How we improved service in 2017

In 2017, the Retail Support Centre re-launched with a clear aim of improving service by simplifying the work we do – to bring the Co-op difference to life. Since then teams across the Retail Support Centre have been listening to stores more than ever, to get to the heart of how we can improve the service we give to stores. More than ever, in the past 12 months the feedback of our store colleagues has been essential in shaping the improvements we have made.

Supporting Store Services

Across store services we have seen some great improvements. We allocated over 5,700 additional hours for Hermes over Christmas – helping stores handle the 250,000 parcels that came through during the festive period. This earned just under £200k in income in December alone. We also got better at communicating this, by sending weekly updates which as a result of feedback from stores will now become a permanent monthly cascade.

We have supported in promoting the benefits of having great availability in scratchcards and stores have responded seeing an increase of 4% across the estate.

In response to great demand from stores & the communities we serve, we installed Costa machines in to 12 stores in December – outside of the acquisition and refit programme – so far generating over £11k in sales, with more stores planned in 2018.

We’ve had some great feedback about improved ATM availability over Christmas, and have supported 12 stores in introducing an ATM to support the community where there has been local bank closures – leading to £12k in commission in Q4!

Simplifying Communications

At the heart of improving service to stores is reducing complexity. Communications is a key area where we have been working hard to simplify. We have reviewed how we communicate, and the Food Internal Comms team and the RSC have been working more closely together to simplify messages to stores as well as stopping ‘Illegal’ messaging. We’ve created a new comms process and shared it with the business to ensure all messages are either planned of agreed before they’re sent to stores.

We have reduced comms messaging to stores by 10%, with an additional 40% reduction in messages sent on Fridays and Saturdays. We have also challenged back to the business around incorrect messages which has helped us reduce the number of ‘apology’ messages by 75%.

We have additional work to do in ensuring quality of submissions from the business to the Comms team and activity is already underway to coach and support colleagues across the business to improve how we communicate. Going in to 2018, the comms team will be collaborating with Colleague Insight team to carry out a full review of a store inbox to see what they receive in a week and from who, to look at more ways we can reduce the volume of comms stores receive.

Better Operational Service

On the OSS desk, call volumes have decreased by a massive 20% in 2017 from 208,000 to 166,000,  with the launch of ‘How Do I’ playing an important role in ensuring colleagues have the information they need when they need it. Additionally we are getting better at answering the phone quickly, with 70 % of calls now being answered in under 30 seconds, and we’ve had some great feedback from stores:

“I love the email function to OSS”

“The improvement in OSS in the past 12 months has been unbelievable, from the speed they answer calls to the knowledge of the operators, which has seen massive improvements”

We’re Listening more than ever

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We’ve been listening more, and the Colleague Insight team is building on the work done previously by Listen Act and Fix to develop more ways for us to listen to the colleague voice. We held the first RSC ‘Hackathon’ in October, as well as co-ordinating Store Manager Listening groups. To help give colleagues a forum to share ideas we’ve rebuilt our Intranet page and set up the email address, where colleagues can send us ideas on how we can simplify store operations.

We know we have a lot more to do in 2018, and colelague insight and feedback will be at the centre of the way we support stores, improve service and deliver change in 2018. The Colleague Insight team will be building on the groundwork set by Listen, Act and Fix to provide more detailed insights into what matters most to our colleagues, and will be collaborating closely with teams from throughout the Retail Support Centre to ensure colleagues feel supported and that their voice is listened to.

Operations Store Support – championing the voice of stores

To most store colleagues, the Operational Store Support (OSS) desk needs little introduction, but how much do you really know about the team that offers this daily lifeline and vital go-between for the stores and the Support Centre?

Who we are?

Headed up by Interim OSS Manager, Geri Barrington, the department totals 27 advisors, led by a team of 5 – John Copeland, Matt Baker, Phill Searing, Sharon Brown and Ian Charters.


Between us, not only are store queries answered, but the quality of the answers is managed, and then trends of the calls are plotted – helping us reduce the number of repeat issues and frustrations for stores.

The team is always busy. With around 3,600 calls per week – answered in an industry standard average time of just 30 seconds – our desks on the 4th floor of 1AS are a constant hive of activity. When you then add roughly 700 emails a week, you’ll appreciate it can be pretty non-stop.

What we do, and what we’ve achieved this year

The mission of the team is a simple one; here to be the stores’ listening post, providing exceptional operational support to teams throughout the business. We know that time matters in our stores and that eliminating issues is key to providing a great service to customers and members, as well as supporting a great place to work for our colleagues.

In support of this, we’ve landed 3 key initiatives this year:

1. A customer satisfaction capability to allow colleagues to report on the service they receive
2. An automated e-mail to stores when issues are resolved
3. And the big one – moving 33% of calls from a 48 hour SLA to a 24 hour one, meaning we are resolving these quicker than ever before.

OSS Blog Squircle

Reduction in call volume is now at 18% year on year thanks to the better use of analytics and the support of other teams in the Centre. We’re also using tactical messaging to help stores’ awareness that we know of widespread issues when they call through.

What we’re doing next

We’re starting to explore greater use of technology to enable you to log calls without calling, giving you the tools to fix things yourself in a ‘self-help’ culture, using voice analytics to make it easier for you to interact with us, and other opportunities for the future including web chat. Our aim is to fix problems faster, improve the proactive service we offer, and ultimately free up time for you to do what matters most.


We’re also helping to support the Leading the Way programme by providing information on the pain points which stores and our colleagues experience – this insight has allowed the programme to prioritise what to investigate first, and how we can make your lives in store simpler.

How you can help

Simply, we’d love your feedback. We’re hearing that you’re happy with our service via our internal CSAT, but we also want to hear your ideas on how we can improve further. You can comment on the blog post or send an email to

Gerri Barrington
Interim OSS Manager