Upstairs, Downstairs

Enhancing the customer service experience

How can Stannah’s service, marketing and communication be improved in order to reduce the current barriers to stairlift purchase?

What Disability? As a mobility aid that is normally associated with an older demographic, there can often be a lot of resistance to accepting the stairlift as a household object; it’s often seen as something that takes away independence, something that’s an imposition in the house, and on them, which is about need and not choice. Lifestyle preferences and differences of opinions can cause difficulties in making the decision to install a stairlift – particularly if it’s in a cohabiting environment; if there’s a couple living together, it might be that one wants  it and the other doesn’t, and sometimes  it’s a case of children trying to persuade their parents to get one, but that the parents feel they don’t need it. And so often, people will just struggle on.

Upstairs, Downstairs began in the Autumn of 2015 as a project commissioned by Stannah, one of the world’s leading  stairlift manufacturers, whose aim was  to understand how they could enhance the customer experience for their existing and potential clients.  As a family-run business, their philosophy has always been to try to improve the quality of life for people who need extra support with day-to-day living  at home.

 A Close Working Relationship
Working closely with Stannah, design researcher Holly May Mahoney has been able to follow the sales team on house visits, been present for referrals (when someone has been recommended to get a stairlift), and shadowed the people that install them. Asking questions such as: “How do people become aware of stairlifts?”, “What are their reactions to it?” and “How is the product sold to them?” seems simple enough, but by also going through every touchpoint with potential customers, Holly’s assessment shows that a holistic vision has proved vital in delivering a truly people-centred process that works for Stannah’s customers.

The research extended beyond the UK to Stannah’s business in France. Though they are part of the UK-based business, they have different protocols and cultural nuances when engaging with customers. Holly found that they tended to spend more time with people, building a rapport with customers and even providing house-visits to stairlift users so that potential clients could see and hear about the impact  on people’s lives first hand. As well as enhancing the service experience, this method of dedicated personal contact also increased the sales of their stairlifts. ‘Making it real’ for people is reflected in Stannah France’s approach to advertising and marketing material; they have opted  to show real people using the stairlift in their own homes over ‘glamorous grannies’ in their brochures.

A Community of Customers
The findings identified that when people finally make the decision to get a stairlift they realise how much it’s improved their life. It does not take away independence, but provides them with more freedom  and reduces the fear of falls. These positive stories can be harnessed, and we are now helping Stannah to trial home-visits for potential customers by building a network of ‘Stannah Ambassadors’, who are happy to share their positive experience with others in their own home.

In re-designing the customer experience, Holly looked at how elements of the person-centred approach in France could be brought into the UK model. From this, we are now piloting a new sales touchpoint, in which sales consultants will ‘pop-in’ to see their customers after installation, allowing Stannah to check that the customer is happy, delight them with a small gift and also introduce the referral incentive and Stannah Ambassador schemes. This creates the opportunity for an additional service offering – an authentic ‘try-before-you-buy’ experience for new customers in a Stannah Ambassador’s home. This enables the sharing of stories between existing and potential customers – truly bringing to life the positive impact a stairlift can have on your life.

In offering these new services, Stannah’s business model is positively impacted,  as well as creating a growing community  of now called ‘Stannah Ambassadors’.

See previous projects with Stannah: 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012

Research Associate: 
Holly May Mahoney

Age & Diversity Research Leader: 
Dr Chris McGinley
Research Partner: