Canada’s Most Trusted Brand

Staples

This reputation has been confirmed by Marketing Magazine, which has named Staples one of the top ten most trusted brands in the country for the past six years in a row; in 2008, the magazine ranked Staples as the number one most trusted brand. Staples is also one of the leading ecommerce retailers in Canada.

So how did Staples achieve this remarkable level of success? The answer may surprise you – it is, very simply, that the company cares about its customers. “We are really good about making sure that we look after our customers’ interests rather than just looking after our own,” remarks Steve Matyas, President of Staples Canada. Furthermore, Staples has been a leader in charitable and green initiatives since its inception – years before many socially responsible programs came into fashion in the mainstream.

Strategies for Success

Mr. Matyas has identified several key strategies that have locked in Staples’ success – and put the customer first. “We make sure that the customers do business with us on their terms,” he explains. “We don’t dictate the terms. We understood many, many years ago that virtually everything that we sell is sold by somebody else, and that we are just one click away from them taking their business elsewhere.”

As a result, customer service has been a primary focus since day one. “There isn’t a CEO on the planet in retail that doesn’t say customer service is important to them,” Mr. Matyas admits. “But we have probably done more to focus on customers – and what customers think, and what they want, and what they like, and what they don’t like – than just about any other company that I know of.”

To ensure that customers are satisfied with their Staples experience, the team has conducted advisory panels in 100 of its stores to pinpoint “what our best customers like and dislike about us.” The company also conducts multiple focus groups and has a longitudinal study stretching all the way back to 1993 that measures and analyzes customer opinions. The team also sends mystery shoppers to each of Canada’s 300+ Staples stores at least twice a month, and conducts a “moments of truth” study, where randomly selected customers are invited to share feedback online or over the phone regarding their Staples experience.

Collecting all this input “really gives us an opportunity to not just say that we are customer centric but to really do everything that we can to make sure that happens,” Mr. Matyas explains. Staples also makes it a point to reward managers based on their customer service achievements. “The highest award that you can get in our company is the customer satisfaction award,” Mr. Matyas says. “That is bred into the culture of the company, and has been since day one.”

Staples also strives to keep prices as low as possible – a win-win for both the customer and the company. “We have a very rigorous pricing policy,” Mr. Matyas reports. “We want to make sure that we are competitive with all of the big players in the market.” The company even has a price match policy “in case customers find anything that is less expensive elsewhere.” Of course, Staples’ incredible variety of goods has also been crucial to its success. “We offer an unmatched assortment of products and services,” Mr. Matyas points out. “We like to kid around [that] if you shop every aisle, the only thing we won’t be able to provide you with is your own admin assistant! Virtually everything else that you can think of to operate your small business we have, or we can get for you.”

Another key to success is that this tremendous assortment of products is available both online and in bricks and mortar stores. In fact, building a relationship of trust with customers through brick and mortar based transactions has been vital to the company’s online success. “People get to know us and get to appreciate what we are all about by visiting our stores,” Mr. Matyas explains. And with stores spread across ten provinces and two territories, customers know that they can always count on assistance from a Staples team member. There is no runaround from this company – no need to languish on hold or rely on internet chat sessions to solve a problem. Customers can march right into their local Staples store and have any issue addressed on the spot.

“It is that confidence in our bricks and mortar business that has eliminated or reduced a lot of the insecurity, a lot of the risk from doing business with us online,” Mr. Matyas explains. “Customers know that they can walk into any of these stores for support should anything go wrong with a purchase. They can count on the Staples team.” The high level of trust that comes from superior customer service has helped Staples rocket to great success with online sales. “We are currently one of the largest online retailers in Canada,” Mr. Matyas points out.

Working for the Greater Good

There is more to Staples then its huge economic success. The company makes a concerted effort to work for the greater good. “That has really been a part of our DNA since inception,” Mr. Matyas shares. “It has always been our [belief] that we can give back to the communities that we are located in.” For instance, Staples has partnered with Special Olympics for nineteen years – and provides over 15 percent of its operating budget. In addition to this contribution, Staples also organizes fundraising drives to raise an additional half million dollars for Special Olympics each year.

Staples also runs a school supply drive to supply low income children with needed school supplies, “so that they can go to school and hold their heads up high.” Last year the company brought in over 1.3 million dollars to fund the program. Staples’ Recycle for Education program donates up-to-date computers to schools in need of better technology. “We literally give away $25,000 computer labs to ten schools across the country,” Mr. Matyas reports. Additionally, to ensure that each store provides local support, every store manager is allocated a few thousand dollars to invest in community projects.

Staples has always been ahead of the curve with green initiatives as well. “This isn’t a recent development for us,” Mr. Matyas points out. “We are not a Johnny-come-lately at doing this. We really started with the idea of being responsible stewards of the environment and of the earth when we opened our very first store.” For instance, Staples was one of the first retailers to adopt recycling as a standard practice. “Back then it wasn’t a vogue thing to compact cardboard and paper and send it to be recycled. Back in ’91 you actually paid people to take your cardboard and paper away as opposed to getting paid for it as one does today.”

More recently, Staples launched a program to recycle alkaline batteries. Last year, the company’s efforts diverted around 50,000 kg of batteries from landfills – double the amount of the year before. Staples also has a massive ink and toner recycling program; in 2012, the team collected over 2.5 million cartridges and is determined to collect 5 million by Earth Day of next year. “We continue to raise the bar on that,” Mr. Matyas remarks. “And now we’ve got schools across the country signing up for free ink cartridge bins, which we are going to collect at our cost to help continue to be good stewards of the environment.”

Staples also runs an ambitious electronic recycling program. “You can bring virtually anything that is electronic into our store,” Mr. Matyas reports. “Even if we don’t sell it, if you didn’t buy it from us. If you have a vacuum cleaner that is dead, we will take it back. If you have a refrigerator that is dead, we will take it back.” The program, which may be the largest of its kind in Canada, sent over 3,000 metric tons of electronics to be recycled last year alone. The company has also recently launched a recycling program in partnership with the makers of Uniball Pen to recycle used writing instruments. Last year, the team collected a whopping 197,000 plus pens, pencils, and markers for recycling. Incredibly, these leading edge recycling programs are just the tip of the iceberg – Staples currently has a slew of additional green initiatives underway all across Canada.

The company’s remarkable efforts have not gone unnoticed. The Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association presented Staples Canada with an innovation and sustainability award this year in recognition of its green practices. And of course, customers all over the country have recognized Staples’ superior customer service – and consider the brand to be one of the most trusted in Canada as a result. In addition, countless individuals have had their lives touched by Staples’ work for Special Olympics and other charitable initiatives. Whether in the store, online, or out in the community, Staples is making a difference.

August 16, 2017, 7:28 PM EDT

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