Owned by Wesfarmers, Coles is a leading Australian food retailer with more than 2,300 stores and sites across the country. Around 100,000 Coles team members collectively service more than 19 million customer transactions each week. Coles prides itself on its nurturing corporate culture, which has a direct relation to team member allegiance to the brand and to improved customer service. Coles chose Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based enterprise social and collaboration services to engage and connect team members with each other and the business. We recently spoke to Conrad Harvey, Chief Information Officer at Coles, to learn how the company is benefiting:
Q: Please tell us about Coles.
Conrad Harvey: Coles has been a part of Australian life for 100 years. We have just come through a five-year transformation period, emerging to successfully deliver a new shopping experience in Australia and to move ahead of our main competitor. We have been able to do that by focusing on the customer. We rely on those moments that matter, the points of interaction between our team members and the 19 million customers who pass through our checkouts every week. And of course, our workforce. We only exist as a company because our team members work hard to turn those moments into a positive experience for each one of our customers. So to build and sustain our momentum in the marketplace, we need to nurture and empower our workforce.
Q: Is that why you decided to deploy cloud-based services for your team members?
Harvey: Absolutely. For Coles, empowerment is all about giving team members a voice. We saw that enabling our team members to engage with each other in a way that makes sense for them, easily, spontaneously, anywhere, anytime, would drive a sense of belonging and pride in Coles that translates into superior customer service and increased business. We wanted to tap the nascent potential of our workforce by giving them tools to be heard, connect, and share ideas across the company.
We also wanted to take advantage of opportunities to improve communications at Coles. For example, we didn’t have a digital identity for approximately 80,000 team members who do not sit behind a desk. It was difficult to broadcast corporate messages to them, and it was impossible for them to connect with colleagues across the company.
Q: Why did you choose Microsoft cloud-based business productivity services to empower your team members?
Harvey: Several reasons. Microsoft Office 365 is enterprise-ready. We value the built-in capabilities for privacy controls, interoperability with our directory services, and a more robust service level agreement. The Office 365 roadmap gave us confidence in future offerings of interoperable collaboration products. Including Yammer was a great move, and we are excited about the potential of social in our enterprise. Finally, Microsoft was very flexible in working with us, finding negotiable points that enabled us to acquire the solution.
Q: How has Office 365 changed the way people work at Coles?
Harvey: It has been transformational. We didn’t have an employee portal before; now we have mycoles. And today, all of our approximate 100,000 team members have a digital presence. Office 365 is a technology enabler for what makes Coles unique: a singular focus on supporting our team members so that they can make those moments of interaction with the millions of customers who come through our doors every day special.
Employees are empowered to engage with one another and with the business through mycoles. Team members can share ideas on their own devices, creating a flow of spontaneous brainstorming and problem solving that’s making a difference in how Coles manages its retail operations and obtains feedback from the frontline. mycoles is a combination of social sharing and learning, training, and online administration: all the tools for our team members to get their jobs done to the best of their ability. It’s a productivity and engagement portal that makes Coles a genuinely great place to work.
As soon as we put Yammer into the hands of our store managers, we saw the power of enterprise social in the service of our business. Store managers use Yammer to share ideas with colleagues across the country about how they run their departments. It could be about a new store layout, how to stock the aisle ends, or how to clean a meat cooler. And when you extend Yammer to 100,000 team members, the possibilities for collaboration are endless.
Q: What are the biggest benefits you’re seeing from Office 365?
Harvey: What does mycoles, Yammer, and Office 365 mean for the business? The ability for us to improve the communications and the engagement of our team members will make a real difference in the way in which our customers perceive us and what they experience every day. mycoles will help us communicate better with our entire team, the underlying reasons for what we’re doing as a business and why. If we are able to empower team members to help our customers by giving them improved tools, processes, and awareness, and a way to share their expertise and enlighten their work communities across the country, there’s a real opportunity for Coles to take sales to entirely new levels and assist in the development of 100,000 brand ambassadors. We expect mycoles to reap significant commercial and cultural benefits.