National Grocery Chain Puts Technology to Work in a Changing Customer Ecosystem

Starting in the Carolinas, this small-town market has gone from one to 212 grocery stores over the past sixty years. The now-enterprise sized retail organization employs over 26,000 people around the country, a big leap from its local, family-owned origins. In addition to retail stores, the company now operates processing and packaging plants as well as warehouses to continue to bring its customers the best products.

However, with modern consumers increasingly less likely to cook for themselves and more likely to schedule a grocery delivery from an online retailer, the company needed to rethink its digital strategy to stay relevant. According to McKinsey, grocers, as a whole, are less inclined to employ new technologies to keep up with trends as quickly and aggressively as other retailers.

The organization was ready to face modern challenges to keep their competitive edge, drive real digital transformation, and build success after struggles with its internal IT processes.

Supporting Growth with the Right Platform: Choosing ServiceNow

With their steady growth, the company didn’t have an IT Service platform in place that could efficiently scale with them and serve their expanding business needs.

What they needed was a true Enterprise Service Management (ESM) solution that would give them a single unified point of entry for all stores and employees to set them up for success and support future expansion. This type of unified technology would open doors from the enterprise, having the potential to drive commercial effectiveness and cost reduction across their whole value chain; digital solutions, advanced analytics, and AI all have the potential for far-reaching impact on customer engagement, commercial activities, store, plant, and warehouse processes, and back-office operations.

Having already undergone an IT infrastructure implementation with a different technology two years prior that left them wanting more, the team took an extended period of introspection to make sure they were making the right decision in ServiceNow.

After realizing the potential of the ServiceNow platform to be the ‘platform of platforms’ for their business goals, this organization decided they were all in and began their search for a Partner that would meet their needs and keep them aligned to best practices.

In contrast to other ServiceNow consultancies that suggested an ITSM implementation, Acorio was able to show the company that Customer Service Management would deliver the solutions they needed – including a clean back-end IT – and help avoid an overly confusing Organizational Change Management process for more seasoned employees.

By implementing ServiceNow’s CSM suite as its first order of business, the organization could:

  • Improve the efficiency of Field Service Management operations
  • Consolidate Field Service Management operations
  • Aggregate information siloed in disparate systems
  • Inform business decisions with actionable data (become proactive vs. reactive)

Putting Technology to Work in a Changing Customer Ecosystem

Entrenched in 60 years of procedural tradition, the company’s main goal was to modernize its platform infrastructure in order to;

  • Establish a foundational, scalable Enterprise Service Management solution to support the diverse needs of corporate users and its many stores.
  • Enable them to lower costs and improve service by shrinking their application footprint and streamlining operations through process automation and legacy application elimination.
  • Deliver transparency through actionable intelligence with robust reporting and providing visibility into key operational metrics to executive management and key stakeholders.

For this organization, modernization and increased efficiency were the name of the game. Their lack of a Customer Service solution weighed heavily on the organization and with no formal processes, the over-worked help desk was in dire need of support.

  • They had no system equipped to take in requests and incidents – coming from a multitude of places including corporate, warehouses, stores, and processing facilities – in an organized manner and route them to the correct people.
  • Employees were accustomed to (and forced to) call who they were familiar with in hopes they could help find the solution to their problems.

The only way for this organization to drive the transformation they needed was to reimagine the idea of a customer. They realized that individual store managers and employees had to be treated as customers of the organization, deserving of special focus and resources.

 However, despite being a regional operation, the company is still mainly family-controlled and entrenched in tradition, making the management team averse to change, especially when dealing with tech and modern digital transformation.

Additional challenges included the sheer physical size of the operation. With a 1.8 million square foot headquarter building, IT was often “out of sight, out of mind”. Plus, the customers of the transformation – the individual stores – were also physically dispersed across the country.

ServiceNow Solutions

To begin, the project was rolled out to only IT to ensure that their fulfillers, service desk staff, and IT team would be well-versed in the changes before the entire organization had access. It was important to familiarize IT with the new process so that they could be well-equipped to deal with the new solution be the leaders guiding the rest of the organization into the platform.

Visibility/dashboards: now the company is fully equipped to track all of the different requests and tickets their users submit in real-time, where before they had no centralized place to view that information, see who had approved what actions, who had provided comments, and more. Before the implementation, the team was faced with outages related to the lack of organizational structure and visibility into what was happening, who was responding, and what actions were being taken.

The company’s application access for new hires and changing access was also completely automated to free up resources. Previously it was on an editable PDF document that they would fill out, answer questions to, and it get routed as well. Now all of that information is tracked in a centralized location so that managers can see which individuals have access to which functionalities. Acorio created a separate table for them to track this info and do a bit of software asset management.

Submissions Form: previously all requests were routed through phone calls and emails. Not that’s been replaced with a system, in which all requests related to their 220 stores come through the help desk as cases, where they can be evaluated and changed to incidents if need be. Gaining visibility into request status and tracking resolution is a huge win for a company that formerly relied on lengthy email chains and phone calls to see things through.

People, Process, Technology (In That Order)

With the people, process, and technology ethos, it’s clear that the people and the process are just as important as the technology. But, getting an entire team on the same page and aligned to the same business goals is a feat in itself.

It’s important to go into the project having identified key people, process owners, and goals. Taking these extra measures ensures your team’s commitment to the end goal: it keeps their eyes on the prize, compared to placing a project on the back burner until right before go-live. When it comes to process areas, one owner with in-depth knowledge and dedication will beat a committee of 5 owners every time.

In addition, it’s better to focus on smaller-scale, “quick-wins” that can be executed on a shorter timeline with minimal effort. It’s important not to bite off more than you can chew when you’re implementing a solution for the first time.

Rolling out this change knowing that such a diverse group of people are using it – IT managers, warehouse workers, store managers, etc. – influenced Acorio’s UX choices. They had to eliminate extra steps and simplify, while also remaining compliant with important industry regulations for their pharmacies. Because of the diverse array of people that would be using the platform, a balance was struck between ServiceNow best practices and methods the team was already using. The team had to compromise so not to force too much change too suddenly on some personas in the user group.

Recipe for Success

  1. Make Sure Stakeholders are Invested from the Beginning
  2. Identify process owners instead of having a committee trying to make all decisions – too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth
  3. Be realistic and identify smaller goals that can become ‘quick wins’

Looking to the Future

Even beyond the food retail industry, it’s clear that the concept of what constitutes a customer is changing for companies developing Enterprise Service Management system strategies.

For this supermarket chain, redefining what a customer meant allowed them to broaden their business goals to accommodate other areas of functionality within ServiceNow and they’re continuing to refine what was developed with their CSM implementation today. Consolidating information, tools, and technologies onto a platform that was more capable and easier to manage was crucial.

The supermarket chain is now completely aligned with ServiceNow’s philosophy of having a single, unified platform to serve their needs. They understand that the more you give, the more you get and are ready to expand to get the most out of the ServiceNow platform. The process owner already has a vision for the next two years and is ready to hit the ground running.