It’s a year ago since I sat down and talked about how we wanted to turn the Support Centre into a place that properly ‘supports’ colleagues in store through changes and challenges.
Change is hard and unsettling (and in our case, fast!) but we’re working hard to share our plans with colleagues to help them understand what’s coming and why we’re doing it.
Everything we’re doing is for the benefit of colleagues, customers and communities – from improving safety to driving sales. This will help us achieve our ambition: Stronger Co-op, Stronger Communities.
We’re transforming the way we run our stores for customers and members, but more importantly make things simpler for colleagues in store.
We’re going to carry on opening new stores, using technology to make shopping even more convenient.
I know it’s tough in stores – and we haven’t fixed everything yet but we’re not just talking, we’re doing. We’re not afraid to get things wrong too – it’s only a mistake if you don’t learn from it.
This isn’t a one-year journey – it’s a total re-wiring of convenience. But we’ve already achieved a lot in the last year.
Everything we’re trying and testing is built for colleagues by colleagues, who’ve been involved from the start. I can’t thank you enough for your patience, honesty and support.
We’re introducing new technology to help colleagues and customers.
Tablets: All stores will have tablets by the end of the summer. It’s a great tablet with durable casing and works together really well with the new hand held terminals (HHT) which all stores will have by November. This will completely change the way colleagues work.
Headsets: We’re still working out when we’ll be able to roll these out to all stores but we’ve tested them and they’re definitely something we’re going to use in the near future. They’ll help so much with colleagues feeling less alone on the shop floor.
Pay on your phone: You might have seen some of the news stories on this. We’re trialling a new app in our Support Centre store which allows customers to avoid paying at the till altogether and use their own phone. There isn’t another retailer in the UK doing this.
Working with Co-op Digital – an example of One Co-op
We’ve also been working with our Digital team on some online tools to help colleagues. These will be on the tablets in store.
Task manager is a digital way to organise tasks. If you can take away all these tasks from someone’s head, everyone can share – it becomes more of a team effort. You can also start to prioritise those tasks.
Shifts is a digital service you can access on your phone to help colleagues see which days they’re working, book holidays and ask for extra shifts. Managers can also sort their colleagues’ schedules. At the moment 600 colleagues are testing and everyone loves it. That will go live in April for all stores.
How do I? is one single source of information to help colleagues find out how to do things in store. It’s already getting 10,000 hits a week and has cut down calls by 25% in our call centre.
Systems and processes
Capping shelves (top shelf for products normally stored in the warehouse): This will help with availability because you’ve got the product right above and the customer can see it. Feedback has been really strong on this. It’s going into 1,300 stores at first.
Gap scan (counting what products are missing): We’re doing more to simplify our processes to make sure we only focus on those things that have a real benefit to customer availability and sales. That’s where we’ve got to get to.
Handling cash: We’re looking at ‘close-loop cash systems’ where instead of touching cash six times you touch it once or twice. We can create a safer environment for colleagues if we do it differently.
Point of sale changes: We want to have more time to have a good conversation with the customer, so we’re reducing point of sale activity wherever we can. We started with the bakery – a lot less stickers and rather than spending time putting bits of plastic up, let’s concentrate on the in-store fixture availability.
We’re changing the way we run our stores and in some it’s a fact we’ll need less hours. Our estate isn’t a one-size fits all and these solutions won’t apply equally in all stores but we’re doing all we can to make sure we succeed as a retailer for the long-term.
Store of the future
The changes you’ll see in stores soon aren’t the only things we’re working on. There’s a team in a bunker at our Support Centre looking at what technology (voice, camera and artificial intelligence) we could use in the future to make sure we’re the leaders in convenience over the next decade and beyond.
But we’re putting just as much work into improving our stores for today.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on everything that’s happening. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.
Retail Director Support Centre