In Australia’s electrical wholesale industry, many traditional bricks and mortar operators are struggling with how to best to combine the online and shopfront customer experience (CX). That’s really come to the fore in 2020, with COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions reducing the opportunities for in-store interactions. It’s placed a far greater reliance on online and phone-based connections and support between the wholesalers and their customer base.
One of those electrical wholesalers to successfully transform into a multi-channel customer service operation is JH Market. JH Market operates a marketplace for products sourced globally that are designed, tested and certified to Australian standards. The business is almost 25 years old and has grown from a small walk-in store to an industry-leading supplier of lighting and electrical products with branches in Victoria and Queensland. It supports a 12,000-strong trade customer base and is currently diversifying with a focus on new customer acquisition and expansion into South Australia.
“It’s pretty rare in our industry to have a phone-based sales team and multi-channel support for customers,” explains Michael Gonsalvez, JH Market’s Chief Experience Officer.
“Most of our industry is still reliant on physical showrooms, with sales interactions and pickups in store.”
The business already operated with most of its IT infrastructure in the cloud, so in late 2019 with JH Market moving to a new office and its current on-premise phone system contract up for renewal, RingCentral was chosen from a shortlist of cloud communications solutions which also had outbound dialler capabilities.
As Gonsalvez puts it, part of JH Market’s vision was to “turbo charge” account management with much more targeted and relevant outbound sales calls and interaction with their customers. Rather than each sales person calling down a list of their trade contacts, JH Market has integrated customer scoring data from its e-commerce platform with other customer data analytics including buying history and contact rates, using data science to predict the optimal times to be calling each customer on particular campaigns or regular catch ups.
When the first COVID-19 lockdown came into effect in March, JH Market already had its new RingCentral Office and Contact Centre communications solution, e-commerce site and account management operations in place, so it was quite straightforward to revert to a work from home model for all back-office staff.
“Using RingCentral, we have daily video stand-ups with our marketing, data, product and development teams, and weekly all-staff meetings. It’s great to collaborate with Atlassian and Trello, but nothing beats a video or phone call,” says Gonsalvez.
JH Market has been able to keep its Victorian showrooms open just for trade customers, with the building and construction industry continuing to operate through the pandemic. However, there has been a significant overall slowdown of work with a sizeable reduction in JH Market’s average customer order size which is being reflected throughout the industry. Despite this, JH Market has seen an increase in overall efficiencies in the sales process, online and phone-based sales, and frequency of orders that has insulated the business from any COVID-19 impact, and ideally positioned JH Market to respond quickly when the market rebounds post-pandemic.
There are a number of CX innovations in the works. JH Market has just launched RingCentral Live-chat on its website and plans to increase its omni-channel connections with customers.
“There’s a lot more potential in e-commerce business across Australia, so we will be looking to increase diversification by further integration of our different customer engagement channels and introducing more online campaigns through the use of eDMs and social media,” concluded Gonsalvez.