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Darlings of Chelsea - Customer Service Success


Gold Stevie Award Winner 2019, Click to Enter The 2020 Stevie® Awards for Sales & Customer Service

Company: Darlings of Chelsea
Company Description: With five stores across the UK, Darlings of Chelsea has become a prestigious home furnishings designer and retailer. Most of our products are handmade in the UK, designed with comfort and quality in mind. Our in-store staff, telephone-based aftersales colleagues and personal account managers collectively take our customers from browsing to purchase and delivery with an outstanding level of care.
Nomination Category: Customer Service Awards Success Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Customer Service Success - All Other Industries

Nomination Title: Creating a sector-leading multi-channel customer experience

Tell the story about what this nominated organization achieved since the beginning of July 2017 (up to 650 words). Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms. Be sure to mention obstacles overcome, innovations or discoveries made, and outcomes:

In 2015, after ten years of trading, Darlings of Chelsea had gone from one man (John Darling), a basic website and three demonstration sofas, to a prestigious home furnishings retailer with five UK-wide stores and a healthy turnover.

However, the business was suffering from a dated image, an underperforming website and manual, inefficient, error-prone back-office processes.

Increasingly we were losing out on service to established competitors, and on price to an increasing number of online-only new entrants.


After a disappointing 2015 (just £80k profit), we decided to move away from competing in the discount space, instead targeting higher-spending professionals in and around London.

Turnover wasn’t the immediate priority; it was all about giving these discerning shoppers an experience that would make them buy off us repeatedly and recommend us.

If we got this right, we’d hit our target of £300k net profit (2017).


We identified that we needed to:

-Improve our image.
-Have more appealing products.
-Make dramatic process improvements.
-Make ALL elements of our multi-channel service sector-leading.



To make our products more appealing to our target demographic, we:

-Focused on comfort.
-Developed more fabric-orientated products: We started as a leather sofa retailer, but the market was more fabric-orientated.
-Advertised guaranteed price-matching on our new website (see below).


We’ve achieved a complete transformation across all elements of our multi-channel customer experience:

ONLINE: Following an intensive year of development, we launched a new and improved website in May-2016, offering:

-Sample packs of up to six samples and/or brochures, posted within 48-hours.
-Larger, better-quality product images.
-A zooming tool, to get a close-up sense of the product quality.
-Videos for any piece of furniture that moves (e.g. recliner).
-More detailed dimensions.
-Colour-changing technology.
-An integrated back-end, generating automatic purchasing orders and invoicing.
-‘Aftersales’ functionality: Customers with product issues can contact us online and upload photos (see later).
-Dedicated webpage and team plus discounts/‘bulk’ order option for trade clients (e.g. designers/hotels).


IN STORE: All stores are near train stations, have coffee bars, private parking, and ‘Kids Zones’ (toys/TV/Netflix). Customers now feel able to spend more time in our stores.


DELIVERY: We partnered with a delivery company offering superior technology. Customers receive a text with a two-hour timeslot the day before delivery, and a call 30-mins before.

AFTERSALES: In addition to having a liberal return policy (no-questions-asked 14-day return), a new team of dedicated customer service agents/technicians has been created to deal with potential aftersales issues through home visits – customers receive a two-hour timeslot here too.


As well as investing in graphic design and photography, we replaced our dated logo with a new, slick logo (Appendix-3).

We also:

-Email monthly newsletters to over 35,000 people.
-Invested and developed our social media presence: now 51k Facebook followers vs. 16k previously.
-Created online banners to drive more traffic to our website.
-Designed new brochures that people can request online.


Our new imagery was so good, it featured numerous times in magazines/newspapers (Appendix-5).


-EFFICIENCIES: Our new automatic back-end system makes processes faster with fewer mistakes, and salespeople process their own orders. This reduced admin workload from five employees to one.

-IMPROVED STAFF MORALE: Employees are more enthusiastic, and voluntary attrition is nearly zero; average length of service is currently 4.5-years.

-IMPROVED CUSTOMER SATISFACTION: Reviews from independent website (which customers are directed to) average 4.75/5 (Appendix-6).

-MORE REPEAT BUSINESS: 10% of turnover (5% previously).

-MORE WORD-OF-MOUTH REFERRALS: 20% of turnover (10% previously).

-MORE TRADE CLIENTS: 15% of turnover (5% previously).

-INCREASED ONLINE SALES: Online-only customers now represent 20% of turnover (5% previously).

-INCREASED TURNOVER: £6.5m in 2017 calendar year (£5.52m in 2016). 2018 forecast is even higher (Appendix-7).

Most importantly, we met our ultimate business objective: increasing net profit to £404k. Mission accomplished.