Smily, happy wholesalers

A ‘mood chart’ is helping to spreading smiles at Adams Cash & Carry, writes ELIT ROWLAND

It’s common for wholesalers to collect feedback from customers. Some do it yearly, others twice a year, but for Confex-member Adams Cash & Carry, monthly customer feedback is key to building success. Abdul Aziz, managing director of the Peterborough-based group, says that customer feedback has shaped the business. “We get feedback from 90% of the people the form is sent out to. We take the responses very seriously and implement changes wherever ­possible.”

Perhaps one of the most exciting developments from customer-feedback is Aziz’s price-match policy, which promises to match a lower price in the ‘unlikely event’ of customers finding a cheaper product within 70 miles. “Our customers tell us that we have the best prices in 95% of cases, but we still don’t want them to go anywhere else the other 5% of the time.”

And the initiative is working, according to Aziz, who says that customers have been taking him up on the offer, particularly when competitor products are on promotion. The requests from customers for a car park also prompted the group to relocate to a 30,000sq ft site, six times bigger than the old facility. “Our customers can now order online and collect, saving them time and money,” he says.


Abdul’s seven steps to happy customers and staff

  • SEEK FEEDBACK: Send customers satisfaction feedback forms every month to help build the business around their expectations.
  • LISTEN TO THE FEEDBACK: Implement customer suggestions wherever possible.
  • MONITOR SALES: Measure sales performance weekly with the ‘team’.
  • HELP EMPLOYEES: Devise a ‘mood’ chart to measure the ‘happiness’ levels of employees.
  • HELP CUSTOMERS: Take a hands-on approach to helping customers improve their businesses.
  • AVOID ERRORS: Keep telesales technology up to date to help eradicate errors.
  • BE ETHICAL: Invest money in environmental sustainability and charitable causes.


But as much as he trusts his customers’ feedback, Aziz’s opinion is also regarded highly. He started out in the foodservice sector with his own fast-food business, but after experiencing problems with suppliers in the Peterborough area, he decided to start his own wholesale operation in 2001. He has four children – three boys and one girl – and he named the new business after his 12-year-old son, Adam.

Aziz can often be found getting stuck in to help his customers improve their businesses. “One of my fast-food customers was struggling financially – he came to me for help and together, we managed to increase his business by 100% by implementing a few key changes.”

Not only did Aziz teach the customer to track his outgoings, he also changed his menu to add new items. “We added scampi and mozzarella sticks, which are really popular with kids, to the menu, because people like to try new things.” He also recommended changing the ordinary oil to vegetable oil to improve the quality of the products. “Even adding coleslaw and beans as ‘sides’ to the menu was enough to make a big ­difference.”

Although healthy eating isn’t at the top of any fast-food operator’s list, advising customers to include healthy options will certainly help them to drive sales. “Another important change I made to his menu was to include a lower-fat option. We did a grilled chicken tikka wrap with lemon and pepper.” Aziz agrees that nutritional labelling is not going to happen overnight in the independent channel, but those operators that do manage to include this information on their products “will certainly benefit”.

An honest approach

His honest approach is making him a hit with the 600 customers in the Peterborough area that have come to know of the group through recommendation and word of mouth. “We don’t have any sales reps visiting businesses,” says Aziz, but the group is definitely on the road to growth. The new site is just the beginning of many developments, including a £40K investment in IT.

“We recently implemented some advanced telesales software, which is helping us to minimise mistakes and optimise customer service. You can’t pick it up off the shelf – they tailored it to our specific needs.”

This is particularly important when you have new staff, prone to errors, explains Aziz. “We’ve just had a new 17-year-old join our telesales staff and she’s not making any mistakes. The software indicates the customers’ usual purchasing habits, whereas before, we had to physically search their history.”

Adams has also just registered its new own-label brand, Easy Chef, which joins the existing Adams Pride label, and hopes to have a total of 100 Easy Chef and Adams Pride products this year. One particular opportunity in the own-brand sector is for more variations in pack sizes for spices, says Aziz. “Customers are asking for pack sizes that aren’t currently available – for instance, 2.5kg instead of 1kg or 5kg . We hope our own-label range will fill the gap.”

And it’s not just customer feedback that he takes seriously – he has weekly meetings with staff to measure success. “How do you know if you’re progressing? If you don’t measure, you can’t ­improve.”

Not only does Aziz invest in regular in-house seminars to continually educate and improve his staff’s skills, he even has a ‘smiley’ chart on the wall. “People have a choice of sad, happy or really happy! If anyone puts a sad face up, I’ll go and find out what’s wrong.”

Putting the customer at the heart of the business, together with site expansion, IT investment and continuous staff improvements, are just a few of the factors driving growth at Adams Cash & Carry, which has further plans to install a solar-panel roof and LED lighting in the warehouse next year.

“Price and service are the most important things to our customers, but our commitment to the environment and regular charity donations should help them to feel that by working with us, they are also doing their part.”

Many of his customers don’t have the space to hold on to surplus products, so his team delivers seven days a week, so that customers can constantly top up. “We’re even open on bank holidays and weekends – there’s always someone on call to take your order.”


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