Interact Intranet provides the 4,000 dispersed employees at book retailer Waterstones with access to crucial business tools in a central location.

"Compass not only uses its collaborative tools to great effect, but it has also become a social intranet that represents our booksellers, brand and business, driving the value of our communications. It has helped to facilitate sharing of ideas, experience and build trust, which in turn help to drive sales and productivity."

Suzie Robinson, Head of Internal and Customer Communication, Waterstones

The Problem

Waterstones’ previous intranet was a bespoke solution that was difficult to add content to without requiring technical work and intricate coding. This meant that it couldn’t adapt to the fluctuations of the fast-paced business. The appearance of the site was old fashioned and the entire homepage was static, therefore wasting valuable retail estate.

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 Intranet provided Waterstone’s with an 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.

In addition Interact Intranet is easy to use, so even the non-technical employees at Waterstone’s are able to easily add content, navigate and work with the intranet without the assistance of their IT department.

"One of the great things about Interact, is that it’s extremely easy to use and change – therefore giving us more flexibility to make changes to support brand and business migrations. In addition, it was great value for money."

Suzie Robinson, Head of Internal and Customer Communication, Waterstones

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Open Communication

The Discussion Forums on the Waterstones intranet – ‘Compass’ have enabled employees to communicate, share ideas and collaborate throughout the business – yielding huge business benefits.

The forums initially caused some consternation within Head Office and management teams. How times have changed!

“Our booksellers are as time poor as they ever were but our forums and document comments have become an absolutely integral and critical part of our daily process, constantly saving us time and money and helping to generate a sense of community in a business of over 4,000 people.”

The forums have meant that their intranet has become an open, multi-way communications vehicle for Waterstones that supports their need for quick exchange of information and opinion.

Flexible Design

The flexible design options available in Interact Intranet have enabled Waterstones to constantly change their intranet, in accordance with their evolving business.

With shifts in policies, brand, culture and procedures – necessitated by changing market conditions – their intranet has remained the central tool for understanding process and communications, providing clarity and fielding many questions and feedback from around the business.

Their dynamic homepage provides a ‘Book News’ feed, which means that shops can react in real time to news and events that are happening in the book world which are influential in sales.

“We believe that Compass should be a digital reflection of our business – our love of books. We feel this is present in our intranet design and is facilitated by how we use the fantastic discussion boards and comments options available within Interact Intranet.”

Collaborative Workforce

Waterstone’s have recognised the tremendous advantages a social layer on their intranet can provide to the company.

They have discovered not only the popularity of collaborative intranet features, but their incredible usefulness, both as a pragmatic, money saving tool and as a tool to engage and motivate their disparate workforce.

Collaborative tools such as discussion boards and article comments have helped to create greater transparency within the business, providing an immediate point of contact between HO and shop teams and helping to pull down associated ‘them and us’ barriers that are common in these situations.

“Compass not only uses its collaborative tools to great effect, but it has also become a social intranet that represents our booksellers, brand and business, driving the value of our communications. It has helped to facilitate sharing of ideas, experience and build trust, which in turn help to drive sales and productivity.”

Connecting Dispersed Workers

The Interact Teams feature on the Waterstones’ intranet has been utilised to provide a central platform for many of their field based teams – an area that brings together people who work loosely within a division but are otherwise situated away from that team, in offices or shops around the region.

This area gives them visibility of information specific to their teams and encourages discussions and the sharing of ideas, images and tips. Simultaneously, it helps to reduce email traffic, provides a finite home for key resources, and builds a sense of community among the group and has been a massive help to them.

"As for any retailer, commerciality, being able to react quickly and knowledgeably to the market place is key to your sales, and in Compass, we have a tool that ensures our booksellers can do just that."

Suzie Robinson, Head of Internal and Customer Communication, Waterstones

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Bespoke Modules

Waterstones have three bespoke support modules on their intranet to help users with specific queries.

‘Ask HR’ is a bespoke module which allows employees to type their HR queries into the intranet, which then intelligently searches all of its content to provide a solution to the question. If the solution is not found, the HR team is contacted directly so the employee can direct the question at them.

Waterstones also utilises Interact’s ‘Support Desk’ module for its Hub Support (distribution centre) team, who field enquiries about stock and special orders.

This module has proved to be a huge time saver for both the support staff, who no longer have to deal with overloaded inboxes, repeat enquiries and inconvenient spreadsheets and for shop staff who can create, chase or review a request all from the intranet, which is available to them from the shopfloor which is key in a very fast moving and time-hungry environment.

Return on Investment

The support modules have proved to be an enormous assest, saving time and effort for all teams involved. The Hub Support team estimated that implementing the ‘Hub Store Support’ module eliminated in excess of 150 emails a day from shops, and allowed them to help identify stock problems and spend more time resolving genuine shop issues.

Waterstones also utilise the discussion forums to field enquiries from the shop teams. Their ‘Ask Us’ discussion board has paid huge dividends in efficiencies (as well as helping to prevent frustrations in shops) by providing an avenue through which they can ask procedural and process based questions.

In the last year alone, they have fielded over 900 procedural questions through this board, saving significant amounts of time for the company, as well as sharing information with other shops that might otherwise have remained hidden.

Compass also gives Waterstones a platform to respond instantly to the market conditions. A recent example profited Waterstones in excess of £5,000 in sales on one book alone, when it allowed them to implement sales of an ’embargoed’ title that a competitor was already selling.

Similar situations throughout the year – requiring instant access to sales information and a tool to direct instant action in a fast paced, often reactive market – means that Compass can help Waterstones to engender an estimated sales increase of thousands of pounds a year.

“As for any retailer, commerciality, being able to react quickly and knowledgeably to the market place is key to your sales, and in Compass, we have a tool that ensures our booksellers can do just that.”

Waterstones have also benefitted from using workflow and forms to submit and collate information. At a conservative estimate, in terms of collation alone, it provides them with an estimated time-saving of around 272 hours (4hours x 68 forms) or 7.25 weeks (assuming a 37.5 hour week) per annum, when the cost of a temp for this time would be around £4,000.

This doesn’t take into account the efficiencies driven by having a function that makes it relatively easy to create a form that cannot be lost or misplaced and is easy to process and audit.

In addition, there have been the printing savings of approximately £15,000 as previously printed documents are now digital on their intranet.

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.com

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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