how large the organisation may grow, Bruce makes it very clear that by ensuring employees are valued and well cared for, the mission to keep the customer at the heart of the organisation will always be a part of Arrow: “Culture is a huge part of the Arrow brand and we believe that if we get the culture right then the work, the delivery of a great service and the building of a long-term enduring brand will Investing in a fruitful long-term customer relationship takes a lot of time and resource to fully understand each customer’s needs and desires. Businesses working to 100 per cent customer centric strategy are few and far between. Challenging more traditional business approaches, the customer-centric sales model is often too big a shift for many. Requiring sterling persistence and complete commitment, it is not simply a change to the way that an organisation works; it is a complete culture shift for a business and one that needs to resonate throughout the entire heart and soul of the organisation, in order for it to be successful. One such business that has made the move and now stands testament to the importance and benefits of a customer centric operation is Shropshire based cleaning and hygiene specialists Arrow County Supplies. Established by the late Allan Blackledge in 1976 the business was once a small home-based operation with a very modest offering. After steady growth, the innovative Richard Blackledge joined the business in 1994. He was zealous about creating and maintaining a company culture that would look after both employees and customers; providing a standard of service and care that would eventually go on to be synonymous with the Arrow brand. Introducing new ideas and a different vision for the company, a new philosophy around selling provided a huge, positive impact on the profitability of the business. Listening to their customers and understanding the market, Arrow was able to empathise with the issues that many of their target businesses were faced with. Providing complete solutions that would enable their customers to work more efficiently, cost effectively and in a compliant manner enabled Arrow to secure a dependable customer base. Richard comments: “One important thing that I identified as being fundamentally wrong quite early in the business, was when a customer was asked how much they paid for hand towels, to then be told that we can do them cheaper. I felt that we needed to have some kind of other offering that was more than just the price. Changing the way that we sold by focusing primarily on our customers’ issues first – with the sale becoming a natural progression - was probably the single biggest change for the company.” The Arrow brand is now synonymous with its excellent and unfaltering service provision culture: “The customer is key to the operation and is the central force naturally follow.” Sentiments echoed by Richard: “Our people are our single greatest strength and help us in our objective of providing enduring long-term competitive advantages. They all know what is right and act on it. If you treat employees well, if you care for them and if you value them and give them satisfaction in their jobs, they will really do a great job for customers and the customers will come back. When you see everyone committed and focused on the greater business goal - the purpose of what we do - that’s when change really starts to happen.” When the customer is at the heart of business processes, companies can thrive. The proof lives at Arrow. This successful enterprise consistently reviews and refreshes their approach to how they operate within their sector, keeping the vigour and the ambition pulsating through its entire structure. The underlying keys to Arrow’s success are quite clearly based around the notion that happy employees equal happy customers. IS CUSTOMER CULTURE THE KEY TO BUSINESS LONGEVITY IN THE FM SECTOR?
CHT February 2017
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