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Guest Comment: Generating trust through transparency will be key to Ocado’s future

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By Jon Rudoe

At Ocado we believe customers will only be satisfied if we are fully transparent with them. That means monitoring calls, emails and social media seven days a week and continually appreciating that our chosen sector – food – requires speedy, but sincere, responses. By getting the fundamentals right, Ocado is able to improve its customer service contact without any significant increase in cost. And good customer service generates loyalty and engagement, which in turn feeds our growth and expansion.

Transparency also means opening as many channels to customers as possible and encouraging two-way dialogue with them – it’s about learning from customers in order to further improve our offering, as much as it explaining to them how our service works. It’s not about giving people heavily processed, one-way information. We aim to engage customers by phone, online and, of course, on the doorstep. Shoppers can even rate and review our groceries as they shop on the website. We regularly survey customers by email, asking for feedback on all aspects of service. Thanks to high levels of customer loyalty, we enjoy really high response rates. One survey/email initiative we have been using in recent months is ‘rate your driver’ – giving customers a chance to comment.

Customers are making a big noise via social media, given its explosion in recent years. We actively seek feedback through Facebook and Twitter and employ a dedicated team of people to help answer queries there; this constant ‘online’ engagement serves, in the long run, to enhance our reputation for high quality service. Customers respect us for talking openly.

In touch with customer needs

Our Contact Centre staff also place themselves in the shoes of customers; for example, every advisor and manager spends time, on a regular basis, packing and delivering groceries in order to better appreciate all aspects of the Ocado service.

Technology is very important to our business and it helps underpin excellent customer service. For example, our Contact Centre staff have access to satellite tracking tools and can offer customers real-time updates on where their delivery vans are and when precisely to expect them. Our drivers, too, have personal computer devices that allow them to deal with a variety of customer issues on the doorstep, without delay.

And finally, we know that delivering good customer service is about good business planning. Ocado strives to balance fast growth and innovative technologies with sensible planning and thorough staff training. We pride ourselves particularly on the reputation of our friendly drivers or, as we call them, Customer Service Team Members; they are offered regular training on both road safety and customer communication. In turn we plan for those eventualities that we think might impact the customer; last autumn, for example, we ‘winterized’ our entire delivery fleet with snow tyres and sent customers delivery advice well ahead of the first bad weather last December.

Careful planning and thorough training helped ensure we delivered 98% of customer orders in the 4-week period to December 26 and that, as posts on our Facebook page and letters to our Board testify, has all enhanced our customer service reputation. People can depend on us to deliver the goods.

Jon Rudoe is head of retail & customer at Ocado

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