A commitment to first class customer service has proved a winner for specialist mobility retailer Ableworld
Like most businesses, Ableworld, the country’s largest specialist mobility retailer, owes much of its success to the people who built and run the company, but equally to the franchisees and staff who serve the most important people of all - the customers. Ableworld’s core customers tend to be over 60 and, like many people that age, often need a little help with things like mobility or managing in the home.
Gap in the market
It was founder Mike Williams’ experience of trying to find something to make his elderly dad’s life easier that led to him to notice a gap in the market for a modern one-stop mobility store.
“I couldn’t find much at all and when I could it was poorly presented and overpriced,” Mike says, who is still the group’s managing director. Having been in the retail trade all his working life, Mike saw the need for change to meet the demand of an ageing population.
He opened Ableworld’s first company-owned store in 2001. In 2008 Ableworld awarded its first franchise to Andy Rees in Birkenhead. Andy saw the enormous potential that exists in the mobility sector. He diligently researched the market and eventually decided he wanted to team up with Ableworld.
“Franchising is a great way to start in business because you get the expertise and backing from people who have been there and done it,” Andy says. “They have systems and processes that have worked in the past and which we have proved can work in the future.”
In 2010 Ableworld successfully applied for membership of the British Franchise Association and started its search for other franchisees to join Andy. Along the way Ableworld has been keen to partner with professional people affiliated to the bfa, including its legal advisers, marketing firms and other specialist franchise professionals.
All franchisees are taken through Ableworld’s comprehensive six-week training programme, ensuring the customer service delivered is of the highest quality. Customer service that leads to comments like this from Tracey Smith in Cardiff:
“Leanne was so lovely to my mum, who is elderly and sometimes not comfortable with strangers. She put her at ease immediately, was very patient, explained everything and answered all my mother’s questions.
“I felt I had to get in touch to let you know what brilliant customer service this young woman Leanne provides. It was a breath of fresh air to find someone so approachable, who could actually answer all the questions we asked.”
Leanne and her husband, James, run the Ableworld franchise in Cardiff and last year they opened their second store in Bridgend. Prior to joining Ableworld, Leanne was a hairdresser for many years and James had a background in manufacturing and sales.
Ableworld franchisees come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Among its current franchisees are people with sales backgrounds, from the armed forces, retailing, public service, teaching, automotive industry, construction and engineering - many of them running a business for the first time.
What do the people who take on an Ableworld franchise think? Donna Wilson from Ableworld Lincoln says: “Head office have been brilliant. You can pick up the phone and get help with any aspect of the franchise.
“Nothing is too much trouble and you can pick the brains of professionals with many years’ experience.”
David Gaffney from Ableworld Broxburn adds: “When we opened the business, we never for a minute realised how rewarding and humbling it would be to deal with some of the wonderful customers who come through our door who are in need of guidance and advice on products to support their daily living. We would definitely recommend the franchise.”