How do you achieve customer service excellence? The AO.com story
Global communication is a challenge for the best of organizations. However, AO.com defied the odds by promoting their customer-focused company culture across a geographically distributed workforce. Here’s how.
AO.com, leading online electrical retailer, attributes its rapid growth and success over the last four years to their organization’s commitment to provide a consistently excellent customer experience. With more than 2,500 employees spread across multiple sites in the UK and Germany, the need arose to find a new and innovative way to instill the company’s caring customer-centric culture in every employee, regardless of their location. In order for them to continue to grow with exceptional results while also promoting a fun, rewarding work culture, AO.com has installed a new intranet built on Interact technology.
The challenge: uniting distributed teams across AO Retail
AO.com approached Interact with the task of developing their intranet, The Fridge, into one that boosts engagement and increases focus on customer support. Starting out as a small company in Bolton, Lancashire known as DRL and eventually re-branding into what we know today as AO Retail in 2013, this company successfully turned themselves into a universal presence.
Yet, with the growth and development of the business came all the challenges and hardships that often plagues larger companies. Expansion happened quickly, and with the development of their company and brand came the troubles that often plagued larger organizations. AO moved from having a shared space, to their own five-floor office and eventually opened a number of offices in different locations. With a logistics center, inbound call center, video studio and head office all in different locations, it quickly became apparent that there was a real issue with a lack of communication between employees.
“We’ve grown incredibly fast in the last four years, and we now have 2,500 employees spread across multiple administrative and fulfillment sites in the UK and Germany,” says Laura. “The question is, how can we ensure that every employee puts customers first, all of the time?” Laura Talbot, Internal Communications Manager at AO.com, states.
AO retail was operating under one agenda – to stay focused on customer service excellence, and to promote a fun, rewarding work culture. With Interact at their side, they set out to revitalize their approach to international collaboration, removing the boundaries caused by distance and uniting their workforce.
Putting customers first, always
AO’s focus on creating a rewarding work culture was not only for the benefit of their employees, but also largely for the benefit of their customer base. With the aid of Interact’s technology, everything that is communications based links directly back to their intranet, the Fridge. Used as the central hub for everything, The Fridge serves as an archive and a method of engagement for their workforces in both the UK and Germany.
“There are tons of examples of how we use The Fridge to promote a culture of customer care and support,” says Laura. “If someone goes beyond the call of duty to help a customer, we pick up the story and publish it on the site, inspiring others to do the same. We also share and promote best practices and new ideas that improve the customer experience, which means we are always doing things better for our customers.”
As a business that is a built on amazing customer service and making customers happy, it is not surprising that a smile in their logo would be the obvious concept for their brand. To truly reach their goals, AO needed to emphasize the connection between teams in a way that allows them to learn from one another, connect with one another and motivate each other to do their best for the customer.
Speaking on AO’s methods, Laura Talbot observes that, “as an online retailer, we don’t do or make anything unique. The difference is in how we do things and our entire business and brand is built on amazing customer experiences and making our customers happy. We compete by caring more than our competitors. We even have a smile in our logo, which says it all.”
Engaged employees, happy customers
AO acknowledges one very huge aspect of great customer service – engaged employees deliver the best customer experiences. Studies continuously estimate that nearly 70% of workers remain either not engaged or actively disengaged, leaving only around 30% of a workforce responsible for the satisfaction of your customers and success of your business. The consequences of disengagement are well documented, costing businesses in the U.S alone between $450 and $550 billion every year.
The integration of Interact technology was the perfect way to battle these disheartening statistics. AO’s anticipated intranet needed to be a place to share information as well as a place where employees felt comfortable and eager visiting daily. The features and functionality of The Fridge were created specifically to be used in a social way that focuses on the fun aspects of work alongside the company’s customer-centric values.
“We have regular features on The Fridge every day to engage people and to promote social interactions between colleagues and teams,” says Laura. “These include everything from fun GIFs to competitions to win tickets to Britain’s Got Talent, which we proudly sponsor.”
In an effort to bring together dispersed teams across AO something new is encouraged and incorporated on the Fridge every day, ranging from Tuesday’s ‘Retail news’ (A weekly update of what’s in the retail news at the minute, what competitors are up to and how AO look) to Thursday’s feature, ‘Something for the weekend’ (where people are invited to share ideas of things to do on the weekend with friends and family).
Creating personalized content is a direct way to catch the attention of your employees, form connections between them, and continually keep them engaged in their roles.
Increased focus on customer support
AO sought out an intranet that reflected their company culture and allowed them to be a collaborative area, where they could not only drive communication, but also facilitate it.
Interact delivered just that. With tools designed to make finding the people and information they need faster, distributed teams across AO.com are able to spend less time on admin and in turn deliver quicker and more efficient support for customers.
“With Interact, we can find people and information quickly and respond to customer queries faster,” says Laura. “There are also tools such as online HR forms that save on admin time so we can focus on what really matters: delivering a consistently excellent experience for every one of our customers and supporting them through their journey with us.”
Interact knows that a large part of customer support stems from work productivity. The faster and easier employees are able to find and share information, the better the experience for every single customer
Bringing distributed teams together with 85% adoption
Large organizations face a hard challenge of having a lack of relatability and communication between dispersed teams. Interact technology provided the solution; the large number of features specifically implemented for an increase in social interaction provided dedicated spaces for employees to reach out and connect with each other, something that they struggled with before. Now, with strong features and widgets, interactions between colleagues has greatly increased. Speaking on Interact’s methods of boosting engagement, Laura observes that “Engaging people is critical to our success long term, and Interact plays a big part in that.”
Of the employee population that is able to access The Fridge, 85% regularly visit the site to access company news and collaborate with colleagues.
“We’ve very quickly reached the point where the vast majority of our staff visit the site regularly,” says Laura. “It’s an intranet that people want to use, and I think most people would be lost without it now. Interact’s great features and our engaging content have been a winning recipe for fast adoption.”
Simpler content management
The power behind AO’s application of Interact technology does not only lie with its social and collaborative benefits. AO also takes advantage of the Interact features that create an easier and less time-consuming method of uploading and managing content on The Fridge.
This ease of access greatly benefits the large number of non-technical staff in AO Retail. Not only are they able to seamlessly upload content to the intranet, but managing content is not restricted to only those with technical expertise, a major benefit for any internal communications team.
“Interact has a number of widgets that can be used to pull different types of content from within the site onto the homepage,” Laura Talbot, internal communications manager at AO.com, said. “Because we’re able to drag and drop and resize these elements, we can upload and manage content on the site with no support from the tech team. This means we can make updates quickly and keep support costs down.”
This interactive platform not only drastically improves productivity, but also allows AO.com to focus on what is really important: bringing together their workforce in the pursuit of an excellent experience for all their customers.
Great support from Interact
Using Interact goes beyond the social and content management benefits. Not one to leave a customer without proper support, Interact also provided AO with the proper support and training to ensure an effortless deployment and successful launch.
“The initial training was great and I also attend Interact events regularly, which is incredibly worthwhile,” says Laura. “There are lots of opportunities to connect with other people in our industry and to find out how they are using their intranets to support their company culture and values, which has helped us to improve our own intranet over time.”
Interact’s available support and training included initial instruction on how to get the best out of their intranet, a chance to attend Interact events and a welcome into the global Interact community, all resources that have been very useful for the AO team says Laura.
“We can ask questions about how to do something in Interact and someone in the community is always able to help or offer good advice,” she says. “With Interact, we’re never alone and we can get a consensus on the best way to do things, which saves a lot of time.”
Now, with Interact as a resource, AO.com staff can connect with others in their industry and analyze the ways others use their intranets to ultimately improve upon their own.
Making The Fridge even better
The online retail market continues to evolve as do the strategies needed to succeed in this environment. AO.com has plans to make The Fridge even better based on a new content taxonomy.
“We’ve been publishing around three articles a day to The Fridge for the last three years, which means that a lot of content has built up with no real consideration of where it sits,” says Laura. “With the help of Interact’s expert services team, we’re planning to implement a new content structure to make the site much easier to use.”
“We’re only scratching the surface in terms of what Interact can do and we’re looking forward to taking the intranet to the next level to support our customers and our business goals.”
Working alongside Interact, AO.com can continue to ensure that every employee puts customers first.