Leveraging a winning combination that has sustainability and technology at its core, Complete Office Supplies (COS) continues to dominate in its field. As Australia’s largest family-owned office supplies business, boasting a turnover in excess of $120 million annually, its continuing growth and success boils down to one key philosophy: superior customer service rules all
“Traditionally, office product companies didn’t sell coffee or toilet paper, but we have learnt that we do have to keep an absolutely open mind. We’re working on new categories at the moment and the under-lining thinking is always: what is the office buying and is there any reason they couldn’t be buying it from us?” Belinda explains. “Last financial year we identified that our customers were buying fresh milk every week. Initially we thought, is it something we could source competitively, so that it would make sense for the customer to get it in one delivery and on one bill?”
“To this end, we have a policy to ensure that no single customer is worth more than five percent of our business, and that is about preventing a knockout punch. We don’t ever want to be in a position where if we lost a customer, we’re at risk of losing the entire business. That wasn’t always the case – we have had times where one customer could have been worth 30 percent – but going forward, this strategy serves our sustainability goals.”
Dominique Lyone remains very hands-on as CEO and while Belinda looks after sourcing and marketing, Amie manages operations, including warehousing and distribution functions, as well as their customer support centre.“I’m responsible for the service level our customers experience and that means it’s up to me to make sure we deliver in full, on time, and that any touch point they have with the business is a positive one,” Amie says.
“That team sits in our customer experience division and they are trained as our product experts, which means our customers are getting live interaction with a person. They know who they’re speaking to any one time. We even have a photo of the person on the screen, so they can see they’re talking to a real person.” This adds a personal touch to their ecommerce platform, which Belinda is proud to confirm is cutting edge.
When building the digital service offering, it was “no longer about what are our competitors doing globally,” she shares, “but what more a conversation about what is happening in ecommerce generally”.
“Online shopping has exploded and ecommerce in the B2B environment was behind. We looked for inspiration by trying to see what are other big, successful retailers doing online, so we could make sure the customer experience of buying online at a personal level is translated into buying office supplies.”
The team then took it one step further to consider the B2B aspect of ensuring reporting, approvals, progress management and business features were offered, without sacrificing the customer experience.
“As a family, we’re conscious of our impact on the planet and we keep that as a core focus. We have an ethical sourcing policy and we’re pretty clear with our expectations surrounding child labour and the use of natural resources,” Belinda says.
“Any supplier we choose to consider does have to review and acknowledge where they do and don’t comply with our policy. From a global point of view, we’re literally visiting the factories in China on a regular basis and if I see something that sets off a red flag, I’m not afraid to move on to another supplier who is more aligned with us.”
It’s clear that a sustainable approach flows through every part of the business.
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