Approaching Risk Collaboratively

Risk Team

For the Food Risk Team, keeping our stores safe for our colleagues and customers is our number one priority, and through 2018 we will be taking a more collaborative approach to look at how we can improve store operations.

A New Approach

The food business has invested a great deal to re-invigorate our approach to risk, and key to this is establishing a dedicated Food Risk team within the Retail Support Centre. For a long time Risk has been a Group function, but we believe that stores deserve a front line risk support team who are in touch and engaged with our food stores, and can act as a first-line support.

Bringing in Experience

The new team brings together experienced risk colleagues into the Food support centre to support stores. Our team of 24 Food Risk Support Officers (FRSOs) will bring with them a huge amount of experience and working within food they will be closely aligned to our stores with one clear objective – to make our stores safer for colleagues and customers.

What Stores will see

From 4th February the FRSOs will be embarking on a series of operational assessments which will run through 2018. But where previous audits have been focused on spot-checks and reactively supporting stores after incidents, our new approach will be more collaborative. For each assessment, the team will be spending around 6 hours in your store – looking at all elements of store operations and operational compliance. We’ll be looking at processes that we have never reviewed before, and by spending more time in stores and speaking first-hand to colleagues and store teams we will have a great opportunity to identify where processes aren’t working, and to speak to colleagues on the front line to get their insight on how things can be improved and simplified.

Benefits for stores

This is also a great opportunity for our store colleagues to speak to the team and give your feedback and insight on how we can improve things. We will be using the data and insight we gather during the assessments to feed in to the Retail Support Centre to drive the changes, improvements and opportunities that will make your stores simpler and safer for colleagues, customers and members.  The Team are really excited about this can’t wait to get out to meet you.

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

Blog image

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.

Reducing paperwork when we’re cashing up

Remember that new cash paperwork that came out the other week? That’s one cool thing that came from Leading the Way (LTW). We know how much paperwork you have to deal with and we want to remove as much as we can.

How I ended up on Leading the Way

LTW aims to make life easier for colleagues in stores. It’s really important that the programme includes field colleagues who know the reality and challenges of working in a store day-to-day. Having people in the team with first-hand experience of that means we can focus on what store colleagues actually need, not what we reckon they need.

That’s why myself and the other workstream leads are here – we all have experience out in shops and know them inside and out.

I started as a CTM at the Co-op over 10 years ago. I became a team manager while I was studying and then took on my first store manager role. I looked after a number of stores including one that was less than 500 square feet (a shoe box!) and one that went through a Gen2 re-fit. Then I successfully applied for the Shining Stars programme and got seconded to an area manager role, eventually looking after Leeds.

Our mission

It’s simple really.

We want to help store colleagues with the things they need to do, in the time they have, and give them the freedom to be great Co-op shopkeepers.

How do we do that though? We’ve started with 7 different projects or ‘workstreams’, with the intention that each one will tackle a different instore area. My workstream is called Simple Stores and focuses on how we make admin, paperwork, back office systems simpler in the day to day running of a shop.

This year we’re looking at what we can simplify quickly, and we’ll also to begin to think about how we transform entire parts of our operation over the next few years.

Simplifying cash paperwork

Our Simple Stores workstream is looking at how we can simplify cashing up. I’ve been cashing up since I was a CTM and one of the things that really bugged me was the number of bits of paper.

photo of 5 forms that used to be used during cashing up

They add unnecessary complexity. If we just had everything on one document, we wouldn’t have to print all the bits of paper off every week – better for the environment and cheaper for the store. Plus it’d just be much neater being able to complete all tasks needed to cash up on one page.

The central cash team, Helen Holland and Pauline Wilton, were really keen on helping out and we worked together to create the simplified document.

photo of Dave Tyas holding one sheet of paper. this is the new condensed version of the cashing up forms.We tested the new document in our Green Quarter store – thanks guys! We listened to feedback and changed the document based on recommendations. After we had it right, we rolled it out to 2 areas for final feedback before we rolled it out further.

This was the first piece of work that we sent to our ‘stores of excellence.’ These are stores that try out new things first and then help the other stores in the area if we roll out the new thing out further.

It’s gone down well. Here’s some of the feedback:

“I now find that in terms of recording, the paperwork is much simpler to use and easier to follow.” – Mike, SM

“Better visibility for colleagues. Easier to chase discrepancies. Welcome the change!” – Kath, TM

“The new cash document is great and easy to use, which results in less of a paper trail.” – Carole, TL

What’s next?

Simplifying cashing up is just the start for the Simple Stores workstream. Here’s what we’re looking next:

  • How can we completely revolutionise how we cash up using technology and digital tools?
  • Do headsets make life easier for store colleagues?
  • How can we get rid of all paper from the office and make it digital?
  • Can we make the back office systems mobile so we can access them wherever we are?

We want to hear from you

We’re running ‘Listen Act and Fix’ sessions in 26 locations across the country. The aim is to bring colleagues together to talk about how we can make things simpler.We’ll keep you posted about the details.

We’re already hearing some brilliant suggestions, ranging from how we can sign up members more easily at the checkout, to how we make our store processes simpler. If you have ideas on things that could make life instore simpler, let us know by emailing

We are listening!

Dave Tyas
Workstream lead