Improving the customer experience for Nisa’s independent retailers

Last week we published a post that explains what we mean when we talk about customer experience at Co-op. Today’s post aims to show the applied, practical side of some of the things we spoke about. We’re using a piece of work that we – the Customer Experience Strategy team – has been involved in as an example.  

(Slightly surprising) background and context 

Most UK residents will be familiar with Nisa Locals, the convenience shops. What is perhaps lesser known is that those shops are actually independently run – in fact, Nisa’s tagline is ‘the family of independent grocers’. Nisa is a wholesaler who the independent shops buy their stock from (plus, many independent shops also buy from them but do not call themselves Nisa). So, when we refer to ‘customers’ in this post, we’re referring to each independent, local shop.  

Since Co-op completed its acquisition of Nisa Retail Limited, teams from both businesses have been sharing approaches and ways of working. The Nisa leadership team were concerned that the customer experience (CX) for the independent retailers who interact with the wholesaler was lacking in some areas – they said they would like to improve customer retention, loyalty and sales.  

This felt like a good chance for Co-op’s relatively newly-formed Customer Experience Strategy team to set out a vision for what the experience of interacting with Nisa could be. We knew the vision should stem from our research with Nisa’s customers, and this would then inform the CX strategy. 

Taking an end-to-end view to understand challenges   

User researchers and designers from the CX Strategy team interviewed the independent retailers remotely and, where possible, in-store where we could see their behaviours, frustrations and coping mechanisms first-hand. This is called ‘contextual research’ and it’s particularly useful because we know that asking people about their experience is very rarely the same as watching them actually have that experience.  

In short, our research allowed us to identify the top pain points the shops were having when interacting with Nisa when they: 

  • place an order for stock 
  • receive a delivery  
  • update prices or promotions in their stores 

We then used these conversations to map the customer experience for those 3 user journeys. It was important that we also took internal data into consideration, as well as the existing processes and systems that Nisa colleagues currently use which will also have an impact on their experience. We worked closely with Nisa teams who helped us unpack the complexities of the business and improve our understanding of how and why things happen so we could more easily identify genuine opportunities.  

A zoomed out view of the ‘stock my store’ service map that was generated through conversations with Nisa team members and customers.

Defining an ‘experience vision’ 

Our insight from the user journey maps, contextual research and interviews with Nisa colleagues meant we could pinpoint opportunities for immediate improvement.  

But more importantly, and on a bigger scale, the maps helped define an overarching ‘experience vision’ – this is what an organisation aspires to become for its customers. This experience vision feeds into Nisa’s existing brand proposition, which in turn supports its brand purpose (but that stuff was outside the CX Strategy team’s remit).  

The experience vision the team defined needed to relate to the brand proposition and purpose that were already in place.

Working out how to get there  

If an ‘experience vision’ is something aspirational – a place where Nisa is aiming to get to – we started to look at how they were going to get there. This is where the concept of ‘strategic priorities’ came in – in other words, guiding principles to help Nisa make better decisions that give customers the experience they want. Those decisions could be around things like a new technology architecture, updates to the ordering system, or an improved onboarding process for new customers. The strategic priorities allow Nisa to assess whether their actions support the delivery of the experience vision.  

Together, we identified 3 strategic priorities, within those the CX team created ‘service briefs’ which formed the bulk of our recommendations. They included: 

  • our observations of customer pain points 
  • the underlying reasons these were happening 
  • our recommendations for improvement 
  • the metrics to track impact 

Basically, the top priority work for them to start delivering on the strategic priorities.  

We underpinned the service briefs with 3 ‘foundational principles’ that focused on setting the teams and organisation up with appropriate ways of working to achieve the vision. (You can read more about how we make sure team objectives align with a vision here).  

Strategic priorities help define how to achieve the vision. Service briefs were the top priority actions to take, and they are underpinned by foundational principles.

Our approach was intended to give Nisa colleagues a framework for problem solving – in other words, to introduce them to holistic ways of working and give them direction. We purposefully avoided prescribing a solution – we believe that that work sits within their teams. 
Wherever possible the strategy and recommendations were linked closely to existing or ongoing work. For example, we partnered with Nisa’s team who were creating a new Tone of Voice document to include our new proposed accessibility and content principles, rather than duplicating effort in communicating similar aims.   

Early days but so far, so good

We only recently shared our recommendations, but changes have already been put in place. For example:  

  • The Nisa brand team championed the new tone of voice document and encouraged colleagues to use it .   
  • Nisa’s senior leadership team is taking our recommendations on board and has confirmed it will put an accountable project sponsor in place. (In 6 months, we’ll check in on the progress).   

Good collaboration: we needed Nisa’s subject matter experts  

A CX team like ours could not have just come in and made customer pain points less painful without working closely with the subject matter experts from Nisa and the people working in the independent shops. Speaking to them helped us see and understand the underlying reasons for the experiences customers are having.   

It has also been invaluable to work alongside sales and finance teams who helped us to size up the opportunity and balance it against perceived time, effort and expense for Nisa to make the changes. This helped massively with prioritisation.  

Ultimately, a customer’s experience is the sum of all the individual decisions that colleagues make, the systems they use and the processes they follow. Thanks to everyone who has been involved in helping us learn about, understand and improve each tiny part. 

Alistair Ruff

Lead service designer


 

If you’re like to find out more about this piece of work, or how the CX Strategy team works at the Co-op contact cxstrategy@coop.co.uk 

One thought on “Improving the customer experience for Nisa’s independent retailers

  1. Chris October 5, 2021 / 3:45 pm

    Keep up the Weekly Discounts & more valid (0ver 2 picked) THANKS

    Like

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