70,000 employees
Salesforce customer since 2016


more cases handled per hour


Co-op boosts customer spend and satisfaction with personalised resolutions

A couple’s first meal together is special. So when a customer was disappointed that a lasagne didn’t live up to the romance of the moment, the customer services team at the Co-op pulled out all the stops - and their response went viral on social media. “We sent the customer’s girlfriend some flowers and talked him through how to cook a lasagne from scratch so he could impress her at their next meal,” said Claire Carroll, Head of Sales and Service, at the Co-op.

For Claire and her team, a complaint is an opportunity to show just how much the Co-op cares about its customers. “We’ve ripped up the customer service rule-book,” she explained. “We don’t want to just give people a refund when there’s a problem; we want to give them a genuine response and a personalised experience that they will remember.”

Effective complaint resolution drives greater revenue

The Co-op’s trailblazing approach has been a great success: customers actually buy more in its stores after making a complaint. “The basket spend is 6% higher” revealed Claire. These and other customer-focused metrics are invaluable to the retailer and they all come from a single source: Salesforce.

When Claire joined the Co-op in 2015, one of her first tasks was to transform the processes and platforms used by its eight contact centres and create a single customer service operation to provide a more joined-up experience across different lines of business. “Advisors had to switch between systems, which made information difficult to find and share,” she explained. “With Salesforce, advisors are more connected, processes are more automated, and information more integrated.”

Integration and innovation made simple

More than 250 advisors now use the solution to answer around three million queries a year from Co-op customers and colleagues - and with Trailhead, it’s easy to onboard new staff and keep people engaged with how they can serve customers better. “With Salesforce, we can see the customer through a broader lens,” explained Claire. “Advisors can view previous cases, complaints, and even the marketing offers that they have responded to, which means we can provide quicker and better resolutions. In the past the team had to spend time manually leafing through records to find information, but now everything they need to have a constructive conversation with the customer is at their fingertips.”

To achieve such granular visibility, Co-op has integrated Service Cloud with more than 10 systems and teams, including social media and retail support. “We have a group of Salesforce Admins who are constantly looking for process improvement opportunities,” explained Claire. “Service Cloud is so easy to adapt that one year we made 300 customisations!”

Co-op champions a better way of doing business

The Co-op’s roots go back to 1844 when a group of Trailblazers joined forces to sell fairly priced, good quality food during difficult economic times. It is now one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives with around five million members. As well as being the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, the Co-op is the country’s number one funeral services and provider, and a major general insurer.

The grocer has begun a complete refurbishment of its 2,700-plus-strong store estate, is investing in new stores – 100 shops opened last year – and has launched click-and-collect and trialled online deliveries with Deliveroo. It’s also expanding its wholesale business and recently opened a number of franchise stores.

Despite its humble beginnings, the Co-op was always destined to be different. “Supporting local communities is just as important to us as running a successful £10 billion business,” explained Claire. “We are committed to championing a better way of doing business for customers and communities.” Thanks to its membership scheme, the Co-op gave £19 million to local causes in 2018. It also donates tonnes of groceries nearing their sell-by date to local charities and community kitchens through Co-op Food Share.

Co-op supports vulnerable people during pandemic

The Co-op’s work in the community expanded significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. It set up a number of schemes to support people in need during the UK’s lockdown, including providing schoolchildren with free meals in the form of shopping vouchers. “The Co-op provided a lifeline to many people shielding during the pandemic,” explained Claire. “More than 5,000 volunteers signed up to our programme to help ensure vulnerable customers were able to access basic supplies.”

To ensure it could respond to the massive spike in demand across its food and funeral businesses, the Co-op recruited hundreds of additional colleagues and implemented new Salesforce flows and features. “In the space of 12 weeks, advisors handled 25,000 contacts about our vulnerable customer programme alone while social media queries increased by 700%,” commented Claire. “We used Salesforce to create automated responses to simpler queries, which enabled our advisors to prioritise the most vulnerable customers. Co-operating to create a fairer world has never been so relevant.”

Higher customer satisfaction for a lower cost

The Co-op had already proved its ability to respond quickly to change prior to the pandemic. For example, the customer service team leveraged Service Cloud to enable it to support the launch of Co-op Food Share, without the need to bring in additional resources. Since deploying Service Cloud in 2016, advisors can handle 30% more cases per hour.

By improving visibility and efficiency, the Co-op has reduced contact centre operating costs by more than 20% over a four-year period. Although productivity is important, the biggest measure of success for the Co-op is customer satisfaction. It asks customers for feedback after every interaction with the contact centre - and the numbers speak for themselves. For example, the customer satisfaction rating for membership queries is an impressive 96%.

But this is not surprising given the Co-op’s trailblazing approach to customer service. When calls about a food product hit a certain level, the advisors head to the office kitchen to do their own taste test. “Service Cloud triggers an automated alert when we pass a specific threshold,” explained Claire. “We had a great feast when a lot of customers contacted us about a recipe change to a BBQ chicken pizza!”

Contact centre provides valuable business and customer insights

Claire and her team have become so close to the business that they are now asked to provide insights into a wide range of topics, such as self-service checkouts and retail crimes. “With Service Cloud, we can categorise queries and complaints from customers and colleagues in a very sophisticated way, which we turn into valuable intelligence for the business,” said Claire.

The Co-op has extended its knowledge-sharing approach into the community. It has a network of more than 300 member pioneers that help to bring people together to increase co-operation in local communities. With Community Cloud, these pioneers can share ideas and best practices to maximise the impact of their efforts. And that’s just the beginning: the Co-op wants to create a food community so customers can share recipes and product recommendations too. It also plans to use Salesforce to take greater advantage of mobile messaging, live chat, computer telephony integration, and artificial intelligence to further enrich the customer experience.

“With Salesforce, we can foster stronger customer relationships and deliver richer experiences,” said Claire. “We’ve turned the concept of a contact centre on its head; our advisors don’t just answer queries, they spot opportunities, they share insights, they build relationships. They have become the listening post for the business.”

Next on the innovation radar, the Co-op is planning to explore mobile messaging, live chat, artificial intelligence, and to integrate Service Cloud with its telephony system. But it’s not just customers getting gold star service, the organisation will be rolling the solution out to its employee contact centre to give colleagues a winning experience as well.



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