Communication – delivered regularly and effectively

There are many things we are doing in our business that affect our customers and stakeholders in both positive and negative ways. Our rationale for this is, ultimately, to transform the business to create more strategic and meaningful relationships.

In order to ensure we communicate effectively, we are investing more in platforms that facilitate better communication. We have enabled feedback mechanisms in these newsletters, and would encourage you to ask us anything that is affecting your relationship with GNS. We would like to share the good news stories we receive from customers who are successfully implementing products and/or solutions within their businesses that are provided by GNS.

A key part of this process is knowing “Who do I turn to for help?” when the need arises, so we have included some key escalation contact details within the business for you to use, should you find it necessary (see page 3).

Operational Challenges

The last few months have produced some encouraging results for the business. However, we recently experienced a series of events that combined to place a massive strain on the business and which our customers would have experienced first-hand.

Our Operations team manage several key promotional activities every year, including BTS, Christmas, Mid-Year, Diaries, Expo, and several smaller events. This year a culmination of late deliveries and short supplied products created the “Perfect Storm” from an operational sense.

Given our warehouses are primarily laid out for Cash & Carry activity, we have limited floor space available for seasonal picking activities relating to key promotions. Normally, we set up a space dedicated to the current campaign and pick orders from that location prior to the requested delivery dates, and then send these as required. If we are unable to complete a full promotion it creates a backlog where orders can only be part-picked, and either held until remaining stock is available, or shipped with a less than desirable fill rate.

What transpired this year was a combination of multiple problems starting with 2016 Diaries, which were delivered late and incomplete. This was followed by delays in Expo stock from suppliers, as well as incomplete or low fill rate orders. Following on from that were delays in Christmas stock which also resulted in poor fill rates, created multiple handling requirements, required extra labour to manage the increase in volumes, and generated an overall poor experience for our customers who are most affected.

Why am I writing about this? It’s not to shirk responsibility or apportion blame, as ultimately we are accountable for our actions, rather it comes back to control. Most of these factors were not within our control. When we gear our operations for expected activity and it fails, it is difficult to recover as well as maintain business as usual.

At the commencement of November we undertook steps to address priorities which resulted in daily meetings involving Sales Management, Operations Management and Procurement. These meetings are continuing even though we have resolved the majority of our backlog. The priority here was to regain control of what we could manage, as well as gain a better understanding of issues beyond our control.

As we move through December and prepare for peak activities through Christmas & BTS, we have expanded our pre-ordering process with selected suppliers. What this means is that we have brought forward stock requirements into the month prior to the demand. For example we will be loading our inventory in December to meet January requirements. This allows us to come into the New Year period ready for the increased demand on operations without waiting for supplier deliveries to be received and processed at the beginning of the month.

We will keep a constant focus on operations through this peak selling period. Our sales activity from November to February contributes greatly to our yearly performance, making the success of these campaigns critical for all concerned.

NSW DC Relocation

Previously, we have communicated about our Perth DC Project, which is now well underway and due for completion early in 2016.

To manage the issues described above, as well as to deliver additional improvements, we announced in November the relocation of our NSW DC, which includes the National Head Office function.

We have now appointed Colliers International as managing agents for the sale of the existing property. We will keep communication open as this project progresses. Our staff have received this information with enthusiasm, welcoming the change, as it will allow us to manage many business improvement projects and facilitate further growth opportunities.

Customer Service

I have had a lot of feedback around changes to our Customer Service experience resulting from the centralisation process. As a result, we are implementing changes to address issues that have existed long before the centralisation as well as obvious resultant issues.

Paul Middleton discusses in this newsletter (page 7) the trial of a new customer service system. This will provide a massive improvement in call tracking, escalation processes and call management to customer satisfaction.

We recognise the importance of good Customer Service, and the contribution Operations makes to our data and other information that enables the process of resolving the day-to-day issues we all face. For this reason we have changed the reporting line for Customer Service to report through to Jason McLeod, our Chief Operations Officer. This will allow Jason and the Operations team to forge better processes, improve communication, and ensure information is available at all times. It will take time to improve the overall experience, but we have identified key areas of focus around;

  1. Systems & Statistics
    1. Call Volumes, Call waiting times, abandoned calls and calls per Customer Service Member
  2. Call Quality
    1. The way the call is managed, how each Customer Service Member can identify and resolve the questions or issues from the customer
    2. The direct communication, level of courtesy and professionalism
  3. Product Knowledge
    1. An ongoing requirement that will be incorporated into weekly programs
    2. New product information and discontinued items
    3. Alternative product options for special enquiries or stock shortages
  4. Escalation Paths & Process
    1. Establishing baseline service levels, keeping customers informed of progress
    2. What to do and when to escalate issues to other parts of the business
    3. Ensuring these outcomes are followed through personally
  5. Induction & Training
    1. How we can set and maintain a base level skillset for all of these above areas of focus for new members of Customer Service

Changes to our AGM

As you may know, for reasons of appropriate governance, we replaced our auditor at last year’s Annual General Meeting (whom GNS had used for over twenty years) with Grant Thornton Australia Limited, one of Australia’s leading mid-tier accounting firms. As a result, Grant Thornton identified weaknesses and process issues requiring adjustments from previous audits.

These issues have taken considerable work and time to address and have, ultimately, resulted in our deferring the AGM to January 2016 with ASIC approval.

Our shareholders will receive appropriate details around this, and we believe our audit process as a result of changes required will return to regular timing for the 2015/16 Financial period.

The Road to Retail

GNS recently partnered with The Road to Retail, a website dedicated to Retail Excellence. Have a look at https://theroadtoretail.com

GNS and The Road to Retail will be launching and developing further content-specific training for Newsagents, and other retailers, educating them in ways to improve the “shopper experience”.

Take a few minutes to watch an introduction to “The Retail Trifecta” training course, developed by Road to Retail Co-Founder Kevin Moore, one of Australia’s leading experts on retail and shopper marketing; https://youtu.be/VBxF7315XFo

GNS will be providing this training course to selected customers who demonstrate a willingness to improve their retail presence and the customer experience in their stores.

Our supplier partners will also have an opportunity to develop product and/or category specific content for this program that can improve brand equity and performance in these retail formats.

Please respond to this article if you would like further information on how you can participate in this program, either as a supplier partner or as a retailer looking to improve their business (and who doesn’t?)

End of Year Trading

Some customers have voiced their concerns over our planned closure from Christmas Eve afternoon to January 4th. Given the peak operations activity from October right through to February this short time gives our staff an opportunity to break before the BTS peak that hits as soon as January trading commences.

We understand this may not be suitable for your own specific circumstances and would encourage you to discuss options with your Business Development Manager. Our changes in payment terms should allow you to increase stock without adversely impacting cash flow. It also reduces delays that are likely to occur when we re-open in January, when everyone orders and needs stock immediately.

We are geared up for these options, please talk to us about how we can help you through this period.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank-you for your support this year. I hope you do get a chance to enjoy the festive season over the coming weeks. On behalf of everyone at GNS, I wish you and your families a safe and Happy Christmas and I look forward to bigger and better things in 2016.

Alex Stewart
Chief Executive Officer
alex.stewart@gnswholesale.com.au