In 2008 Clientbase Fulfilment Ltd won M&G as a client. This thriving direct-to-consumer business sells their wide range of quality merchandise using multi-channel marketing to a loyal and discerning customer base through their four established brands, Present for Men, Gifts for Girls, Essentials and Travel Paraphernalia.

M&G ‘fulfilled’ in-house since Jane Hudson founded her business over twenty years ago, so had gained many years of practical experience in the rigours and complexity of Home Shopping Fulfilment. M&G reached a cross-roads in the growth of their multi-million turnover company where a decision had to be made – either to commit further substantial investments in warehousing, systems and contact centre technology and recruit the relevant skilled managers, who are difficult to identify, or take the huge decision to outsource the whole call handling, fulfilment and systems solution from soup-to-nuts.

Clientbase Fulfilment Sales & Marketing Director Rob Smeddle takes up the story:

“M&G awarded Clientbase the contract, complete with the very most important of all assets: that determination to build a fair and open relationship which breeds mutual trust, loyalty and a genuine partnership. As a result, their customer soon became our customer. That cliché of ‘going the extra mile’ really does exist. This was shown on a recent Saturday evening television programme when one of our call centre agents had to unwittingly face the baptism of fire in BBC’s ‘Tonight’s the Night’ John Barrowman’s show.  When teased and lead-on, she remained polite, pleasant and totally the unflustered professional.

“M&G runs a year-round business with complex interlocking mailings from the four brands. Despite this year-round activity, we still have to manage the inevitable surge in demand during the last six weeks before the Christmas crescendo.

“Year 1 was a case of working with M&G’s very accurate predictions and ensuring that we delivered our service promise within the strict SLAs. We all gained so much during that first season and won through successfully, with both parties giving freely of their past experiences in a totally involved manner. We start every season with Jane Hudson’s personal introduction sessions for new recruits at Clientbase, telling her personal story of how she had built her business from scratch, always under-pinned by the passionate ethos of ‘service and honesty’. These are fun, open and even slightly ‘wacky’ sessions with lots of laughs as our new recruits sample the latest innovative products about to be offered to her loyal customer base. Big corporations could really learn so much from this sort of relaxed and human style. Close bonds were formed during Year 1 at all levels, from Jane and the Clientbase Directors, through to the shop-floor. Although 150 miles apart, we could all have been living under the one roof. M&G visit us through the peak season and are seen to be lending a physical hand on the pick beats and packing stations, which really does impress our workforce.

“In mid January our senior team are guests at Jane and Norman Hudson’s home for a thorough and well structured brain storming de-brief session. Every aspect of the fulfilment process is interrogated and discussed in this open forum. All the key data is delivered by our Account Manager, who is the essential lynchpin in the communication chain. Key pressure points are identified in these de-brief sessions and planned into the routines for the following year

“Year 2 brought renewed double digit growth as all the four M&G brands thrived and web orders surged, making the Christmas spike more pronounced and even later in the season. Clientbase had adapted our shift patterns and replenishment routines, stock lay-out, and increased warehouse space for both goods-in and egress. The challenge was higher, especially for the logistics team headed by our Pete Whyard, but all our joint performance indicators showed the existing high level of service had improved further despite the volumes running at over 20,000 items picked and packed per day. This was thanks to the close partnership and ‘no-blame-lets-just-get-the-job-done’ attitude throughout.

“With even greater demand, Year 3 brought further substantial evolution. New software mods to pick beat routines, with the introduction of zone picking across the 3,500 locations, proved very advantageous to productivity and accuracy. A re-written drop-shipped/personalisation module and a bigger core team of contact centre agents under an improved structure also proved a great success. A further innovation for this year is quarterly off-site meetings, each one concentrating on a specific topic that we all know needed improvement, in which everybody’s concentration focuses and solves the one topic. The results of these quarterly sessions have been invigorating, with seemingly intransigent logjams just evaporating. The year has been a ‘stonking’ success as season 4 approaches.

“There’s a recurring theme in this case study,” says Rob Smeddle. ”It keeps returning to the one point – that rare and special skill of a client who is able to manage a true partnership with their fulfilment house, and not just count them as a dumb processing division. In turn every individual who works on the M&G account really and genuinely cares for the client and their customers. Both businesses end up with improved margin as our companies grow in harmony. So many people preach this ethos, but so few deliver.”

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