Luwa Luxury Products, a premier distributor of luxury home appliances and outdoor living appliances based in Tukwila, Washington, serves retail dealers and home owners in the northwestern United States, Hawaii, and Western Canada. After buying the business in 2012, co-owners Sheri and Chris Walsh wanted to enhance communication and take Luwa’s customer service to the next level by using cloud-based business productivity tools. We recently spoke to Sheri Walsh, Vice President of Operations/Trade Relations, to learn about their experience with Microsoft Office 365.
Sheri Walsh: Our main differentiator at Luwa is our high-touch customer service. We’re a distribution company, but we work directly with our customers—retail dealers, architects, designers, and builders—through our logistics center in Tukwila, Washington, and we have a studio in Bellevue that homeowners can visit to talk with us and try out our products. We also have a concierge service that provides professional detailing in the home, and appliance servicing through our Luwa Advantage program.
Q: Why did you want to move to cloud-based services in the first place?
Walsh: We like the idea of cloud services boosting mobility and productivity, because those two things go hand in hand to improve customer service. We initially started with Google Apps to enable file sharing between our head office, warehouse, and mobile sales reps who spend hours on the road visiting our retail dealers.
Q: What made you decide to move to Microsoft as your vendor for cloud-based business productivity services?
Walsh: With Google, we had so much difficulty with file formatting and compatibility—that alone was reason enough to want to switch. But when we began using the cloud-based storage and online team sites and saw how easy it was to edit and share files in real time, Chris and I realized that Office 365 would do so much more than solve our compatibility problems. These new business efficiencies are going a long way toward making us faster and better connected, which is improving our customer service. Support was also an issue with Google; the email interactions felt very robotic. With Microsoft, both the Microsoft Store and the Office user assistance team have been just great. We’ve never felt like a number.
Q: How has Office 365 changed the way people work at Luwa Luxury Products?
Walsh: With error-free syncing of files across any of our devices and up to the cloud, information is flowing seamlessly across the company and we are all working more efficiently. We are using online collaboration sites to write business documents, create customer programs, and assess dealers’ credit. Plus, we are building closer relationships with our partners because we can give them permission to access certain folders on our intranet sites. For example, by viewing the inventory of discounted floor models, they can help us sell these items. As a result, we’ve increased our cash flow by reducing excess inventory.
We’re also not worrying so much about data security, even though our sales reps are driving all over the Pacific Northwest for work. Before, we were never sure if everyone backed up their files, and if we lost a laptop it was a big deal trying to recover that person’s files so they could get back to work. This actually happened once last year—one of our reps had his laptop stolen from his car, and it took us days to get him going again. Now, everyone stores their documents online and our files are always available, even if something is lost or stolen.
Walsh: I think it’s how we are increasing our competitive advantage by improving customer service. Now that the warehouse gets real-time updates from the field, we’re shipping our orders faster. When a sales rep out in the field adds more brands to a dealer’s portfolio, he updates a copy of our master spreadsheet on his Microsoft Surface Pro and then uploads it to the cloud, which triggers an alert at our headquarters so we can immediately provide the dealer with the products and service that he expects. Sales reps answer customers’ questions faster by accessing current sales orders, invoices, and shipping documents on team sites, instead of having to call the office. Luwa Advantage technicians upload part order forms on their Surface Pro in front of a customer during a service call, so we order parts faster and home owners are getting back to using their appliances sooner. We have only just begun to explore the different ways that we can use Office 365 to continually improve the service that our reputation is built on.