What Is It about John Lewis and Nationwide?

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by: Mark Rogers

Department store John Lewis have announced that whilst their rivals may be suffering, they are growing market share. The Nationwide building society has seen a surge of deposits recently, partly the effect of the Northern Rock collapse.

Both businesses are growing market share during a slowdown. What is it that links them? In news links Nationwide talk about the quality of their assets, John Lewis MD Andy Street is not quoted as providing a rationale.

Our research points out some common features. What both businesses have in common in terms of consumer generated conversations is that:

a) positive commentary on them tends to contain specific customer recommendations and endorsements. A customer who is complaining about his ISP takes time to say something postive about Nationwide, an entire thread on MoneySavingExpert is entitled John Lewis are bloody marvelous and backs it up with facts;

b) negative commentary involves isolated problems: someone complains about a silent call from Nationwide’s call centre; a thread that starts John Lewis sucks big time, turns into a plug for their customer service as – just as several posters predict – John Lewis deal successfully with a horrible customer service issue.

This is by no means a common feature. A PR client came to us a few days ago on behalf of a business whose online commentary was positively sulphurous. There were no positive comments whatsoever, and the negative comments included threats of legal action. The company apparently thought that it had a “reputation” issue. Our suggestion was that it had a product issue. This is an ostensibly healthy company, but I would fear for it during a recession.

The common threads linking Nationwide and John Lewis is that they seem to provide great customer service and great customer service drives positive word of mouth. Both companies Net Promoter Indices are comfortably ahead of their sector average. And they are demonstrably growing market share in a chilling market.

When we helped Avis launch their We Try Harder blog – it was a joint venture between customer service and marketing. The point that Xavier Vallée and his colleagues at Avis understood is that customer service issues – correctly handled – are the key to having a great reputation. No one is perfect, but if your service is responsive and prompt, you are forgiven and endorsed. Avis, like Nationwide and John Lewis, are growing their market share.

Original Post: http://www.marketsentinel.com/blog/2007/12/what-is-it-about-john-lewis-and-nationwide