Founded in 1972, Axminster Tools are a family-run business that pride themselves on their strong customer service values. With eight stores across the UK, a formidable online presence and a wholesale arm that also sells even to competitors, Axminster are recognised as one of the major leaders in the tools and machinery market. AFD Software was chosen as a partner in data quality to overcome three major challenges: cleanse almost one million customer addresses; classify each customer as business or consumer; and improve address validation at the point of entry.
A Refreshing Change – but not as expected
Traditionally a catalogue business, a few years ago Axminster made the huge decision to pull the plug on their six-hundred-page bi-annual catalogue, so that they could focus on their online business. However, contrary to expectation, customer feedback soon told them that their customers wanted the catalogue back!
Axminster knew that it would not be sensible to just do what they had done before with the catalogue, which had felt wasteful and led to the original decision to withdraw it. We spoke to Damion Norcombe, Chief Information Officer at Axminster, to understand how important clean data would be in reducing wasted cost, maximising delivery success, and driving new sales from the relaunched catalogue: “We knew we needed to cleanse our customer address data before relaunching the catalogue. Previously, staff would have had to sort through many large bags of returned catalogues numbering in the thousands that hadn’t reached their intended destination – costing us valuable staff time. A returned catalogue is not only a waste of printing and postage cost, there is an environmental cost and an opportunity cost. For every returned catalogue, a customer has missed vital communication and the business has missed a sales opportunity.”
AFD Refiner was used to cleanse and reformat Axminster’s customer address database (almost one million records) against the Royal Mail Postcode Address File.
“There is a can-do attitude that we get with everyone at AFD, nothing is an issue, promises are kept, and this is important from a software partner – a refreshing change.”
After cleansing, Damion was able to report that: “From a mailing of 40,000 catalogues to customers that had been active in the last 12 months we have had only 250 returns: this is a sharp decline in returns and a clear win following the data cleanse. We now have confidence that our customers’ address data is accurate.” Following the success of the cleansing project, Damion describes what’s next: “The plans around the data and catalogue is to analyse the AFD Censation data (Geodemographic Classification System) of customers that have purchased after receiving the catalogue, and add more customers into future mailings that match the same customer profile.”
Know Your Customer
Incorrectly classifying data can lead to missed opportunities, inappropriate levels of service and customer frustration. Charlie Cross, Chief Sales Manager at Axminster, explains the complex problem of understanding customers: “Because our customer base is diverse and made up from consumers as well as businesses, understanding whether a customer is a DIY enthusiast buying tools for a new project or a flooring contractor living at their registered business address is critical in how we manage them.
Business data including turnover, number of staff and sector from AFD Names & Numbers has enabled us to quickly and correctly classify our customers. We now know who our customers are and can ensure that they receive the correct levels of service.”
How many Steves?
Axminster have used AFD Names & Numbers in a novel way in their customer classification process. Charlie continues: “Through the classification process, we have been able to build customer personae.
For example, we’ve called one persona ‘Steve’ – it includes all furnituremakers with a specific turnover range and number of employees. We can then understand how many ‘Steves’ are in the database, what they buy and their preferred sales channel (online, in store or over the phone). Looking ahead to our plans for growth, business data from AFD will be used to understand our market share and find more customers that match the same personae as our ‘ideal customers’.”
An Automatic Upgrade
When Axminister used a previous supplier of address validation, key problems were identified around data updates, as Damion recalls: “Before partnering with AFD for address validation instore and online, applying essential data updates was a laborious manual job for each of our eight stores and the website. Each file would be a large download and then after that was complete, the server would need updating for the changes to take effect online. This was not only time consuming but there were instances when during the update process, there would be an error or an interruption and the address validation would not work. This led to either our sales processes slowing down, or not having any validations in place which then led to address errors and potentially delivery failure, completely obviating the benefits of having invested in address validation in the first place. Following the upgrade to AFD, this process is completely automated – saving us valuable man hours and removing the risk of the previous errors encountered.”
As well as updates now being automatic, Axminster were pleased to find that the data they receive from AFD is also better than their previous supplier. Damion continues: “AFD’s business data is more up-to-date, especially useful when we have a clear requirement to understand our customers and provide the correct level of service to them.”
The definition of “good”
Partnering with a new supplier can often cause complications, but Axminster found working with AFD to be a very straightforward and easy process. Damion gives his recommendation: “Any questions that have come up have been answered and solved straightaway, the solutions run themselves and we are pleased with the products and services we have had so far.
There is a can-do attitude that we get with everyone at AFD, nothing is an issue, promises are kept, and this is important from a software partner – a refreshing change.”
Charlie adds: “We deal with lots of suppliers and partners and we know what good looks like, and we also know what bad looks like. As a supplier, AFD Software is a clear example of what good looks like as a partner.”