A message about our Partnership Card from Sharon White
Trust and loyalty are the lifeblood of any business. Arguably none more so than for the John Lewis Partnership.
As the biggest employee-owned company in the country, when you walk into one of our stores and meet one of our Partners, you know that you're speaking to the owner. That’s one of the reasons we pride ourselves on our leading customer service.
We’re currently undertaking a significant customer service change for our popular Partnership credit card. The change is necessary because our agreement with HSBC, provider of the credit card for more than a decade, came to an end. We're delighted to be partnering with NewDay, a leading provider of customer credit.
In making the change, we want the Partnership card, which has shared £250m in John Lewis and Waitrose shopping vouchers with customers in the past five years, to be even more valued. We have kept the same points programme that our customers love.
At the same time, we have introduced a new mobile app and the ability to spend instantly on the card using Apple or Google pay.
We want to strengthen the loyalty of our long-standing customers, many of whom have held the card for decades, while making it more accessible to customers that may not have previously considered the Partnership card.
It’s a big and complex job to move to a new provider. Customers who wanted to continue with the new card, needed to reapply. Unfortunately, there was no getting around this. We’ve made the process as smooth as possible by giving customers an option to have the application form pre-populated using a unique reference code, and set up a dedicated helpline for customers.
Our new partner, NewDay, is required by regulation to carry out credit and affordability checks when someone applies for the new card. This helps protect customers by ensuring they’re able to make repayments.
We put a great deal of thought into designing a process that would be fast and intuitive. We know that many of our long-standing customers value the personal service we provide. So we trained 400 shop Partners to help customers and set up a dedicated helpline to support customers who wanted to apply.
Nearly 600,000 customers have already opened their new card account, which is the vast majority of those who were using the previous card, with 96% of applicants being accepted.
While this has been a smooth process for the majority, I have been in touch with a number of customers since the card launched in the summer and have heard first hand from those who are frustrated at needing to reapply for the card or who have found the application process difficult to navigate - particularly for those without an email address or mobile phone. Some customers have also reached out to me in cases where their applications have been declined or credit limits reduced.
We have been listening closely and are responding, making a number of important changes to make the process smoother:
- A new manual underwriting process for customers where their income cannot be verified in an automatic way.
- In reviewing many applications manually, NewDay has been able to make enhancements to their affordability assessment process, which has reduced the proportion of customers being declined for not meeting affordability requirements, by two thirds. We will be writing to those customers whom we believe can now benefit from this change.
- More agents on our customer service helplines at NewDay to take customers through the process.
- For a very small group of customers who don’t have a mobile phone, we have been working closely with NewDay and have created a bespoke process to enable them to apply for the new card, which we will be able to share with customers within weeks.
Unfortunately, there will still be some disappointed customers unable to access the new card because they do not meet the credit or affordability requirements of responsible lending.
We don’t take our customers’ loyalty for granted. So we will continue to listen and work with NewDay to make improvements.
Monday (31 October) is another milestone. All new spending on the previous Partnership credit card stops and we (and HSBC) have written to all our customers over the last two months to make sure they are aware of the change.
Anyone who requires help with their application can call the helpline on 0330 165 4868.
We will never take our customers and the loyalty and trust they place in us for granted.
Notes to editors
The John Lewis Partnership owns and operates two of Britain's best-loved retail brands - John Lewis and Waitrose. Started as a radical experiment over a century ago, the Partnership is now the largest employee-owned business in the UK, with around 76,000 employees who are all Partners in the business. The Partnership is purpose-driven, existing to create a fairer and more sustainable future for our Partners, customers, suppliers and communities. Our Purpose not only inspires our principles, drives our decisions and acts as our guide to be a force for good, it steers us to do things differently and better - all in service of creating a happier world for everyone and everything we touch. We operate JohnLewis.com, Waitrose.com, 34 John Lewis shops and 331 Waitrose shops, including a growing number offering a selection of John Lewis products. Waitrose has partnerships with Dobbies Garden Centres, Shell and Deliveroo as well as supply agreements with Margiotta stores in Scotland and Alliance shops in Jersey. Outside of retail, John Lewis Financial Services continues to grow providing insurance, the Partnership credit card, foreign currency and investments, and we have set a target to deliver 10,000 rental homes over the next decade.