Supplier’s dilemma: How to build scale

Annabel Denham
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FOR HIGH-GROWTH businesses, a key challenge comes in maintaining quality service as the company develops and the customer base expands. Many struggle to effectively navigate client demand. But for Bearmach, the world’s largest distributor of Land Rover parts and accessories, the last two years have seen radical improvements in customer care. It can now deliver anywhere in Europe within 24 hours.

“We don’t just take and fulfil an order,” says sales director Chris Howe. “We’re always listening to feedback, and making changes to the business to improve the client experience.” In response to capacity problems and signal difficulties, for instance, Bearmach has implemented Vodafone’s One Net Business. Not only does it now have a more agile and robust telecoms platform to stay constantly connected to a larger customer base, but has brought warehouse workers directly to the front line, meaning faster response times – and happier customers.

Now changes are happening online. Bearmach recently upgraded its website to include more customer-friendly tools, like viewing order status and history online. And back office system support solutions are being investigated for the future, commercial director Graham Payne tells me. “Our main approach now is to make our website easier for clients to use.”

While the response from customers has been overwhelmingly positive (“people are using our website more than ever before – that’s the only affirmation we need”), Bearmach has, perhaps inevitably, faced operational difficulties. In the past two years, it has had to create entirely new roles. “Our commercial and sales teams needed tech-savvy personnel to drive growth,” Payne says. “We’re now working seven days a week to get to where we want to be.”

But Bearmach doesn’t use social media as a marketing tool, since “we’re not working with the end user. Instead, we focus our efforts on supporting our distributors.” As such, the company regularly sends out catalogues, posters and e-shots to clients. It’s also about to introduce a new range of merchandise.

Yet one of the largest obstacles it faces comes from exporting to over 130 countries. Two years ago, visits to clients overseas were rare. “But now, we have localised our service by offering language support in our back office, and making regular visits to countries and customers,” Howe says.