Case Study: Kent Blaxill – building its strategy by listening to customers

Kent Blaxill is one of the oldest firms of merchants in the UK. First opening its doors in 1838 in Colchester as an oil and glass business, Kent Blaxill today offers the trade and DIY enthusiasts across East Anglia, Kent and the Midlands the very best products available alongside personal and friendly advice.

The building supplies business is changing with traditional builders’ merchants under pressure from both household names such as B&Q and new trade competitors including Screwfix and Toolstation. Family-owned builders’ merchants with highly experienced staff that can offer helpful advice and loyal customers are having to adapt to a changing market and customer demands.

So when Kent Blaxill changed its management team to help shape the business for the next 180 years, it turned to Meridian West to better understand the demands and desires of its customers.

“It is,” says James Park, Managing Director at Kent Blaxill, “an increasingly competitive market. We need to respond to the constant changing market but keep what makes Kent Blaxill business that has survived for so long. Listening to our customers is the key to getting that right.”

The customer voice

Kent Blaxill’s customers are drawn from all parts of the trade: the small to medium builder, decorators, landscapers, plumbers, carpenters, electricians and DIY customers.

To better understand  what its customers want, Kent Blaxill asked Meridian West to survey a sample of its account customers.

Two separate online surveys were undertaken – one for Kent Blaxill’s decorator customers and the second for builders – with 938 responses across its multiple branches, together with a smaller group of in-depth one-on-one interviews with key clients.

Survey data was made available to the Kent Blaxill management team via Meridian West’s bespoke online dashboard in real-time (Echo), with the team also presenting a headline summary of the findings.

The survey was deliberately designed to identify what Kent Blaxill’s customers like and cherish, their frustrations and what they expect to see from merchants in the coming years.

The findings point to the firm as being the ‘friendly experts’ and provide a clear direction on how the business must respond to a changing market.

Building tomorrow’s future

The key to any successful customer listening programme is the steps the business then takes. There is little point in asking customers what they think and want if you are not prepared to act on that information. Kent Blaxill has taken what its customers have said straight to the heart of the business with a transformational delivery plan.

Kent Blaxill is now testing new ideas including longer opening hours, a click and collect service and a revamped website. Greater convenience for its customers is the underlying theme.

The survey findings have seen Kent Blaxill create a new customer charter that will underpin the business as it continues to grow together with a new CRM platform, website and loyalty scheme. Its findings are informing a new training programme for the business.

“These surveys have been a terrific exercise that has really helped us better understand and serve our diverse customer base,” says Allanna Docherty, Operations & HR Director, Kent Blaxill.

What has perhaps been the most impressive result has been an immediate £200,000 uplift in sales following the proactivity and enthusiasm of the Kent Blaxill team.


Meridian West top tips

  • Use customer feedback to identify those staff who are doing a good job.  Shape a training programme to address the issues where improvements are needed.
  • Use on-line surveys to ask about new ideas that will help boost sales, for examples what products are you using.
  • Work closely with sales teams to help create action plans based on data from surveys and the experiences of staff on the ground.
  • Record and use in-depth interview clips to draw out key themes to include in staff training videos.
  • Use feedback to follow-up with individual customers.
  • And finally, use survey findings to formulate strategy and action plans.


Meridian West Delivery Team

  • Ben Kent
  • Diana Aldini
  • Eleanor Berry
  • Devon Thomas