Editor Dan Owen spoke to TaylorMade Managing Director David Silvers on how years of hard work on improving their customer service is paying off for one of golf’s most innovative brands.
You’ve recently won both the TGI Hardware Supplier of the Year Award and Foremost Supplier of the Year awards. Did this come as a surprise?
We were fortunate enough to win the TGI Hardware Supplier award at their annual conference at Turnberry in January. We’d not won anything, or even been nominated for anything for a long time so it was great to be able to celebrate this moment as
We were then awarded the Foremost 2021 Award for Iron Range of the Year which was a great achievement but we’re always confident in our product. More importantly, we won the overall Supplier of the Year Award. Ping has had a stranglehold on that award for a long time. It’s been fantastic to be recognised for the improvements we’ve made. To be acknowledged by the green grass professional is extremely satisfying because that has been such a big focus for the business.
It’s just massively gratifying that these awards are based on members’ votes. We’ve had some tough times over the years and everyone at TaylorMade across all departments has stepped up. If one link in the chain is not working, it’s impossible, and we just had so much buy-in from everyone to go after this goal.
What does it mean to you and the company to win these awards?
We’ve really worked very, very hard to accomplish this. It’s not an overnight success by any means. The bar is very high because all of the main brands over the last four or five years have done a great job. The retail outlook has been very positive for a few years now, and I think that’s partly to do with the fact that all the main brands are performing. If we are all doing a bad job, and you were just the best of a bad bunch, that wouldn’t
really be achieving anything, would it? But we’ve been voted as the best of a good bunch.
This means so much to us because back in 2014-2015, we were not in a great place with our relationship with the green grass professional. We didn’t have a strong narrative with that channel. Foremost conduct a survey every year and brands are ranked on various factors such as product innovation and marketing, which you would expect us to rank well on and we did, but it also marked us on profitability and customer service. We were ranked 60 out of 61 suppliers. We were at rock bottom. That was the point where we became very honest with ourselves and we ripped up the book and started from scratch.
To see that play out over the last seven years to become the most trusted partner to the green grass channel in the UK has been what has kept us driven. It doesn’t matter how good your product and marketing is if you aren’t easy to do business with. The green grass professional is very well respected by their consumers and can recommend anything that they feel comfortable recommending. If they don’t feel happy pushing TaylorMade because of our service levels, then they’ve got some other great brands to choose from. We believe we’ve got the best performing products. We believe that we create the biggest buzz and we tell these great stories, that excite people to walk through the door of a retailer. What we then needed to do was make sure that the retailer trusted us to help them sell through that product and make money.
What changes have you made?
There are three elements to this. One is providing the retailer with as many tools as possible to sell through the product. We’ve put a massive emphasis on training, both virtual training content, and in-person training. We try and get the broadest spectrum of training done between December and March to make sure that when the season starts, retailers are ready to fit and sell TaylorMade products.
The second is experiential support. Fitting days are massively important as a support mechanism to the green grass pro. Five years ago we had three experiential experts in our team. Today, we’ve got one experiential technician in every single sales territory where we have an Area Sales Manager. Now we’ve got 13 experiential staff that enables us to cover more retailers. It also means that more retailers can get a fitting date during the launch phase between March and June.
The third part of it is a significant investment in point of sale. We believe we’re best in class at point of sale. Not only for bigger retailers with shop-in-shop units but we’ve got fantastic slatwall solutions, with different shapes and sizes that really enhance the look of some of the smaller green grass stores. We’ve invested across the board, creating really strong ball displays to go with our wood and iron setups. That’s been a multi-million-pound investment over the course of the last three years. It’s paying dividends for us in terms of the width and depth of distribution that we get for our product range, but more importantly, what the brand looks like to a consumer when they walk through the door.
How have you improved your customer service to the retailer?
This is the key thing that we needed to focus on. In the last few years, we’ve hugely expanded our customer service team. Importantly we have increased their skill levels, to the point where they feel like a Business Support Manager and not just someone taking orders over the phone.
We also launched a B2B ordering system, which customer feedback suggests is the best in the business. We’ve also outsourced most of our warehousing. The advantage is twofold, as the logistics company are able to hold more stock and ship out goods more efficiently and quickly than we could previously, and it’s allowed us to become laser focused on custom orders at our Basingstoke HQ, giving us both more room to build and more room for holding components.
Above everything else, we’ve just been obsessed with the quality of our club build and getting orders right the first time. We measure every step of the process on a daily basis. We’ve created a culture where we have an army of problem solvers. If we spot an issue we try to address it as quickly as possible so it doesn’t happen again.
We are working hard on delivering products when we say we will. That might not be quite as fast as you’d like with the current vendor delay issues all brands are facing, but we aim to deliver on our promise. Retailers need to know that when someone walks in, they can sell that product with confidence, knowing that it’s going to be on time, and built to a high standard.
We were the number one brand in market share last year, for clubs and balls in the UK in the green grass channel. That’s definitely not only about product, it’s about the complete package of being the most trusted business partner to the retailer. They don’t necessarily want to stock six or seven hardware brands, many want to stock three or four. We need to make sure we’re the most trusted partner of their chosen suppliers.
How do you move the business forwards and keep improving?
I’m not going to give away any trade secrets about what we want to do next, but we’re definitely not sitting on our hands.
The biggest tangible example of where we go next is the new Custom Build Lab. The amount of investment that has gone into that is enabling us to almost double our capacity. If we needed to we could produce far more. We were around 70% higher in March in terms of units built than our previous record month.
The big challenge is managing and maintaining our service levels, given the growth that we’re seeing. If you double your business, you’re going to get double the amount of problems, even if you are performing just as well as you were before. We have to keep improving our service just to handle that sheer level of growth we’re seeing as a company. GR