Bestway: A Dream Team

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Anne Cantlie has been with Batley’s/Bestway for the last eight years, having worked for Gordon & MacPhail, prior to joining the company.

Her industry career spans more than 20 years and her territory today covers Inverness to Inverurie and takes her over some of the most beautiful scenery in the country – the Cairngorms. She averages 750 miles a week, but says Anne, “I never tire of the scenery and I also love seeing my customers. They never cease to amaze me and even more so over the last two years.

“Many have diversified their business to cope over the pandemic and they are now going from strength to strength with many telling me they are busier than ever. They are a really nice bunch and they are very loyal. It makes my day when they tell me that it has done them good seeing me and if they have given me an order, even better.”

She tells me, “I do believe that we offer very competitive prices, we are good at what we do and we provide a reliable consistent service from our Aberdeen depot. Our £250 minimum order is doable for most people, and the fact that we allow people to order single bottles is also a plus. We deliver five days a week, and my customers, more or less, get their delivery the next day.”

Over the last year, Anne has seen a real move towards premium brands, and cocktails. She also has a customer who has a great rum range which is selling well and Keg sales have increased significantly on the back of the recent industrial action and driver shortages. I asked her what she enjoyed most about the job. She said, “I like meeting people and I can always find common ground with strangers. We have also got a great team here and over lockdown, we all kept in touch and did things like gin tastings. It was great. Particularly as Anne’s favourite tipple is gin! She also took up cycling during the pandemic, which has taken over from her passion for swimming, which she once did competitively. She also has five grandchildren, who she loves seeing at weekends. She is certainly a busy lady.

Gordon Beagrie also has many years of experience in the trade – with more than 40 years under his belt. He originally joined Batley’s nine years ago, but starting out as a barman, before getting a sales job working with the likes of Tennent’s and United Distillers and also ran a hotel. He knows the trade from both sides, and his customers know him very well in Aberdeen.

Says Gordon, “I’ve always stayed in the area and in my youth, I played semi-professional football in the Highland League so that combined really well with the licensed trade. It gave me a really good start and over the years I have developed great relationships with customers. When you have been in the trade as long as I have you feel part of it, and you understand the impact of things like the smoking ban, and more recently staff shortages and inflation. I feel part of the trade, as does Anne, and when they hurt we hurt.

“I like the fact that this company listened to its salesforce and the trade about a minimum drop of £250 and the fact we still do split cases for all spirit brands. We try to be as flexible as we can. They supported us, and we like to support them. We also have a great range of products. There are very few things that you can’t buy from us. We really are a one-stop shop. Our stock levels have also been good and we have increased stocks to 8 weeks to mitigate supplier shortages. Our team has also gone to a huge effort to source products, and we go out consistently at a competitive price. If you look back at our brochures you can see how steady our prices are.

“I have built this area up to be the biggest volume area in the UK, and I’m selling more Kegs than ever, but there are still opportunities to expand and grow. We are local and if you order on a Monday afternoon our Aberdeen depot can deliver on a Tuesday, not many people can do that.

“The trade has evolved and Batley’s/Bestway is evolving too. So has Gordon – he has gone from playing football to watching his son play for Fraserburgh, and he too has taken up cycling.

Customer Service Centre. The company runs a buddy system where each Field sales rep is backed up by a telesales colleague aligned to the same customers.

Says boss David Livingstone, “I have noticed a lot of businesses are going digital and instead of providing a person to talk to customers can only order online. We too have a digital service, but only 25% of our sales go through online the rest are dealt with by our contact centre team. I believe in that personal touch.– and we have plans to increase our headcount as the business continues to grow”.

Gordon’s colleague Colleen is his backup. He visits around 40 customers a week, but Colleen speaks to upwards of 300. She says, “I think my favourite part of the job is getting to know my customers. We get to know what they regularly order and we can deal with any issues they have right away. It’s also good to check in on what is happening in their personal lives – whether they have just been on holiday, how their football team got on at the weekend or just a courtesy to see how they were coping during lockdown. We are calling on them twice a week, the days before the deliveries, to check they have everything they need and we are there if they need to discuss anything ad-hoc. Gordon and I work very well together. He brings in the new customers, sets up the accounts and helps develop their business while I talk to them on a twice-weekly basis and take their orders over the phone.”

The Service Centre handles more than 3,000 customers and has a full-time telesales team of 10. Says David Livingstone, “The depots rely heavily on the telesales team. The customers don’t know the depots – but if a customer has a delivery problem they will phone Colleen. She will liaise with the depot’s operations team and get back to the customer. It is all about communication, and I think we do that well. It also means that if we are out of stock of a particular product Colleen and her colleagues can instantly offer an alternative to ensure our customers don’t miss out. That is service.”

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