A five-year reignition of service excellence
When Chairman of the JD Group, David Sussman, opened his first store on Jeppe Street in 1983, he was determined to make every customer matter. 26 years later, his one store had grown into a Group of eleven businesses, including furniture and tech retail. He had done something right. But in the success and frenzy of growth, the culture of service, so fundamental and critical to the Group’s success, had been diluted. The Group’s brands were disconnected, each operating in its own cultural silo. Over 25 000 employees across 1000 branches needed purpose, an anchor of culture and a guiding light, returning them to their foundation: the customer.
A game changing, Group-shifting, five-year reignition of service excellence, created and communicated across the country. Working alongside Exco, HR and a dedicated Project Team (JD Group was rightly serious), The Performance Agency conceptualised The Art of Service; a service code and change model that instilled understanding and urgency around service improvement. Theory became visible in film, conversation, artefacts, humour, communication and action. The project was complex, intuitive and flexible, reaching across retail and social divides. JD Group was compelled to return to their cornerstone and, in the end, was “shifted in a way we could not have imagined”. (Thank you, David.)
A head office of 100 people knew that if they were to ask thousands of employees to buy in to a change, they, the core change team, would have to demonstrate it. Because in truth, the branches were HO’s customers. If service was not expressed and felt internally, there would be no hope beyond JD Group’s doors. With each wave of change, core team members empowered managers to carry the conversation throughout the network, cascading excellence and embedding service culture year by year, branch by branch.
- David Sussman, Chairman, JD Group
Uncompromised conduct, customer-facing rituals, the crisp white gloves of furniture movers. JD Group knew the little things layered to give their customers an incomparable experience. The Art of Service built on this foundation, conceptualising tangible and intangible artefacts that exemplified customer-first practice. Gestures, activations and moments of consideration sent signals of service and respect. The solve also allowed service to look and feel different across the Group, to affect its wide-ranging target markets. Service was to be natural, unaffected, and intentional; aware of its environment.
Every step and element of the change process was measured using the Service Profit Chain. First, to see clearly — how do we look today in terms of service? — and then consistently and annually, to reveal impact, alight areas for improvement and enable planned responses. Every employee, manager, leader and branch consultant were held accountable for their commitment to the change. Measurement was broad and granular, with feedback inspiring flexibility and innovation.
Adapted from Heskett, J.L. Sasser, W.E & Schlesinger, L.A. (1977), The Service Profit Chain. New York: The Free Press
Material and message reached the smallest of towns and the biggest of hearts. Across the board, measurement results summited. Employee engagement was up 27% to an unprecedented 94%. Confidence in internal service quality rose to 84%. Customer satisfaction jumped to 84%. Together, TPA and JD Group inspired the organisation to dream unreasonably big, and to act on the dream. What made it work? Diehard commitment and immovable dedication to realising what David Sussman knew from day one: the customer is to whom all success is due, so you better treat them right.
Manager: Employee connects, over five years
Customers surveyed annually
Percent customer satisfaction
Percent employee engagement
Percent employee buy-in and commitment
– Pamela Barletta: Director, Human Capital for the JD Group