Dixons upgrades service levels with a little Knowhow

As electronics retailers turn their focus away from products to customer service, Dixons unveils the latest stage in its revamp as the specialist with the knowledge.

The battle for technology goods sales will be played out in customer service if Dixons Retail and other specialist electricals retailers have their way. The specialists are keen to differentiate themselves from other online and non-specialist retailers and halt the increasingly ubiquitous nature of the market.

Dixons has overhauled its service business and introduced Knowhow, the next step of an ongoing renewal and transformation plan for the retailer. The retail group, which operates PC World and Currys, wants to be associated with knowledge and service, not just the products it sells.

Dixons Retail group director of marketing, people and property Katie Bickerstaffe says: “My long-term goal is for consumers to say: ’I shop at Currys and PC World because they have the know-how’.”

Rivals Best Buy and Comet have also made moves to focus on the experience and superior advice and service they can provide over pure-play online retailers and non-specialist stores.

Best Buy has been in the UK for eight months and now operates seven stores, heightening rivalry in this already competitive sector. It is renowned in its native US for high levels of customer satisfaction and its teams of in-store experts – the “Blue Shirts”.

When Best Buy launched in the UK, it introduced its “Walk out Working” initiative, which means experts can set up and customise a new laptop before the customer leaves the store with it.

High street rival Comet recently repositioned around lifestyle and revamped its stores and advertising with the strapline “Come and play” to portray a more fun and emotionally relevant brand.

Despite the activity among its rivals, Bickerstaffe maintains that Knowhow is not a reactive move.

“We try not to put our attention onto the competition; we’re doing the right thing for our customers and doing what they want. If you do brilliant things it doesn’t matter what the competition is doing,” she says.

Bickerstaffe believes the introduction of Knowhow will dispel the “wheel of anxiety” that clouds the excitement of buying new technology and make PC World and Currys indispensable to consumers through the process of choosing, buying, installing and upgrading technology.

“When customers buy new technology, they’re filled with anxiety and the experience can be spoilt by a lack of knowledge. The aim of Knowhow is to be on the customers’ side and by their side through the whole process,” she adds.

Knowhow will replace the existing TechGuys service, but the group says it is not just a “relabelling” of its service programme but a “fundamental shift” in how it does business. There is a dedicated team working on the new brand, the operating model and the training of staff and technicians to deliver “the know-how”.

In the past two years, Dixons has transformed all aspects of its business as part of a five-point strategy to become more customer-focused.

Bickerstaffe says Knowhow builds on the work Dixons has done to build its service proposition, including bringing the majority of its repair work in-house and consolidating its call centres, as well as improving the delivery and installation services it offers.

Dixons has also redesigned its stores and opened PC World and Currys dual-branded megastores, and has launched a tiered own-label range of consumer electronics that runs across both brands.

The group is also increasing its advertising; it recently partnered with Lucas Films to launch a Star Wars-themed campaign starring C-3PO and R2-D2.

Bickerstaffe says: “The Lucas Films partnership says so much about our business. We’re doing truly phenomenal things, and management are happy to let us be creative and do big things.”

Dixons reports results for the second quarter today (25 November), with some analysts predicting a slight drop in like-for-like sales.

Dixons Knowhow

  • Knowhow will address the four stages of Dixons service business:
    – Helping customers choose and buy products
    – Helping install and set up products
    – Repair and upgrades
    – Help when things go wrong.
  • The group estimates that the “added value services” market is worth £2bn.
  • Knowhow will roll out in Currys and PC World stores from March 2011. The uniforms of Dixons’ service teams and its delivery vans will carry the Knowhow branding.

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