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Are retail labs really the path to innovation?

Posted by [email protected] on February 28, 2016 at 3:50 AM


A recent article by Mathew Chapman explores the various retail lab/ start up concepts and gets the opinions of the experts. I myself am no stranger to Tesco Labs having worked on secondment and attended various meetings and workshops there. One very successful development to come out of the labs is the Inform app which allows store colleagues to search for information about every individual product their poticular store has on sale.

I don't think it will be too long before we see the killer low cost/ high impact innovation emerge from the labs but I do like the idea of big organisations working alongside but independently from small start ups as in the case of the John Lewis initiative 'JLAB'. Read Mathews article here

Photo: A product development worshop I attended at Tesco Labs 

The Tesco Armed Forces Network

Posted by [email protected] on November 11, 2015 at 3:05 AM

I was lucky enough to get invited to the launch of the 'Tesco Armed Forces Network' this week at 'The Tower of London' The network are looking to co-ordinate a number of activities – ranging from social activities to those that aim to support and develop colleagues and former members of the armed forces, helping them to find their way here at Tesco. Priorities are to: Support Service Leavers by providing access to Tesco as an example of what service leavers can expect from a civilian employer, by supporting former military colleagues with transition from military life, support colleagues with family in the armed forces and support colleagues who are reservists.

Senior guests at the event were Minister for Armed Forces Reserves Julian Blears, Tesco Head of Customer Robin Terrel ans Tesco Bank People Director Therese Proctor. Here's what Robin had to say.

"Yesterday I was invited along to attend the launch of the Tesco Armed Forces Network at the Tower of London. It was an honour to be there alongside colleagues who have served in the armed forces, and some who continue to serve. Our Armed Forces Network will bring together our ex-military colleagues, reservists and their families, and our colleagues in the network will be perfectly placed to help our servicemen and women as they leave the military.


At the event we also launched a new, industry leading policy for Reservists which includes two weeks’ full pay for mandatory training and an additional five days’ fully paid leave throughout the year for military activities. We’ve updated our Veteran policy too so that colleagues can take up to two weeks paid leave to attend specialist support.


We are always looking for ways to support our colleagues and the work we do with military personnel is just part of this. The new commitments will make a big difference to our reservists and veterans, making it easier for them to achieve their ambitions at Tesco. It is one of the reasons I feel proud to work here.


We’re inviting customers and colleagues to observe a two-minute silence on 11 November at 11am to remember.


Thank you for your support.

Robin Terrell

Chief Customer Officer"

The Connected Fridge

Posted by [email protected] on August 13, 2015 at 6:40 PM

When I was jokingly asked if I could develop a smart device app at the next Hackathon that could remotely tell you what you have in your fridge at home I had to ask myself two questions. Firstly, is this the sort of thing that would get laughed out of Dragons Den and secondly, would such an idea add value for our customers. As daft as it may seem, it’s actually a very good idea and I came to the conclusion that it would add value for our customers by doing the opposite of what the proposer had intended. As well as letting you know what you need to buy, it would also let you know what you already have removing the situations where you have two lettuces perishing away or two 4 pint cartons of milk taking up space in your door tray (read on, a learning fridge could estimate how much milk you have left in the carton). After a bit of thought, I was looking at an all in one money saving, space saving and food waste reduction app. Fantastic.

So what about the technology then? Back in the noughties, item level RFID was the future. Every product would have its own unique RF tag removing the need for retailers to have human stock control and manned checkouts. The idea seemed to fizzle out for many reasons but mainly due to accuracy and security but even if it is introduced not used to its full potential by the retailer, item level RFID could still add value for the customer.

Ok, so every grocery item is tagged and the fridge (or cupboard) contains an RFID reader which reads the contents, what next? Just like item level RFID was the next big thing a decade ago, the latest next big thing is the Internet of Things (IoT). This is the theory of everyday items communicating with each other so all you need to do is give your fridge an IP address and connect it to the internet via household Wi-Fi and you’re away.

So now you’re out and decide to call at the shop. All you need to do is open the app on your smart device and see what you already have at home then decide what you need to buy. But wait!! we’ve already established that (IoT) is about things communicating with each other so that means by using it’s built in location sensor your smart device can contact your fridge and let it know you’re out shopping. What if you’re fridge was a learning fridge that gets to know your eating patterns? Maybe the scenario below could be possible.


It’s Saturday afternoon, the fridge knows you are out shopping because your smart device has told it. The fridge has learnt that you usually have a fry up on a Sunday morning but is aware that you’ve used your last mushrooms with that steak you had last night. You receive a text message from your fridge reminding you that you need mushrooms.

How cool would that be?


Surprising and Delighting with flowers in Falkirk and elsewhere - Guest Blogger, Jennifer Young

Posted by [email protected] on August 7, 2015 at 10:50 AM

Because Shelagh has arthiritis, getting around in a large store has become more difficult so when she heard about shopping on line, she decided to try it, she says "using my computer to shop was brilliant and when the delivery came, the driver was so helpful, I've shopped this way ever since". 

Our store is not the only one to have sent out flowers to customers recently. I came across some other cases on Yammer, our internal company social network website.

At our Risca Extra store, fellow CSLA Joanna Burridge was on her last shift before going on placement when she visited a customer who had collased just before her delivery was due.

Joanna wrote "One of my colleagues, Luke Phillips (CDA) was carrying out his deliveries on a normal Wednesday afternoon. He arrived at the customer's house when he could hear cries for help coming from inside. He went into the house, and Mrs Dacey was laying on the floor following a fall. She was unable to move herself or get any help. Luke helped Mrs Dacey up on to the sofa so she was supported, and phoned around her family members to find some one that could help. In the mean time, Luke put all the shopping away and then waited with her until someone else arrived. I later received a call from the CSC explaining what had happened, and the customer's daughter wanted to thank Luke for what he had done. As he arrived back in store later in the day he had given me the full story. The following day we decided to go and visit Mrs Dacey with a card and a bunch of flowers from the team to let her know we were thinking of her. The customer was absolutely delighted with this, and it put a smile back on her face as it was totally unexpected. She has been a customer with us for many years and says the service she receives from Risca is always fantastic as the drivers are always more than willing to help her. She was extremely thankful for Luke doing what he did, as without him she could of been lying there for hours. The customer loved the flowers. Luke received Superstar of the month, and was presented with a thank you gift from the dot com management team."

10 Tips to Survive Working in Retail

Posted by [email protected] on July 31, 2015 at 4:45 AM

I thought this blog page needed a bit of lightheartedness so I've added this video I came across this on Youtube. I'm sure anyone who works in the retail industry will be able to share some of the opinions of this bloke.

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

Delivering Our Best in Extremely Hot Weather

Posted by antony_tur[email protected] on July 3, 2015 at 7:10 PM

On the 1st of July, the country recorded its hottest July temperature on record with temperatures in London higher than those in Athens and Rome and just like in winter when bad weather creates additional problems for our customers, the hot weather can cause difficulties for some of our elderly customers and those with health problems too. Our CDA’s are always willing to do what they can to help. I regularly make sure frozen items are put away for those customers who may be slow at putting them in the freezer themselves.

When it snows our Customer Delivery Assistants get plenty of sympathy from colleagues and customers and everyone is really grateful of the effort made by them in getting orders delivered. In extremely hot weather we sometimes get very little praise, not because people are ungrateful but because they just don’t realise how much more difficult the job becomes. That said, it has been encouraging to read on Yammer, our internal social network at Tesco how our departments across the country have reacted to the hot weather .

At Cross Point Extra near Coventry, Lead Dot Com Manager, Sam Carolan said: "We've got a sun lotion station, giving out chilled water bottles and have made sure our CDAs are looked after. With over 70 drivers we need to look after the guys and gals".  

At St Noets Extra, CSLA Sarah Lyon said "We've been giving our CDA's bottles of chilled water & same for over at click & collect coz we mustn't forget them either".

Amanda a Customer Services Liason Assistant from Kettering Extra gave each of her CDA's an ice lolly with the offer of a good hosing down.

Jennifer Young, a Customer Services Liason Assistant from Falkirk posted some pictures of her CDA's cooling off with ice lollies.

Above: Stewart and Ray pose for a picture in the relentless heat.

Below: Steph, Jade and Alicia distributing lollies in Falkirk.

As with most spells of hot weather, the  week came to a dramatic end with torrential rain and a series of thunderstorms. At Falkirk 6505, Dot Com Manager Nikki Ross reacted to this by offering to deliver click and collect orders to customers home addresses. Customer Services Liasion Assistant Jennifer said "We had a horrendous thunderstorm and torrential rain this morning in Falkirk and our click and collect location point has no canopy or cover over it and is very exposed to the wind even on a nice day. Between the two of us we managed to call them all and our dispatcher susan helped move the orders onto the vans. So we now have three very happy and very dry customers with their shopping on its way to them".

Graham from Falkirk 6505 has a flawless reputation for delivering on time but he was a bit late to take advantage of his ice lolly.

Delivering the Goods

Posted by [email protected] on June 2, 2015 at 6:05 PM

In a world where more and more people are having their groceries delivered to their homes, the relationship between retailer and customer has really changed – customers invite us into their homes. At Tesco, the Customer Delivery Assistant is our ambassador and for many customers who order online, the only person they’ll interact with – they’re responsible for delivering the goods.


I have been doing the job for five years. It’s one of the few jobs I’ve done where I want to get up in a morning to go to work. Our delivery area is so diverse and I love the variety. You may get a block of flats in the city of Sheffield and a remote farm in the Peak District on the same run.

My favourite area is the peak district, especially the village of Eyam. It’s steeped in history but most famous for isolating itself during the plague in 1665.


We have quite a lot of elderly customers who order small amounts of shopping, but I tend to spend longer with them than I would delivering a large family order. I’ll make sure they are happy and put their frozen food away if required. We used to have one elderly customer who tried to pay us for the shopping every time we delivered.


We sometimes get asked to do other things by customers. I’ve opened jars, used my sack barrow to carry mobility scooter batteries out of a nursing home. I’ve been asked to change light bulbs by a customer. I’ve helped a mum to put her son in a ruck sack type baby carrier so she could unpack her shopping. I love customer’s pets, especially the dogs, if you get to know their names you’ll make it easier next time, they may stop barking if you talk to them using their name.


One of the strangest and funniest moments I’ve had was when onesies first come out. I’d not heard of them. Imagine my surprise when a fully grown man opened the door dressed in a full size tiger romper suit. It’s a daily occurrence now.

Some of our customers normally shop in store but temporarily order online due to incapacity, such as after an operation. I always these give customers extra help but it’s also great to see them back in store doing their own shopping, when they’re better.


About three years ago, I found a customer laying on the floor with breathing difficulties. He had pressed his emergency button and was already communicating with the help line. I carried on the conversation with the help line until the warden arrived and then went out to direct the paramedic to his flat – I’m pleased to say he was fine next time I visited.


We have thousands of Customer Delivery Assistants at Tesco now and their service can really make the difference for customers. If you see me out on the road please do say hello, you never know, I could be delivering to you one day.

Hackathon15 and Team Top Table

Posted by [email protected] on May 12, 2015 at 5:45 PM

Team Top Table only formed in December after we met on Yammer, so we were shocked to win Tesco Hackathon 2015. We set up our own private Yammer group in the months ahead of the event, and had been developing the idea and business case ever since. Although some of us had met as individuals and as a small group, our first meeting as a five-member team was on the morning of the Hackathon.

Even though we’d never met in person, we felt as if we knew each other well already. I was really pleased at how quickly the team bonded and how quickly the conversation started flowing. Our team was made up of me, Justin Boyd from Belfast, Marketing Graduate Mari Saona, my Chesterfield colleague James Dietsch and Gerry Gaughan from Goole DC, who was the oldest hacker taking part.

A tip I was given last year (when I won with a previous team) was not to rush into anything. We gathered in a circle and discussed what we’d like to get across in our three-minute pitch to the judges, before designing a full set of screen layouts and graphics over a working lunch. After a very amicable agreement on who was going to do what, we started on our build at the 90-minute point.

Our hack was based around an idea that enhanced the customer experience in Tesco's in-store cafe's and restaurants.

We were distracted late in the afternoon by a musical jingle in the car park, although it was a welcome interruption. An ice cream van had been booked (thanks to (x)Matters). Our team showed it was full of energy as we hit the front of the queue – it felt great to get away from our laptops and stretch our legs. After our afternoon treat, we continued to hack away and it was time for file sharing.

Our three designers – James, Gerry and Mari – were sending their work over to replace the temporary buttons and the text was soon being replaced by great images. It was all taking shape. Everyone was pleased with how the graphics looked in the apps and it was at this point that there was the first time a real sense of achievement flowed through the team.

One of the great things about Hackathons is meeting new people, so when our evening meal arrived in the shape of a gourmet street truck, we gladly took advantage of the fine weather and stood around in the open air chatting among the different teams. Although our hack contained three apps and two cloud databases, one app was significantly more important than the others. This app had two main features and at the nine-hour point, we had one of the features fully functional. There was a great sense of elation and we decided to break out into the foyer. I can’t remember what we talked about but it must have been interesting, as we returned to our desks 45 minutes later.

It was now time for a change. Until now, Justin (the only other coder on our team) had worked on the main app and I had worked on the peripherals. It was now my turn to work on the main app – meaning I had to knuckle down for five hours at the screen. Apart from a short break in true Hackathon style to have a midnight feast of pizza, of course.

By the 15-hour mark, all that was left to do was to link everything together and finish the parts of the apps that had to be done afterwards. We set ourselves a target of finishing by breakfast time, but didn’t take into account how much sleep deprivation would take its toll on us and only completed the full hack with one-and-a-half hours remaining. Next up was the pitch. And as we practiced, it became clear there’d be a few ‘it’ll be alright on the night’ moments, as we all became aware that things could easily go wrong. Fortunately there weren’t any hitches and our presentation to the judges was flawless.

Because we were all amateurs, we had the most to learn and decided that with our diverse backgrounds, our best chance of a trophy would be the Collaboration Cup. But when that award was quite rightly awarded to the Unnamed Six, we looked at each other in disappointment, expecting to be going home empty handed. When we were announced as the overall winner, the sense of achievement the team felt was multiplied by the fact that we didn’t expect to win.

Despite the lack of sleep, I loved the Hackathon experience and hope to be back next year when I try to make it three in a row!

A Leap Forward for Internal Communications

Posted by [email protected] on May 1, 2015 at 5:35 PM

Words cannot describe how pleased I am to be a member of the Colleague Communications Panel at Tesco. The panel is made up of colleagues that are representative of the business so I feel really proud that I was selected from so many applicants and privileged that I have been given a golden opportunity to represent my colleagues on how colleague communications are conducted in the future.


Being on the panel has allowed me to meet and collaborate with new people and share thoughts regarding the various channels of communication within the business, together as a team we will make a difference. I suspect I will remain in contact with some of my fellow panellists long after our term in office has expired.


I’ve worked at Tesco for five years as a Customer Delivery Assistant and I would describe my first four years as fairly uneventful and frustrating so the real buzz for me is the change in culture that I have witnessed within the business over the last year or so which has led to the panel being formed.


My frustrations were caused by the fact that I was bursting with ideas but the channels were not in place to guide them to the relevant people. In KPI driven businesses, ideas from the front line often go unnoticed because there is not a KPI for ideas.


The introduction of Yammer has opened up communications between colleagues across the UK business and addressed my frustrations. Colleagues can share ideas and get the information they need to perform in their roles better in just a few minutes. I believe that in a healthy business, colleagues have a moral duty to put forward ideas that may improve the business and in return, businesses should take those ideas seriously before deciding whether to accept or reject them. Yammer has opened up a channel for ideas submission.


I also find it fascinating that Yammer has created a shift in mobile phone at work policy. Overnight there was a shift from colleagues being strictly banned from carrying their own mobile phones at work to colleagues being encouraged to sign up to Yammer and being encouraged to bring their own devices to use Yammer and the inform app.


I wasn’t a regular visitor to the Ourtesco website so it was by pure coincidence that I just happened to take a look on that particular day and came across Globe’thon 2014, a global hackathon competition. I applied to join and used an external Yammer network to put a team together. Winning the UK leg of the competition gave me the opportunity develop an idea on secondment at Tesco Labs.


I now visit Ourtesco most days so that I don’t miss out on what’s happening around the business and this has paid off on a further two occasions. Firstly seeing the invitation to apply for this panel and also the invitation to be a New Tesco Technology Advocate, my task to trial and review the new HUDL2, my reward a free HUDL2 prior to launch. Over the last year I have witnessed great improvements in the design and layout of the site. I look forward to seeing future improvements but also having the opportunity to shape those improvements together with the internal communications team and my fellow panellists.


I’m really looking forward to the launch of the new colleague magazine and I have already started putting feelers out for interesting stories, it’s something I’m really going to enjoy getting my teeth into over the year. I love the idea of the magazine having a Sunday supplement feel and that a core element of the magazine is about the people in the business rather than about the business itself. For years to come, each time I pick up the magazine, I will look at the name and strapline and it will raise fond memories of the day that was first meeting of the communications panel.


So as we enter the future and develop our digital and printed channels of communication, we must not forget the most important channel of all, face to face communication. I think face to face communication can be split into two areas, official communication such as Team 5 and face to face communication between each other as colleagues.


I think we need to look at face to face communication and smash down any barriers we find that restrict verbal communication taking place, particularly towards the lower end of the chain but also how to ensure responses are passed back up the chain too.


We need to ensure our core purpose and values are upheld so that our colleagues communicate well, listen to and understand each other and that we use these values to communicate with our customers too. Face to face communication is the linchpin in the smoothness of the operation of a successful store.


So as I have said, much has been done to improve the channels of communication over the last year and at our meeting we found out more about what is planned for the future and the different roles that we can all play. What I like is the coordinated approach that internal communication is going to take, deciding the best primary channel for a topic based on its own merits and then linking it to other channels for maximum effect and response capture.

From Cab to Lab

Posted by [email protected] on December 11, 2014 at 1:05 PM

This was the second time I’ve come to Head Office; the first being in March, when I took part in Tesco’s global hackathon. Being in the UK winning team at the Globe’athon gave me a wonderful sense of achievement, so I was delighted to be invited back to Tesco Labs to co-produce a viable business case to support our idea. 


During a two week collaborative sprint with ex-Globe’athon team member Luke Hickton, we explored an exciting new way of making the shopping experience even more seamless and convenient for customers.

This was the first time a colleague from Stores had been invited to Tesco Labs, so the pressure was on – not only to represent my own store (Chesterfield Extra), but also to make my visit a success so that other colleagues from Stores, Distribution Centres and CSC’s around the country might be able to follow in my footsteps.


On arrival at the Labs, Luke introduced me to the rest of the Tesco Labs team, who made me very welcome for the duration of my stay, and freely gave their help and support to Luke and me. We benefited immensely from their expertise and individual specialist skills.


We started from scratch and with open minds, and within three days we had festooned the walls of the lab with flip chart sheets and post-it notes. As I am normally a mobile worker, it’s not often than I am able to see the result of three days’ hard work at my fingertips. I was beginning to feel a real sense of satisfaction by this point.


Another highlight of our sprint was actually running our own mini-trial of the idea, but the real sense of success was realised on the last day of my visit. It was agreed after a series of presentations to business leaders that preparations to introduce a pilot project could commence.


I think collaboration between Head Office and other areas of the business is something that should be encouraged, and I would urge anyone from Stores, Distribution and CSC’s to look out for future innovation events and wholeheartedly participate.