After just a few moments sat with Guy Bruce, it’s clear he’s a man who knows what he wants and won’t waste any time getting there. He’s about the “how” – he recognises that as a business you can have a vision, strategy and the plans, but the key for future-proofing a business is how these plans are implemented, what impact they will have on the market and the service you provide your customers.
In just seven months as Managing Director of SIG Roofing, he’s in the process of driving major transformational change within SIG Roofing to not only significantly improve its operational performance, but also to enhance the company’s position in the market by putting its customers at the heart of everything it does.
Products, location and support
“We are undertaking a massive investment programme to ensure we are fit for the future. To add value, it’s about having the right products, at the right place, in the right location, supported by the services and technical support that our customers want to ensure they can carry out their work effectively.”
Plans include a huge overhaul of the roofing materials supplier’s existing branch network, plus launching “new format” branches, as well as developing the business into an “omnichannel supplier” through significant investment in its existing e-commerce site, Roof Stores, which today he describes as “suboptimal”.
This is a huge undertaking – Guy says the business will invest more back into the business to make improvements in 2019 than it has in the last five years combined “and it’s being spent now”.
These transformational plans, designed to drive customer value through everything it does, come on the back of what Guy describes as “quite a challenging time” for the business.
When I ask what needed to change, Guy explained: “I was 90% sure of the answer within four weeks of being here. We lost our way a little bit but we have fantastic fundamentals – we’ve got the largest footprint in the UK, largest geographical coverage, largest number of branches, largest stock-holding – on any matrixes, we’re the biggest – if that’s your starting place and you’re profitable, and you’ve got great people in the business, they just need to be given the tools to sell, the products to sell.”
But biggest doesn’t always necessarily equate to best and Guy recognises that customer experience – whether that be proximity of branches, product availability or branch staff knowledge, are critical to success. Guy continued: “We’ve consolidated some branches over the last five years, but only where they were sub-economic, had service constraints or didn’t work well enough from a geographical perspective to meet the needs of our customers.
“During this period, we hadn’t opened any new branches, but I’m delighted to say this is going to change. We’re going to open new format branches – think of it as the Screwfix of the roofing world. These branches will be more retail focused, in great locations that are easy for our customers to get to.”
Guy was very hands-on when it came to researching what needed to be changed within the business, so much so that he went “undercover” in the branches to find out about the customer experience. “When you join you do the usual branch visits, meet the big customers and suppliers which is fine, but what I also did was take the glasses off, put the hi-viz on and went in as a customer with my roofing plan.
“The reason I did this was not to check up on the performance of my people; it was to experience what it’s like for our customers to walk into a branch and see what they are seeing. Was the branch easy to find for example? What’s access like? Does it have good signage? Do the branch staff up-sell or cross-sell to me? What level of customer service did I receive? If I’d asked the question from the comfort of my office I’d get one answer, but going to watch and experience this undercover gave me the customers’ perspective, which was vital!”
All Guy’s research, whether directly, at the branch level, or by analysing SIG’s own operational processes and procedures, was geared to finding out if the branches “were easy to do business with for the people I want to do business with.” The answer was, “it differs by branch, but it could be better everywhere.”
Branch staff knowledge
Returning to the three key areas of proximity, product availability and expert knowledge, Guy recognises that the branch staff are key to ensuring a quality customer experience: “We know we’ve got some great people, and we know we haven’t optimised the engagement of those people for the last few years because we’ve brought lots of change to the business that hasn’t always positively affected them.
“Your customer experience is defined by the person you speak to, so how do we make their (branch staff) lives easier? Well, we give them better products to sell and a better environment to sell it in. We also simplify systems and processes and increase our focus on logistics and supply chain.”
With this in mind, much emphasis has been placed on SIG Roofing’s Core range of products which ensure branch customers can always get their hands on everyday essential roofing products when they need them. Guy explained: “It’s clear to us that product availability, expert knowledge and a good price are the three most important factors to our customers. They often compare the core products – they’ll look around – and as the market leader we should always be competitive and always have them in stock.”
Guy explained that extensive research has dictated what the Core range should be, with regional variations addressed accordingly. He said: “We’ve really married up customer requirements and demand with fast moving products so we know that our Core range is the everyday roofing essentials. They are the products that our customers need day in, day out, to get their job done the right first time.”
Alongside the significant investment in an overhaul of branches, SIG Roofing is moving to become a true omnichannel provider and adapt to the changing ways people purchase products with a huge investment in their already existing Roof Stores e-commerce site.
Will this move to e-commerce be the long-term plan for SIG Roofing? Not so, according to Guy: “This isn’t an either/or, this is as well as. We’re giving you (the customer) different ways to work with us and making sure we can support you in branch or online.”
Guy stated that Roof Stores will get multi-million-pound investment over the next two years and a team has been brought in “that can take it from nothing to very significant.”
So, is this evidence of the changing role of suppliers and changing demands of the market? Guy explained: “The new generation of customers coming through, they don’t think that they are buying online – the concept of ‘moving’ to buying in a digitised world doesn’t exist because their reality has always been digitised. In the roofing space a lot of people are doing it – e-commerce – but I’m not sure if anybody has cracked it. Here I am, the UK’s biggest buyer and with the largest footprint, with a strong balance sheet and the ability to invest, so why haven’t we truly scaled an e-commerce business? Well, we’re about to!”
Judged on the how
Guy and his team have done a lot of work over the last few months with regards to creating investment plans to ensure a better customer experience and enhance the customer service offering, plus future-proof the business and improve operational efficiencies both in trade counters and online.
Already the impact of that hard work is starting to bear fruit, with SIG Roofing posting its best January results for 17 years. While there is a huge amount of work still left to do, good progress is clearly being made. But in an extremely competitive market, with the all-pervasive ‘uncertainty’ making for tougher trading conditions, Guy knows he will be judged on the “how”; how well will these changes be brought through, and how will they impact on the market? And ultimately, the customers will be the judge of that.