Using our data to improve Guardian, our Funeralcare digital service

Guardian is our digital service, designed with, and for, our Funeralcare colleagues. Next week, it will be live across our 1,059 Co-op Funeralcare branches.

That’s every single branch in England, Scotland and Wales.

At this point:

  • 4,014 colleagues across our 1,059 branches in England, Scotland and Wales are now using Guardian
  • 30,425 funerals have been arranged using the Guardian digital service so far

But the Digital team’s work isn’t complete. We’re working to continuously improve the service for our colleagues and their customers and one way we’re doing that is by looking at the data.

Improving the journey between the ‘first call’ and funeral

One of our key performance indicators in the Funeralcare business is around how much time the deceased spends in our care. Typically, families want their loved one’s funeral to take place as quickly as possible, so often, the shorter the gap between the date of death and the funeral equates to higher customer satisfaction.

From the ‘first call’ when a family member rings up to say they’ve lost a loved one, colleagues take details and the deceased is then in the Guardian system. As they move through the care process, the time they spend at each stage is calculated automatically as colleagues use Guardian.

Guardian then pulls that data through to a dashboard so we can monitor performance easily. Being able to break down the process is really useful in terms of seeing our average time for each stage – it helps us see where we’re excelling and where we can improve.

Giving colleagues autonomy

Giving time back to colleagues so they could spend more time with families has always been the most important outcome of Guardian. Everything has been focused on that.

Ideally, we wanted to build something that would help colleagues deliver the same number of funerals more quickly, ie, colleagues spent less time organising, note taking and communicating details to other colleagues, and more time with families who are going through a tough time.

Empowering colleagues to see for themselves where they’re excelling and where they could improve gives them autonomy and helps them manage themselves. Each branch will have access to their own data so they can see how they’re doing. The data is presented in small chunks and includes things like: number of customers served, breakdowns of the types of funerals, hearse and limousine use, customer satisfaction scores as well as a breakdown of the time the deceased has spent in each part of the process. 

One place for data

Back in early 2016, when we started to identify user needs, we knew we could solve a lot of problems if we could record information about the deceased and about their upcoming funerals, and make that information available to the colleagues who need to see it, at the point they needed to see it.

Early user research found colleagues inventing their own, paper-based systems to log details of the deceased and organise funerals which was time consuming. But above all, it was limiting because colleagues couldn’t easily share their notes with people who worked in the same funeral home as them and it was even trickier to keep external homes in the loop.

Paper processes limit who can work and where they can work from. Some recent feedback from a colleague highlighted this. He said: “What I like most about Guardian is that it means I get a better work life balance – I can go home and finish admin there, rather than having to go back to the office. I get to spend more time around my kids.”

Making data accessible to the right people at the right time

Because Guardian’s data is stored in one secure place, we can use it to help out other areas of the business.

For example, before Guardian, customers would call the central Funeralcare number on the website and come through to the customer service centre. Advisors weren’t able to answer respond efficiently to phone calls like: “My mother came into your care over the weekend. It was all a rush at the time. Which funeral home is she in?” This kind of information would only exist as paperwork in-branch. Advisors can only transfer the caller to a local branch, but this isn’t always the best experience because there’d be no guarantee the branch would answer.

We’re starting a pilot next month, looking at giving our call centre advisors access to relevant information on Guardian, so with a few clicks they could find out quite a lot of reassuring detail for the family of the deceased. For example: “Your mother came into our care last night at around 2am, she’s now at the Rochdale home. Would you like to speak to your Funeral Director?”

What we’ll look at soon

Now rollout is almost complete, we’re looking at what we could do with the data coming out of Guardian. We’ve been asking:

  • How could we optimise the 1,275+ vehicles in Funeralcare-owned fleet?
  • Can we predict the volume of demand for individual branches so we can ensure more customers are served first time in-branch?
  • Can we enable more customers to be served first time on the phone by leveraging the customer service centre?
  • How could we optimise the order and delivery of ten of thousands of coffins annually?

They’re all interesting problems to solve. The hard work isn’t over yet.

Jack Gray
Product Lead

Making the General Data Protection Regulation easier to understand

gdpr-rights-posters (1)

The Co-op Data team has been preparing Co-op Digital for the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will come into law next year. But we’re aware that the rules it sets out can appear complicated.

Too often, data can seem like a complex and distant subject, but it’s part of everything we do and it’s important to us that the whole business can see what we’re doing. GDPR puts consumers’ rights at the centre of data protection. As we work towards a Co-op that’s trusted with data, we believe this is exactly where they should be. And we will continue to focus on that as we build and develop our data programme.

Making GDPR more accessible

To make colleagues in Digital aware that the regulation is coming, we created posters to explain what it means in plain language. We think they’re a good way to make sure everybody knows about the rules and understands what they mean.

Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 11.55.22

So far we’ve had a lot of feedback which shows there’s a great deal of interest ahead of GDPR coming in and real appetite to understand it better. The work that Digital has done in this area will help to inform the Co-op’s communications.

We’ve learnt a lot from the comments we received, and wanted to make sure that anyone and everyone can download our GDPR ‘rights’ posters.

It would be great to hear what you think in the comments. Or tell us how you’re making GDPR more accessible to colleagues in your organisation.

Posters: words by Rachel Murray and design by Jack Fletcher

Steve Foreshew-Cain: the Funeralcare service exits beta and Design Manchester has begun

(Transcript) Steve Foreshew-Cain: Hello and welcome to this week’s Co-op Digital update.

Well since I last spoke, our Membership app trial with our colleagues has begun and over a thousand people have already signed up to join the trial. They’ve been giving us loads of feedback already and we’re learning quite a lot from it so we’ll be sharing what we learn on our blog.

Some other great news, the service that we’ve been working on with our colleagues in Funeralcare has exited its beta phase. There’s been a lot of hard work since we did the initial inception back in April 2016, but as a team were really proud of the product that it has been built and the amazing job frontline colleagues have done to help us design a service that we have proven works and will give colleagues time back to care more. So big thank yous to all of those involved.

Now you may remember a few weeks ago I told you that The Federation had been nominated for an Inspired Places Award 2017. Voting opens today and we’ll share the link on our blog and our Twitter account so please, please vote and remember if you’d like a tour of The Federation, get in touch with Victoria Howlett who can arrange that.

This week also saw the start of Design Manchester, Manchester’s annual design festival. It runs until the 22nd of October and there’ll be talks exhibitions workshops films and loads more across the city celebrating design in all its various forms. We’ll be running and speaking at several events this year too so we’ll be talking a lot about service design, something that’s really relevant to what we do here in the team. Everyone’s welcome so please once again, the links to register will be on our blog. Please take advantage.

Now, yesterday it was our pleasure to host the first Northern Data Governance Forum. It was great to welcome lots of organisations to share their thoughts and experience on data governance. Thank you to Catherine Brien and Ian Thomas from the team who were amongst the speakers there.

And finally this week Kate Towsey has joined us as a user researcher and she’ll also be helping us build our very own user research lab in The Federation, so welcome Kate, it’s great to have you onboard.

That’s it for this week you’ll find our latest vacancies on our blog and don’t forget to subscribe for all of our updates and follow us on Twitter.

We’ll see you next week.

Steve Foreshew-Cain
Group Digital Director

 

The last 2 weeks in Co-op Digital

As always, there’s been a lot going on over the last fortnight. Here are 8 highlights.

1. We put our app for members live on Monday and so far we’ve had 1,000 colleagues sign up, with 500 downloads. We’re trialling it with colleagues and a handful of members at the moment to validate our assumptions. Users can give us their feedback through the app and we’ll post more about what we’re learning and where we’re going next as the trial continues. You can read about our discovery into the app and our progress 2 months later.

2. The Leading the Way team went to a conference for Food store regional and area managers. We showed off our products How Do I and My Schedule and got some great feedback. We also ran sketching sessions with over 200 attendees! We asked the field teams to share their ideas on how life could be made easier in store which was a really useful exercise. We also got lots of validation on things we are already doing.

3. Congrats and thank you to data scientist Alex Waters who organised our first data hackathon. Around 50 folk from around the Co-op Group teamed up and worked with data that wasn’t familiar to them and used tools they’d never used before. You can see highlights of this massively valuable event on #coopdatahack

4. Our Head of User Research James Boardwell and our old colleague Tom Walker have set up a meet up for user researchers, User Research North. Tom wrote a post explaining why they’ve co-founded this group and last night they held their first event at The Federation. Speakers included Gillian MacDonald, user researcher at Co-op Digital and major foodie, and Mark Branigan who worked with our Funeralcare team.

5. We held our first show and tell for everyone who works in The Federation. Each organisation described what they do and what they’re working on. Here’s to more of these cooperative vibes please.

6. Danielle Haugedal-Wilson has been asked to join our Co-op Member Council. She’ll help make sure that members’ opinions and concerns are heard at the highest level in our business. Nice work, Danielle.

7. Alberto Brandolini came in to show us how to do some ‘event storming’. Alberto says this technique helps teams “tame complexity with agility” and by helping them understand the bigger picture. Thumbs up to Gemma Cameron for organising this.

8. Lastly, hey there and welcome to our new starters. Digital Engagement Manager for The Federation, Rebecca Rae and quality analyst Paul Carey have joined us.

If you’re interested in working with us, have a look at our work with us page. You can also follow the blog and follow Co-op Digital on Twitter.

Gail Lyon
Head of Digital Engagement

Understanding how members spend their rewards

Our data gives us insights into what our members need and want from their Co-op and it shows us where we need to improve our products and services.

When members swipe their Co-op Membership cards, they earn 5% back on what they spent on Co-op branded products and services. They can redeem that 5% at any point against any transaction. But at the moment, members aren’t spending their rewards as much as we might expect and we have £22 million of redemption funds waiting to be spent.

A million members have over £5 in their accounts, and 500,000 members have over £10. 50% of all rewards spent to date have been redeemed by just a third of our members. This means lots of people are losing out on savings at the checkout.

We wanted to find out why this is happening. First, we looked at the data we already have on how often people spend their rewards, then we did some user research to get a better understanding of the underlying reasons.

When do people redeem?

This chart shows when people redeem their reward balance. The horizontal axis shows the amount of money accrued in pounds, and the vertical axis represents the number of members redeeming.

The chart shows when people redeem their reward balance. The chart shows that every time spend rewards reach a whole number, there is a clear spike in redemptions; and this is most pronounced between £1 and £5.

As we might have expected, significantly more people cash in smaller amounts than larger amounts. Considering how long it can take to build up a £10 reward when shopping for food and how often people use the Co-op for regular top-up buys, this is not a surprising find.

However the graph shows something else too. Every time spend rewards reach a whole number, there is a clear spike in redemptions. This is most pronounced between £1 and £5.

It’s difficult to say exactly why this is happening. We had thought perhaps people were building up their rewards before using them. But actually it doesn’t seem to be a conscious decision. When customers are at self-service tills, for example, they are more likely to redeem when they see a whole number in front of them than if it is, say 77p. There’s definitely interesting psychology at work.  

We also noticed that there are spikes in redemption at Christmas and Easter. So where customers may not redeem as part of their usual shopping habits, they may see holidays as more of a time for treats, and so choose to cash in their rewards then instead.

Speaking about redemption habits with members

Our data is compelling, but it can only tell us so much. To find out more about redemptions, and the thought process behind them, our product team visited 5 stores in Manchester to do some mystery shopping and to interview customers.

We went into this research with 4 aims. We wanted to know:

  1. Why people aren’t redeeming as much as we would expect.
  2. Whether members are being prompted to redeem when they’re in store.
  3. How members approach redemption in general.
  4. How members redeem for the first time.

What we discovered was a set of remarkably mixed results.

From those we spoke to, we found that members often aren’t aware of how to redeem unless they had been shown how by another person (and once they had been shown, they would redeem again and again). Those most knowledgeable about Co-op Membership in general will mostly have spoken to Co-op colleagues to get the information they wanted.

We also saw that redemption can, more often than not, be a spur of the moment decision. If a member sees a prompt on one of the self-service tills, they can decide there and then that they want to use their rewards. All they need is the reminder.

Perhaps most interesting though was the different patterns we observed. We saw some members using their rewards regularly, no matter what amount had been accrued, some waiting until they had a whole number, and others using their rewards to make up the shortfall when they were low on cash.

What this means for the future of redemptions

Our data and research have given us fantastic insights into store behaviour and the reasons members do, or don’t, cash in their rewards. But there is much more to learn, and we will be testing the lessons learnt from our research, as well as carrying out more surveys of our members.

We know we haven’t worked together as multidisciplinary teams as much as we should have in the past as well. This work on redemptions has shown how much can be done when different parts of the Co-op, from data science to product owners to user researchers come together. We will definitely be looking to build on that.

Ultimately we also want to see how the Co-op can increase redemptions. We see these rewards as good for us, and good for our members because they show what the Co-op is all about: giving back. Every time members trade with the Co-op they get 5% back for themselves and 1% back for social causes. This is something we all want to see grow.

Alex Waters, data scientist
Charlotte King, product lead
Tom Norgate, customer offer manager
Simon Hurst, user researcher

Catherine Brien: great speakers at our data trust and transparency event

(Transcript) Catherine: Hello and welcome to this week’s Digital blog.

You may have noticed that I am not Mike Bracken, my name is Catherine Brien and I’m Data Science Director here at Co-op which means I’m on a mission to make data a valuable asset that we’re using every day in the business to deliver more for our members and our customers.

The big event this week that you’ll have heard of is our AGM which takes place on Saturday and I want to take this opportunity to share with you an event we’re holding, a fringe event in Federation House, 5.15pm to 7.30pm. The purpose is for us to speak to our members about how their personal data is used to help us shape the most appropriate and best policy we possibly can to build trust with our with our members.

I’m delighted that Jeni Tennison, CEO of the Open Data Institute will be joining us to give a keynote speech and we’re joined by 3 fabulous panelists Jessi Baker from Provenance, Sarah Gold from Projects by If and Richard Potter who’s CEO of Peak, a start up from here in Manchester.

You can still register on our Eventbrite page and if you’re not able to make it in person we will be streaming parts of the event live online so please do look out for the links on our Twitter feed.

Separately, we always use the opportunity weekly to welcome new joiners to Digital and this week we’ve got two new joiners I’m delighted to welcome. First is Nathan Langley second is Katherine Wastell both designers joining us working for Andy Travers. Welcome to the team.

That’s it for now, thank you for listening and have a great weekend.

Catherine Brien
Data Science Director

The data trust and transparency event will be at Federation House from 5.15pm on Friday 19 May.
Sign up for the event.

How much do you know about your connected devices?

The Digital Product Research (DPR) team at Co-op Digital is exploring new products and services. We’ve been trying out Google Ventures’ Design Sprint, a framework that encourages teams to develop, prototype and test ideas in just 5 days.

Recently, we’ve looked at connected devices; everyday objects that communicate between themselves or with the internet. It’s a running joke that people don’t read terms of service documents, they just dart down the page to the ‘accept’ button so how much do they really understand about what they’ve signed up for?

Many connected devices are doing things people might not expect, like selling your personal data, or they’re vulnerable to malevolent activities, like your baby monitor being hacked. These things don’t seem to be common knowledge yet but when they start getting more coverage we expect there to be a big reaction.

A right to know what connected devices are doing

In the DPR team, we have a stance that the Co-op shouldn’t express an opinion on whether what a device is doing is good or bad. We’re just interested in making the information around it accessible to everyone so that people can decide for themselves.

In our first sprint we looked at how people relate to the connected devices they have in their homes. We found that though the people we interviewed were reluctant to switch them off at first, or to disable the ‘smart’ functionality, they were open to learning about what their devices are doing.

Influencing the buying decision

With that in mind, we looked at an earlier point in the buying process. We mapped the buying journey.

Mapping the buying journey on a whiteboard. Shows customers want to buy a TV. They research products by reading expert reviews, user reviews, looking on retailer websites and asking friends. Then they make a decision.

What if journalists and reviewers of connected devices were encouraged to write about privacy and security issues? Maybe this could satisfy our aim to influence consumers. If manufacturers knew that their terms and conditions would be scrutinised by reviewers and read by potential customers, maybe they’d make them more transparent from the start.

Our prototype

We made a website in a day and named it Legalease. The purpose of the website was to gather research. It was a throwaway prototype that wouldn’t be launched. It wasn’t Co-op branded so we could avoid any preconceptions. The site showed product terms and conditions and made it easy for reviewers to identify privacy and security clauses that could be clearer.

Shows a screenshot of Legalease prototype. The page shows an LG smart TV and highlights some of the T&Cs. Eg, 'please be aware that if your spoken word includes personal or other sensitive info, it will be captured if you use voice-recognition features'. Page shows someone's comment below: 'and then what happens to it? is it transmitted anywhere?'

The product page showed ‘top highlighted’ parts of the privacy policy ranked by votes. Annotations called into question the highlighted passage.

Shows a screenshot of another tab on the same page as first screenshot. This tab shows the T&Cs in full and contributors can highlight and comment on parts.

Another page showed the ‘full text’ – the full privacy policy document with annotations. The idea is that anybody who’s interested in this sort of thing can create an account and contribute. We imagined a community of enthusiasts would swarm around the text and discuss what they found noteworthy. This would become a resource for product reviewers (who in this case were our user research participants) to use in their reviews.

We interviewed reviewers

We spoke to a mixture of journalists and reviewers from publications like the Guardian and BBC and lesser known review sites like rtings.com. We got to understand how they write their stories.

Objectivity versus subjectivity

We found that what they write can be anywhere on the scale of objective to subjective. For example, a reviewer at rtings.com used repeatable machine testing to describe product features while a writer for The Next Web was able to introduce their own personal and political slant in their articles.

Accuracy

We found that the accuracy of their article was important to them. They’d use their personal and professional contacts for corroboration and often go to the source to give them chance to reply.

Sensationalism is winning!

We’re in danger of ‘fake news’. One of our research participants said:

“Now, with everything being on the internet, it’s pretty easy for someone who just has a couple of mates to throw stuff together on a blog and it look very persuasive.”

We found that they used a mixture of analytics and social media to measure their impact. There was no mention of being concerned with the broader impact their articles might have in terms of whether or not people bought the products based on certain aspects of what they wrote about.

Reviewers thoughts on our product

Some of our research participants made comparisons with websites that have similar structure and interactions like Genius and Medium. The annotations on the Legalease prototype highlighted ambiguity in the terms and conditions but our participants didn’t find that useful – they expected more objectivity. They were also concerned about the validity of the people making the annotations and said that lawyers or similar professionals would carry more weight and authority.

How ‘Co-op’ is the idea?

Our participants thought our prototype was open, fair and community-spirited so it reflects Co-op’s values. There were question marks around whether older organisation like Co-op can reinvent themselves in this way, though.

Reviewing security as well as features

Security and privacy are starting to show up more often in:

But after our research we don’t think reviewers would use something like a Legalease site to talk about security and privacy. Some of the journalists we spoke to thought their readers didn’t care about these issues, or that people are resigned to a lack of privacy. One said:

“People tend to approach tech products with blind faith, that they do what they say they do.”

Connecting the abstract with the real world

Our participants told us their readers are bothered by being bombarded by targeted ads and being ‘ripped off’. This leads us to consider exploring how to connect the more abstract issues around data protection and privacy to these real-world manifestations of those issues. Then we should explain why these annoying things keep happening — and in plain, everyday language.

James Rice
Product designer