Welkoop is making significant progress in the IT field. Not only the performance indicators, but also the feedback from the shop floor show that satisfaction with shop automation is increasing. Now that the basics are in order, IT manager Tim Holweg can discuss the store of the future together with Simac. “Ideally I would like to fill a few stores with smart cameras.”
A new formula with more color, more atmosphere, more experience and more choice. With this approach, Welkoop started the conversion of all 160 stores last year. “At the start there were great concerns internally about this enormous operation, but it is now running smoothly. We don’t have to worry about it anymore,” says IT manager Tim Holweg of the store chain with everything for garden and animals.
Welkoop had to slow down the pace slightly. Due to construction and planning challenges, each store is now allocated three weeks instead of two. “That has nothing to do with store automation and the work of Simac,” Tim emphasizes. “On the contrary, Simac has appointed a new project manager who has tightened the reins. He has drawn up the process, made agreements and set inspection moments. Since then, the rollout has been running smoothly,” says Tim, who notes that the new formula is a success. “We see that we are appealing to a younger audience. And after each store reopens, we see sales increase.”
With Simac, Welkoop has brought in a partner who not only takes care of the conversion, but also takes care of the management and maintenance of both the network and the hardware. By outsourcing that package to one partner, Tim’s IT team can focus on executing the strategy. “We want a partner who thinks along with us and relieves us of the burden. Take the national PIN outage on August 3 as an example, which meant that our customers could not use their PIN for a few hours. That led to a significantly lower turnover that day, which we actually cannot afford. We are now looking for a PDA together with Simac, with which we can launch an always-on strategy in our stores.”
“With the arrival of Simac, the service has improved considerably,” notes Tim. By defining simple steps and standard communication moments, we managed to reduce the lead time of changes from 20 to 5 working days. “These are nice improvements,” says Tim. “With the Simac Remote Management Suite we can see exactly which stores are online and which incidents have been reported. We can see the status of outstanding changes via laptop or telephone. Previously this was a black box, now we can actively manage it. And if Simac adds lifecycle management, we can even see when which hardware needs to be replaced.”
The question is what the users in the store notice of the improved service. In order to manage this, Welkoop has concluded an Xperience Level Agreement (XLA) with Simac. Part of this is a recurring satisfaction survey among Welkoop employees. The first research showed last year that there was a lot of dissatisfaction on the shop floor about shop automation. This led to the decision to replace the network and hardware in the stores, including all peripheral equipment such as handheld scanners, printers and PIN terminals.
“We recently sent out a new questionnaire. The first results show that satisfaction has improved. We see that the stores report far fewer problems and malfunctions, despite the fact that we are putting more and more hardware in the stores.”
After Jumbo, Welkoop is the second Simac customer to enter the XLA process. The reason is simple, says Tim: “If things are going well in the store, everyone is doing well. Because everything comes together in the store, from the new ideas from the service office to customer complaints. The store is also the place where we still earn the most money. We knew our store employees were dissatisfied. By measuring dissatisfaction, we learn what is going well and what is not. That helps us to continuously improve.”
When completing the questionnaires, employees can indicate what problems they experience. If possible, even more important than those questionnaires is the debriefing round that follows. “Then it turns out that employees have misinterpreted the question. Or that they indicate that they have a network failure, while in reality the telephony is the problem. Calling later helps to determine the real problem. An additional advantage is that people feel heard,” Tim explains.
Then it is important to actually tackle the reported problems. This has already led to various improvement actions. “We discovered software bugs that we immediately passed on to the supplier of the cash register system. We have adjusted the processes so that stores are now notified in advance when a service engineer from Simac is coming to visit.”
Shop of the future
Tim also calls on the people of Simac when it comes to innovation. Together they discuss the store of the future and the new technologies required for it. “We see that both employees and customers are becoming increasingly digital. The question is how these two digital worlds come together in the store. Perhaps we should provide our employees with tools that allow them to provide even better service and advice.”
A development that can offer major benefits is shop analytics. With the help of smart cameras and other technologies, it is possible to collect a wealth of data about walking routes and customers’ viewing behavior. Facial recognition makes it possible to detect how old and how happy customers are. “If we know which customers walk on the floor, we can adjust the digital content on the screens and entice them to make other purchases.”
Now that the basics regarding store automation are in order, Welkoop can afford to think about these types of new technologies. “In the end it’s just a matter of testing. I would prefer to put some smart cameras in a few real stores and see what happens. If we can collect relevant data in a few stores, it will provide many new, valuable insights that are important for the whole of Welkoop.”
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