Online or Off- Exceptional Service Sells

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-By Aleisha Parr

For over a century, the Winning family has been a leader in the Australian retail business through its company Winning Appliances. Today, the original bricks and mortar company has eight state of the art showrooms stocking over fifty leading appliance brands including Miele, Gaggenau, Asko, and exclusive collections such as Sub-Zero and Wolf. Furthermore, through the ingenuity of current CEO, John Winning, the company has now cornered the online market as well, with the introduction of its purely online sales channel, Appliances Online.

John Winning, himself only twenty-seven years old, is the great-grandson of Winning Appliances’ founder, and was the force behind the company’s push into the online market six years ago – a strategy which has helped launch the company well into the lead for both on-line and in-store success.

“In 2005,” he explains, “I realised there was a gap in the market to service consumers who requested the convenience of buying replacement items immediately. I saw an opportunity to sell whitegoods and appliances online. At that point in time I had spent time driving trucks for Winning Appliances and was working as a salesperson in the Redfern showroom. I could assess the way some people shopped and saw there was a future in online sales.”

“I approached my father who was MD at the time, as well as the General Manager of Winning Appliances, with my idea – and while at the time they thought it was fanciful and selling large items online would never take off, they supported my business venture.”

This attitude can be seen throughout the company, not only in management but also across all levels of staff and supplier and customer relationships. Mr Winning explains that, as a family company, Winning Appliances has a direct focus on creating a sense of ownership for work well done.

“I believe in my staff. We hire the smartest people in the industry and I empower my staff to make decisions to benefit our business. If they have an idea I give them an opportunity to prove it. I believe in my staff and trust them and this has enabled enormous growth and success.”

At the same time, to ensure the highest quality customer experience, the company has established a decidedly customer-centred approach to its sales, both online and in-store. None of the Winning employees work on commission, and each is fully trained on every product carried in order to provide clients with unbiased and transparent advice.

“We have a customer experience team, which is designed to ensure every customer is happy and we really do go above and beyond for every customer,” shares Mr Winning. “For example – in the early days before I started Appliances Online and was working as a sales rep at the Redfern store of Winning Appliances, we had a customer who came in with a sink they had – for some reason – drilled a hole in… and the hole they had drilled was in the wrong place. Even though this clearly wasn’t our mistake, we made sure we swapped the sink over so he had the sink that suited his kitchen. He was such a happy customer he probably told all his mates about the exceptional service and I believe this really sets us apart from our competitors. It’s not an isolated experience. Just this week we worked with a client’s builder and organised to hire a crane to enable a large fridge into a small high rise Sydney apartment to ensure the customer received the fridge he wanted. The foundation of our business has been built on word-of-mouth feedback via happy customers and we go the extra mile to make sure we impress every customer.”

Mr Winning’s vision for the company is to ensure that shopping for and designing a kitchen, laundry or bathroom is a fun and rewarding experience for each customer, rather than a mundane or pressured experience. In order to achieve this, he is working to add a comprehensive network of warehouses to enable next-day delivery throughout Australia as well as exploring an expansion into other product categories.

This expansion has already begun, with two notable actions taken in the last year – the first was Winning Appliances’ expansion into the commercial market, offering builders, architects and designers “a strong viable option with outstanding brand recognition, customer service and an excellent understanding of the market.” The second expansion saw the company’s purchase of the digital assets to Big Brown Box (www.bigbrownbox.com.au) from the Thorn Group. All decisions, says Mr Winning, are based on careful consideration of and attention to the needs and desires of the company’s valued clients. In the case of the Big Brown Box acquisition, customers had been requesting an opportunity to purchase audio-visual and consumer electronic products online alongside the kitchen and laundry selection. Big Brown Box is built on the same customer service values as Appliances Online and Winning Appliances, and has enjoyed immediate success and rapid growth since October.

“We place enormous importance on customer feedback – we are constantly talking to our customers to find out what they think about our business. We spend the majority of our time listening to our customers and the rest of the time changing our business based on what they’ve said. We don’t make any changes to our business model without first asking our customers if it’s in line with what they want.”

Mr Winning explains that the company has been able to maintain and in fact exceed its past levels of success with such consistency because of its ability to move quickly. “The online space waits for no one and Appliances Online and Big Brown Box need to be able to move incredibly quickly to stay ahead of our competitors. We need to see trends before other people and react to and embrace market changes.”

“On one hand you have consumers who appreciate the convenience of shopping online and love that we have a great range of products, free next-day delivery to most metropolitan areas and the best price guaranteed. These consumers usually have a fair idea of what they are looking for – or they might be looking to replace an old product with a newer model. On the other hand, Winning Appliances is a destination store for kitchen and laundry renovators, builders and those wanting to talk in-person to a knowledgeable sales consultant.”

For some time now, traditional bricks and mortar businesses have been facing a plethora of challenges, ranging from economic downturn, to changes in technology, to environmental crises. Mr Winning suggests that now is the time for retailers to get back to basics and incorporate the specific needs of their clients to achieve lasting success despite the difficult marketplace.

In fact, despite the GFC, innovations in appliance manufacturing have not halted, and Australian consumers are still demanding the top brands and technologies. In effect, what the GFC has done is make Australians more aware of and involved in their purchasing decisions, leading them to seek out the highest quality products for the best prices through concerted research both online and in-store.

“[Our] respect for the customer has been one of the main reasons we have survived through depressions, several wars and recessionary periods. While the global financial crisis has also reduced spending – marginally – Winning Appliances is tipped to grow at 15 per cent in the next 12 months despite the bearish market.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

June 21, 2018, 6:37 AM AEST