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Seven years and counting: John Lewis Partnership continues to support its partners with Zendesk

Since beginning in 2015, John Lewis Partnership’s collaboration with Zendesk on its internal employee benefits platform has gone from strength to strength.

John Lewis Partnership
“We’ve been working with Zendesk a while now and any dealings with the team have always felt very personable. The Zendesk team is always keen to help us deliver what we want to our partners.”

Raphael Hewett

Partner & Publicity Manager at John Lewis Partnership

Customer since


John Lewis Partnership (JLP)

“It's all about what's right and what's good.”

The John Lewis Partnership (JLP) owns two of the UK’s best-loved brands: John Lewis department stores and Waitrose supermarkets. Since its beginnings in the 1860s, the company has long been accustomed to adapting in line with an ever-evolving retail sector.

Yet one thing hasn’t changed: JLP’s ethos of being an employee-owned business. In fact, the company continues to pride itself on a commitment to ensuring all its partners (JLP’s term for employees) feel valued and appreciated. “We treat our partners as we would our customers,” explains Raphael Hewett, Partner & Publicity Manager at JLP. “We want to make their experience better and happier.”

Perks of the job

JLP’s approach to employee benefits is a great example of this ethos in action. All 100,000 of its partners nationwide are entitled to the same benefits, which range from hotel stays and concert tickets to discounts for events and tourist attractions. This includes the 75,000 current JLP partners as well as 25,000 retired ones.

“Everyone in the business has access to the same benefits, even those who have retired,” adds Hewett. “And we try to offer benefits that provide opportunities people wouldn't normally get, too. For instance, most of us wouldn’t have the chance to go sailing on a yacht for a day without our John Lewis connection.”

Moving with the times

Previously, these benefits were shared with partners via a brochure which was printed annually and distributed in hard copy. However, this meant there was no way of communicating when a new benefit was added or an existing one went out-of-date until the following year’s edition. Which, in turn, made it harder for partners to make use of all the options available to them.

A solution arrived in 2015 with the Partner Choice website, which enabled partners to browse the company’s various up-to-date benefits online. Crucially, the website was supported by a range of Zendesk products, including Explore Legacy, Guide Legacy, Chat Lite, Support Enterprise, Sunshine Lite and Talk. This meant that if users had any queries or questions, they could get in touch easily through a mix of channels.

“Essentially Zendesk became an internal resource to support our partners and make their lives easier,” says Hewett. “Benefits are meant to be fun, so if you have a question about them and it’s hard work to find the answer, you’ll give up. It’s important our partners can access help and get in touch any time of day using the channel they prefer.”

Going mobile

Fast forward seven years and the Partner Choice website continues to be a success. Yet there’s also been an interesting shift in how partners are using it to access support.

Many are turning to Guide and the Help Centre to find answers for themselves, helping reduce the amount of time agents have to spend answering queries. The number of partners visiting the site using their mobile devices has also grown, going from around a 50/50 split between laptops and mobiles in 2015 to a 75/25 ratio in favour of mobiles today.

And even when a partner does wish to contact an agent, the range of channels they are now choosing to use in order do so has shifted. The web widget has overtaken email as the primary communication channel while other popular options include Facebook, Instagram, and SMS.

“Our next step would be to set up a WhatsApp account to integrate with Zendesk,“ explains Hewett. “That will give partners another easy way to get in touch as most of us have WhatsApp installed on our phones these days.”

Smarter not harder

Despite these shifting user habits, JLP’s team of benefits agents hasn’t had to grow significantly to cope. Instead, Zendesk allows them to work smarter, not harder.

Routine queries are now taken care of in the Help Centre or with the assistance of automation, meaning agents can instead focus on higher value activities within the Partner Support team. So much so, in fact, that the team is now able to operate a rota system in which only one agent is managing support and answering queries at any one time.

“At the start we had about five agents working full time dealing with queries but the productivity boost from using Zendesk tools means that this part of the team’s role is quite light touch now,” confirms Hewett.

Beyond the traditional

There have been other, less traditional benefits too. For example, during the height of the pandemic, JLP was able to use Zendesk to offer a bit of light entertainment for partners, many of whom were juggling work with home-schooling and the various other challenges of lockdown life.

This included ‘Knight School,’ which saw, among other things, partners’ children encouraged to submit a design for a sword that would be entered into a competition. Having come up with the idea, Hewett was delighted at how quick it was to set up within Zendesk.

“Within minutes, we had a Knight School email address with channels and automations to let our team manage it. We also included Knight School articles within the Help Centre. It was so simple and made me realise how quickly we could implement different ways for partners to get in touch because it’s all enabled within Zendesk,” says Hewett.

Happier and better

This brings us back to that core JLP ethos. From its customers to its partners, the company is centred around the idea of making people's experiences better and happier – an approach that Hewett was pleased to find it shares with Zendesk.

“We’ve been working with Zendesk a while now and any dealings with the team have always felt very personable,” he says. “Compared to Zendesk’s other clients, we’re very small fry but we’ve never been made to feel we aren’t a VIP. “

“That’s exactly how we try to make people feel at JLP, too. It doesn’t matter if you’re a customer who spends millions with us or one of our partners working in the business, you should get the same service. It's all about what's right and what's good.”