Ferguson Enterprises, No. 1 on MDM's list of the top 40 industrial distributors, recently completed a pilot program in Ft. Myers, TX, that will change the structure of how customer inquiries are routed, according to presenters at UK-based Wolseley’s U.S. Investor Day last week. Ferguson, Wolseley’s U.S. division, hopes to reduce cost-to-serve and increase sales by rolling out the model into more branches.
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Previously, Ft. Myers customers calling in with questions would reach customer-facing sales representatives housed in one of three local branches. During the pilot program, calls were instead routed from receptionists to inside sales reps housed at what Ferguson North America CEO Frank Roach called “super branches.” The newly created super branches handle inside sales functions for multiple branches.
Roach says he’s excited about the success of the pilot program, which brings scale to the inquiry routing process and better leverages Ferguson’s size. By adjusting the inbound sales process, “we were able to grow our sales significantly and lower our cost-to-serve,” Roach says.
To accommodate the new model, which Ferguson plans to start rolling out in similarly-sized branches, employee training will change. Roach says it will be important for receptionists to ask the right questions when customers call in to ensure customers are routed to people with the departments that can best fulfill their requests.
Ferguson is also testing the model on a larger scale before full launch. Another pilot of the model is in progress in Lakewood, NJ, involving a “mega branch,” an even larger location that also handles calls for local satellites and support branches. The Lakewood pilot will help set the stage for full rollout of the program.
The new customer experience model is part of Ferguson’s larger strategy of moving from “a loose confederation of branches to a more systematically/centrally managed business model,” says Wolseley Chief Executive Ian Meakins. Meakins says the transition will be gradual, because “the relationship in the branch with our local customers is absolutely essential for us moving forward.”