John Lewis – The Rebrand And The Reality

If you’ve been to the cinema, watched TV or read the newspapers, you may just have noticed – John Lewis has rebranded.

Millions must have been spent on advertising as lavish as that normally reserved for Christmas.


Paula Nickolds (MD)  tells us we will find manifestos in shop doorways “explaining why you will get a different service from the owners you meet in the shop… We’re connecting back to what John Lewis has always been about: people”. She also insists that, “service has to be the future of retail”.

Their ubiquitous advertising blasts us with more than just the “for us it’s personal” strapline. “We’re more than employees, we’re partners. We all have a shared commitment: to go above and beyond for every customer. Providing quality products and outstanding service”.

Engaged employees delivering sensational customer service is what keeps customers coming back, right?

Sadly, that wasn’t my experience when I recently purchased some new curtains.

The saga began when we visited a John Lewis Partner store to look at curtain materials. I couldn’t book an appointment whilst I was in store. I had to go via a call centre. Shortly before the visit I received a message to say that my date was no longer available and to call the person back (with a London number and extension) to rearrange. I duly entered into call centre and voice recognition hell. After 15 minutes of call transfers and being repeatedly told I should go on the website, I spoke to someone who wasn’t able to help or transfer me to the person I wanted to talk to, but who said she would email the said person to let her know I’d rung.

Several hours later I got an email from Sarah telling me she’d left me a voicemail offering me new times for measurement. I agreed to a date 2 weeks later than the original one.

A week later I had another call to say that date was no longer available any more but that a different one was.

Calling back to confirm the new date I was told it was no longer available. This new date disappeared (oh yes – central booking means that although I told you it was OK, someone has just taken it).

I agreed a third date and I was given assurance that within 2 hours I’d receive confirmation. It never came.

Finally, the day for the measurements arrived – five weeks after my visit to the store!

John Lewis’s commitment to the customer is to confirm a 2-hour time time slot for the appointment by email or text 24 hours before.

Did that happen? What do you think?

At long last a wonderful estimator came to measure up the curtains and demonstrated all the qualities of customer service I had expected and not received in my previous encounters with John Lewis.

No one I had spoken to demonstrated the slightest empathy or understanding of my frustration and increasing levels of irritation.

The disconnect between the store, the estimator who finally came to measure up, and the admin in-between was less than stellar and verging on the horrible.

None of the 3 critical elements of service were exhibited during any of my phone interactions or email exchanges. One of these is what goes on behind the scenes. What should be invisible to the customer – was all too visible for me.

Coming at the same time as the glitzy rebrand campaign, it made it hard to stomach.

Want to know how to ensure your customers experience moments of magic not misery? Contact me anytime.