Pets at Home is the UK’s leading specialist retailer of pet food, pet products and pet-related services, operating 431 superstores, 391 veterinarian practices, and 246 grooming salons nationwide, as well as a popular website. The company has enjoyed significant growth over the past few years, and expects to open a further 15-20 Pets at Home superstores in FY17.
This growth has, in part, been fuelled by Pets at Home’s customer-centric strategy and the company has rolled out a range of new projects and initiatives to digitally transform the business and provide a seamless shopping experience for its customers.
One of Pets at Home’s key initiatives to drive forward its customer-centric strategy is the Pet Pad: an in-store iPad system designed to remove friction from the customer’s experience and transform the retail operations of the organisation. Not only would this remove the need for customers adopting pets to fill out paper forms at the till, it would also allow Pets at Home’s knowledgeable staff to use the technology to provide better pet welfare advice and services.
However, soon after the devices were rolled out it became clear that the network, as it was then, was struggling to cope with the additional strain.
Suzie Williams, Business Systems Director, at Pets at Home (pictured) explains : “We wanted to completely transform the customer experience, doing away with cumbersome processes and pen and paper forms. However, we immediately faced a number of obstacles with network and wifi coverage issues causing regular dropouts, adversely affecting the iPads’ ability to process transactions. This undermined our colleague’s confidence in the Pet Pad system, as frustrated customers found themselves spending time on the Pet Pad only to have to fill out paper forms only to complete their transaction. The seamless shopping experience that we had envisioned was being undermined by our connectivity issues, and we needed focused and dedicated support to provide the infrastructure necessary to make Pet Pads work.”
She continues: “The issue was compounded by the fact that our network requirements were split between two separate providers. This meant working with different service levels and leaving notable gaps in our provision, so we decided to move everything to one provider to make management smoother. The question was, which one?”
Claranet subsequently rolled out a brand new WAN to over 400 retail locations and 340 veterinarian surgeries nationwide. Customers can be very unforgiving of downtime and Pets at Home plan to work with Claranet to enhance this system with integrated 3G MPLS connectivity into the solution as a back-up, cementing the businesses’ capacity to securely process transactions even in the event of a network outage.
Claranet also support Pets at Home with a dedicated Microsoft Exchange hosted email platform for 4,300 colleagues. This includes the Symantec suite of anti-virus and archiving services. Additionally Claranet provide a backup solution which ensures that data from the retail units is securely stored.
One of the most important and immediate benefits of Claranet’s work has been to enable the stabilisation and the expansion of the Pet Pad system. With a reliable network in place, and the work of a responsive Service Management team paying dividends, the issue of dropouts was resolved and staff have subsequently come to view their iPads as the helpful utility they were always meant to be. This has directly impacted in-store operations, allowing colleagues to spend less time processing in the back-office and more time on the shop floor, servicing customers.
The reliability that Claranet’s connectivity has provided has allowed Pets at Home to leverage the technology with more iPad applications, such as a VIP (Very Important Pet) sign up scheme which has proved crucial for developing a higher level of engagement with customers.
Williams comments on how Claranet works with Pets at Home: “Claranet is very well integrated into our operations. Its size is an asset here – some providers make you feel that you are just one customer amongst a crowd, but our voice is valued with Claranet. We have regular reviews with senior management of the company, and know that they will be there when we need them and will get things done. As an expanding business this is vital for us – when opening new stores, we know that have a trusted partner which can rapidly get everything connected on the ground.
“Claranet has a deep understanding of us as a business, of our history and of our plans for the future. Instead of being locked-in to a particular service at a particular point, Claranet had the flexibility to agree to an overall service contract – guaranteeing their capacity to adapt in the face of our exciting plans for the future.”
As Pets at Home continue its digital transformation projects, so Suzie anticipates that Claranet will be consulted further: “We value Claranet’s opinion on a number of issues, and will likely consult them on a regular basis. There’s plenty of potential areas where their expertise and strong service levels could become relevant, including potentially deploying cloud-based disaster recovery support and integrating further applications into the email system.”