Leading UK bookseller Waterstones delivers great customer service with Interact

“Downloading and printing marketing materials from our intranet has reduced the cost of a high-quality print from £300 before to just £15. That represents total cost savings of tens of thousands of pounds a year.”

Suzie Robinson, Intranet Manager, Waterstones

Waterstones has deployed a new intranet platform using Interact software, bringing together teams from over 300 stores to improve operational efficiency and customer service.

Leading UK bookseller Waterstones is always looking for new ways to engage customers and to provide the best possible experience in every one of its UK stores. Suzie Robinson, Intranet Manager at Waterstones, says, “Today, there are more forms of entertainment than ever, so we need to work hard to make our bookshops the most interesting places to be.”

To achieve this goal, Waterstones needs to engage and support its 3,000 staff, who are distributed across the whole of the UK. “Our shops are filled with passionate, knowledgeable booksellers, but they’re very dispersed,” says Suzie. “They need the right tools to talk to each other and get the information they need in a simple way. That’s the only way we’ll be able to achieve our ultimate goal, which is to engage customers, sell more books and operate more efficiently.”

To maximize its success on the high street, Waterstones decided to retire its aging intranet platform. “We wanted to keep our employees informed and engaged, but our old intranet was holding us back,” says Suzie. “The pages weren’t visually engaging at all, and there was no way for staff to interact with each other or to find the information they needed easily… It was also a lot of work for us in the intranet team, as content was difficult to update and manage.”

waterstones watson home

Bringing distributed teams together

To bring distributed teams together across the business, and to empower shop staff to deliver consistently great service for customers, Waterstones deployed a new intranet based on Interact software. Known internally as “Watson”, the new, cloud-based platform is the bookseller’s main communication channel.

“Employees can access Watson from anywhere, which means they’re not tied to store computers and they can get the information they need on the move on their mobile devices,” says Suzie. “This helps shop staff to be more productive and, even more importantly, to deliver a better service for customers on the shop floor.”

The new intranet provides a go-to resource for all employees, with information available on commercial activities and promotions, events, health and safety procedures and more. “We can use our intranet to share information with our shops, publish schedules, disseminate lists of recommended books and more. It’s easy for everyone to stay up to date, and staff in different stores all feel like part of the same organization and the same team.”

Delivering fast access to information via the homepage

Watson’s homepage, which is clear and intuitive, makes it easier than ever for Waterstones staff to keep up with the latest news and activities. “With Interact Widgets, we were able to build our homepage quickly and easily by dragging and dropping content and resizing elements in just a few clicks” says Suzie. “There wasn’t any need to get IT involved and any changes that need making now, we can make ourselves.”

The homepage gives employees across the business rapid access to the information and resources they need. “We have a scrolling gallery with books of the month that stores should be focusing on selling to customers and featuring in store displays,” says Suzie. “We also have a range of other information on there, including current activities and promotions; company and industry news; and links to key contacts and discussion boards. Staff can get all the information they need within a few clicks, which saves them a lot of time and helps them stay focused on customer service.”

"Watson is incredibly social. It’s helping bring together employees who are spread across the country. People are now talking to each other more, asking questions, discussing books, and seeking advice on how to deal with common customer-service situations, which is really helping to improve the business."

Suzie Robinson, Intranet Manager, Waterstones

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Saving thousands on in-store marketing

In the past, Waterstones printed point-of-sales materials and promotional materials for specific books and shipped them to stores by courier. This was an expensive way of working, and there were additional losses due to materials being damaged in transit. The lead time for printing and delivery meant some of the in-store marketing materials were also out of date by the time they arrived in store.

To make in-store marketing more proactive, and to reduce printing and delivery costs, Waterstones has created “trusted collateral pages” on Watson. “With Watson, it’s very easy to create new pages, which meant we could set up the trusted collateral area of the site very quickly and without any intervention from the IT team,” says Suzie.

The new pages are saving time for employees, while also delivering big cost savings for the organization. “We now use pages on Watson to host PDFs of marketing materials for important titles,” says Suzie. “Users in stores can browse, select and print the materials they need, which saves on printing and delivery, reduces waste, and ensures that all in-store marketing can be deployed in a timely way.”

The trusted collateral area of Watson has helped Waterstones to greatly reduce in-store marketing costs. “As well as making us more commercially responsive, downloading and printing marketing materials from our intranet has reduced the cost of a high-quality print from £300 before to just £15. That represents total cost savings of tens of thousands of pounds a year.”

Improving team working and customer service

Watson’s homepage links directly to discussion forums that employees use to get their questions answered and to provide even better service for customers in store. “Watson is incredibly social,” says Suzie. “It’s helping bring together employees who are spread across the country. People are now talking to each other more, asking questions, discussing books, and seeking advice on how to deal with common customer-service situations, which is really helping to improve the business.”

Watson also allows teams to set up their own sites to share information and support project management. “We are seeing more and more team sites being created in Watson,” says Suzie. “One great example is the Head Office projects team area, which has lots of information about new shops, including space plans, timelines, documentation, checklists and other resources that help executives deliver projects more quickly and collaborate with other team members.”

waterstones watson team directory

Maximizing staff engagement and participation

Watson is helping to engage staff, getting them excited about new titles and promotions and helping to boost sales. “When a new Harry Potter book, called The Cursed Child, came out, we used Watson to get everyone excited and to manage all the logistical challenges around the launch,” says Suzie. “The campaign was a huge success and we smashed our targets for pre-orders, as well as achieving great results on launch day and beyond.”

Another example of staff engagement on Watson is the annual Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year competition. “Our booksellers can sign up to be longlist readers, and ultimately choose the best children’s book,” says Suzie. “Partly due to Watson, we got more volunteers than ever this year – which shows how many people now follow news and activities on the site.”

Delivering time savings for the intranet team

Finally, but no less importantly, Watson allows Suzie and members of her team to add and update content very quickly and easily – with no input from the IT team. “There’s a double benefit for us here,” says Suzie. “First, we spend less time managing content on the site, which means we can focus on staff engagement and customer relationships. Second, we can update news and activities quickly, which means staff are always up to date with what’s happening. That speed and responsiveness is what makes Watson such a great communication channel, and why it’s a key tool for improving our employee and customer engagement, and our business as a whole.”

Waterstones is a high-street retailer that was established in 1982. It sells books from 300 shops on high streets and in shopping centres around the UK, Republic of Ireland and continental Europe as well as on the Isle of Man, Jersey and the Isle of Wight.

Employees: 1,000-10,000

Vertical: Retail, Leisure & Entertainment

Locations: Europe


Waterstones Challenges

Waterstone's have a diversity of shops and markets and they needed an intranet to provide a central location for all staff to access their database of key information, including policies, Health and Safety forms and critical HR information. It was important that the intranet was easy-to-use, so that all employees of all technical abilities could utilise the platform and add content to it. A method for Head Office to communicate important information to store staff quickly was critical and they wanted their intranet to centralise and share knowledge internally.

The Solution

Based on the objectives Waterstones had for their intranet they selected Interact Intranet as the solution that would solve their internal problems. Interact provided Waterstone's with an intelligent intranet with a blend of business process tools such as electronic forms in the Workflow and Forms module and advanced collaboration tools so that employees could share knowledge and ultimately improve business performance.

Key benefits

  • An essential communication tool for the 300 stores and 4,000 staff based at many different locations
  • A central source of up-to-date key information and policies
  • A platform for knowledge sharing through collaborative tools
  • Replaced email as main channel of communicating to stores
  • Provided a central place for dispersed workers to work together through the Interact Teams module
  • Provided an interface for tapping into the collective intelligence of booksellers
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