Listening to our customers
Listening to our customers
Argos and Homebase conduct regular research to understand customers’ views carrying out mystery shopper visits, exit surveys and customer listening groups.
Trustworthiness' (based on choice, value and convenience) is an important customer satisfaction measure for Argos. This year 70% of customers surveyed associated Argos with this description, a level that has been maintained over 3 years of monitoring.
Homebase uses a continuous online survey, covering 22 product categories, to measure customer satisfaction. Its average score for the year 2011 was 85% among customers who bought a product. This is unchanged on the previous year.
What we’ve done
The Argos 'Big listen'
Since 2009 Argos has operated an online customer feedback panel of nearly 10,000 customers, letting it gather customer views and opinions through structured surveys. More than 30 surveys have been undertaken so far covering all aspects of what Argos provides to customers. We have plans to improve the approach in 2012 to make our conversations with customers more interactive. We shall also be inviting many more customers to join and give us their views.
Argos has introduced direct customer feedback opportunities to strengthen its research capability – including tellargos.co.uk – a website where customers can provide feedback on their shopping experience, which is also accessible via 360 key pads in all Argos stores. Argos received over 2.5 million customer comments through ‘Tell Argos’ this year and made a number of changes as a result. Consequently it achieved record mystery shopper results this year, with an average score of 89%.
Product reviews help customers make the right purchasing decision. They also provide valuable insights for Argos to use in everyday decisions from improving products and their descriptions to selecting promotional offers and ranges.
Since 2008 Argos has received over 1.3 million customer reviews with 364,000 in the last financial year alone (2011/12). Our latest product range has an average customer score of 4.3/5 and today over 59% of products are reviewed.
We also have the Product Q&A service to tackle any questions customers may have before making a purchase. Answers are provided by both our customer services team, the ‘Argos Helpers’, and our community of other customers. In 2011/12 over 78,000 questions were asked and 84,000 answers provided.
Check and Reserve/Reserve and Collect
This year 27.6% of all Argos sales were made using the Argos 'Check and Reserve' service (an increase of 7.7% on last year) something which cuts out unnecessary customer journeys and helps them reduce their carbon footprint. Similarly ‘Reserve and Collect’ at Homebase grew by 37% last year with many more customers using this convenient service to make their journeys worthwhile and productive, both saving valuable time and fuel.
In February 2011 we participated in the ‘Concerned Consumer Index’ research to understand how important social and environmental issues are for consumers buying home and garden products, and to see how their concerns have changed over the last few years.
This research showed that – yes – in the current economic climate consumers are looking for value, but that they also want businesses to live up to their corporate ‘values’. Consumers’ awareness of social and environmental issues is increasing, and they now expect more (in terms of activity and communication) from retailers.
Since then we have been developing sustainability strategies at a brand level that will really resonate with our colleagues and customers. It is likely that this strategic work will result in new actions over and above the initiatives that we developed last year.
We want our stores and services to be accessible to everyone, and we provide information about access facilities at all Argos and Homebase stores at www.directenquiries.com. We provide facilities for hearing-impaired customers who contact our customer service call centres.
We want to make our responsible approach into another good reason to shop with us; by offering products, information and services to help our customers save money, save resources and live more sustainably.
What we have done
This year we've offered customers a choice of products that:
- are more energy efficient. All our TVs now meet the latest energy efficiency standards. We display 'Energy Saving Recommended' labels prominently on many of our electrical categories. A typical household produces almost twice as much CO2 in a year as the average car – so cutting down can have a big impact. With 15% of UK household electricity bills spent to run TVs, making sure every one is energy efficient would make a big cut in carbon emissions – equivalent to taking 40,000 cars off the road.
- Conserve energy, for example loft and cavity wall insulation
- Help customers 'Grow Your Own' fruit and vegetables
- make recycling easier, for example recycling bins and composters
- are sustainably sourced, our peat free compost is just an example
Product quality and safety
As a responsible business we aim to provide customers with absolute assurance about our products' quality and safety. We require our suppliers to demonstrate their compliance with all relevant standards before we do business with them and have an in-house team that monitors product safety and quality. We ensure accredited organisations carry out factory audits and only accept product safety certification from laboratories with recognised UK accreditation or the equivalent.
To supplement these initial checks we use a product safety hazard monitoring system which provides real time information about product safety issues. We also analyse customer feedback and returns data to identify and resolve any possible issues
We provide plenty of customer information to help them make informed choices.
- we provide specialist buying guides on a range of topics, including home insulation and energy efficient lighting
- we publish advice on our website to help customers reduce their environmental impact and run their homes more efficiently
- we provide eco-home buying guides online
- we display the Energy Saving Trust Recommended logo on energy efficient products in our catalogues and on our website
Both Argos and Homebase provide a range of services to help customers make responsible choices.
Homebase offers two key energy saving installation services – loft insulation and cavity wall insulation. This service is backed up by expert advice and a range of energy efficient products including LED lights and energy monitors.
We offer a free recycling service for packaging on all large kitchen appliances delivered to customers. We also offer to recycle large unwanted kitchen appliances and are trialling a take-back service on old mattresses and beds on delivery of selected new products.
Throughout the year we have continued to build on our commitment to being a responsible lender as set out in our responsible lending policy. Find out more in our Policies section.
What we've done
We launched our online account servicing functions My Argos Card and My Homebase Card in March 2010 to give customers immediate information relating to their card accounts. This gives customers access to account balances, transactions, payments and other services around the clock. Since launch the service has gone from strength to strength with over 480,000 new Argos and Homebase customers now registered.
To make it even easier for our customers to manage their Argos and Homebase cards we have added extra functionality to our online account servicing. We have given customers the ability to instantly increase or decrease their credit limits online. Important account queries can also be emailed to us securely from within the website.
To reduce our impact on the environment, in January 2012 we gave customers the ability to opt out of paper statements via our website. In a little over 4 months, more than 40,000 customers have decided to ditch the paper and go green with their store card statements.
Customer in Financial Difficulties
We take seriously our obligations to help our customers who are experiencing financial difficulties and continually keep under review ways in which we can better support them.
Where we see customers who are in financial difficulty but who may not have received appropriate advice regarding their circumstances we refer them to our debt solutions partner. They are able to help the customer review their financial position free of charge and can advise on the debt solutions suitable for them.
When customers are routinely paying just over their minimum monthly payment we contact them to explain that this might not be in their best interests and provide information of where they can go for free help if they are experiencing difficulties. We also use credit bureau information to highlight to us where a customer might be in financial difficulty and we proactively manage the customer’s credit limit to ensure they do not add further to their debt with us.
To better support families managing the affairs of recently deceased customers we have outsourced the management of these accounts to a specialist firm whose staff are specifically skilled to deal with such accounts, including being trained by the Samaritans.
Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Throughout the year we have undertaken a number of surveys to gather customers’ feedback on various aspects of our service and also to understand their views on a range of specific issues including product benefits and future services they would like to receive from us.
We completed our main customer satisfaction survey in April-May 2011, contacting 1,200 customers. Although overall satisfaction levels with our application and card registration processes dropped very slightly, they did continue to be very high with 90% and 92% of customers respectively saying they were satisfied with the service we provided. We were also very pleased to see a significant increase in customers’ satisfaction with their experience when dealing with our contact centre – this rose from 62% in the previous survey to 75% and reflects a number of customer service improvements which have been put in under our ‘right first time’ initiative.
New commitments to Government
We have been instrumental in agreeing, through our trade association the Finance and Leasing Association (FLA), a number of new commitments to address Government concerns about the store card market. As part of the process we presented evidence to Government to demonstrate our approach to being a responsible lender and showing that our customers understand how to use their store cards responsibly.
The new store card industry commitments to the Government include not offering customers a discount as an incentive to apply for a card and not paying commission to store staff to sign up card agreements – we are pleased to confirm that it has never been our policy to do either of these things. In addition, we have agreed to ensure that all our store colleagues who offer storecards are trained to a new industry standard. We have always provided our store colleagues with full training on the card and how to offer it and we are updating our current training packages to ensure they are in line with the new agreed industry standard.
Financial Services - Home Retail Group Insurance Services Complaints Report
Home Retail Group Financial Services provides store cards and associated financial products such as insurance products to Argos and Homebase. Home Retail Group Insurance Services are regulated by the Financial Services Authority for the sale of our insurance products.
We are committed to providing our customers with choice, value and convenience. Occasionally we get things wrong, and it is important to us that we learn from our mistakes and ensure our customers are kept informed of how we take steps to remedy complaints.
We have a team of people who are dedicated to managing Financial Services complaints. The team not only make sure we investigate issues raised and respond to our customers, they also ensure that each area understands what our customers are saying.
Our complaints are used as a valuable source of information to help us improve our processes, products and services. The data below shows the number of complaints received between March and early September 2012 about the insurance products we sell. These figures were reported to the Financial Services Authority as part of our statutory duties under Home Retail Group Insurance Services, and the table below shows the information we submitted.
Number of complaints opened
Number of Complaints closed
Complaints closed within 8 weeks (%)
Complaints upheld in favour of our customers (%)
|Insurance and pure protection products || |
|4630 ||4107 |
|94% ||26% |
To put our complaint numbers in context:
- There was an increase in the number of complaints received when compared to the previous six month period. The increase was primarily as a result of complaints about the sale of Payment Protection Insurance.
- 16% of complaints referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service between January and June 2012 were found in favour of customers.
We will continue to update this section every 6 months.