Multi-Channel: Making it Work

The Damartex UK HQ sits alongside the Leeds & Liverpool Canal next to the famous Bingley Five Rise Staircase Locks. Damart UK is a major mail-order firm with a £100M+ annual turnover. Based in Yorkshire, you’d expect down-to-earth plain-speaking – along with a high degree of warmth. That’s exactly what we got as we asked Jeanette Askin (Contact Centre Manager) and Ian Auker (Network Communication and Service Delivery Manager) to pass on nuggets about growing a truly multi-channel experience. What could you learn?


Heritage, Territory & Culture
Damart began 60 years ago in France where the Despature brothers patented “Thermolactyl”, a man-made material from which thermal underwear was manufactured. Famous European climbers like the Italian Reinhold Messner, Austrian Peter Habeler and Britain’s Chris Bonnington used and endorsed the clothing as they conquered Everest.

The French-owned business has come a long way since then, with distinct bases in Belgium, UK and France now focussed on thermal clothing and ladies’ ready-to-wear. Each territory has its own history and development story. Belgium is retail-based with 56 stores, UK is 100% mail-order based with over 1.8 million active customers, and France is a mixture of stores and mail-order.


Customer Channel Preference
“Ten years ago we believed there would be a transition to online retail. The fact is that although we do deliver a multi-channel experience this transition did not happen at the rate we expected. Today the proportion of phone orders has risen to 40%, orders by post 51% and with just 9% of orders placed online or via email!” explains Ian. Jeanette continues: “What determines the customer channel choice is not easy to prove, but we think the channel choices are driven by factors such as the increased cost of postage and the enjoyment of speaking to a real person. The profile of our traditional customers is senior – and that is another factor in channel choice.”


High Growth Export Market
Jeanette thinks that retaining and growing UK contact centre skills has put in place a strong foundation for growth in the USA: “We are leveraging those skills and our US customers love the warm Yorkshire accents of our colleagues. We now run shifts until 4am UK time to serve customers on the cold US East Coast. When 6’4” of snow lands in a single day – you can imagine that the desire for our Thermolactyl products rises!” “The contact centre receives 10,000 calls per day and 10,000 mail orders per day and during peak periods this doubles. Our colleagues do not have a working knowledge of US addresses and AFD WorldAddress has empowered them to find accurate addresses quickly from a ZipCode and street or property details.”


Multichannel Data Challenges
Demand at Damart is driven by a wide variety of marketing activity. Around half of all UK business is placed via mail order and each week 750,000 mail order catalogues are despatched. Together with “off-the-page” advertising in magazines and newspapers this drives orders by mail and phone. The autumn/winter season 7 week, 18 channel TV advertising campaign drove a measurable increase in unique website hits and a surge in telephone catalogue requests. So how do you prevent the duplication of customer records in a multi-channel environment? Jeanette says this is an enormous challenge: “Existing customers may well take up an introductory offer actually aimed at new customer acquisition. At the heart of preventing the duplication of customer records is address validation at every point within the business. We have AFD Postcode Plus deployed in every system – Mail Order Data Entry, Contact Centre and Website. By validating addresses at the point of entry we are able to minimise the creation of duplicate addresses.”


Technical Diversity and Transition
Back to technology, Ian’s concerns are around diverse platforms and safe transition: “We have a UNIX-based version of AFD Postcode Plus for our contact centre and mail order data entry systems, an XML-based web service version of AFD Postcode Plus and WorldAddress for our USA and website systems. AFD Software is on this journey with us, making technical transitions happen reliably.”


The Art of Feeling Good
Damart recently won the UK Customer Satisfaction Award from the Institute of Customer Service. Jeanette explains why: “Our business and culture is orientated toward making the customer experience excellent at every point. AFD Software plays a vital part in making this possible. Part of what makes our customers feel good is about answering calls quickly, minimising data entry time, minimising duplicate records and ensuring the data accuracy that is the foundation for on-time delivery. With AFD Postcode Plus and AFD WorldAddress our colleagues don’t have to be experts in UK and US addresses.”


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