Inside Pets at Home’s customer-centric transformation

Pets at Home operates 431 pet superstores, 391 veterinarian practices and 246 grooming salons nationwide, with plans to open a further 20 superstores in the next year.

To fuel growth, 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 in the customer experience and transform the organisation’s retail operations.

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.

>See also: 10 predictions for digital transformation in 2017

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.

“We wanted to completely transform the customer experience, doing away with cumbersome processes and pen and paper forms,” says Suzie Williams, business systems director at Pets at Home. “However, we immediately faced a number of obstacles with network and Wi-Fi coverage issues causing regular dropouts, adversely affecting the iPads’ ability to process transactions.”

The network issues undermined employee confident in the Pet Pad system, as frustrated customers found themselves spending time on the Pet Pad only to have to fill out paper forms to complete their transaction.

The problems with connectivity meant Pets at Home couldn’t fulfil its strategy to deliver a seamless shopping experience, and it required focused and dedicated support to provide the infrastructure necessary to make Pet Pads work.

The issue was compounded by the fact that Pets at Home’s network requirements were split between two separate providers.

“This meant working with different service levels and leaving notable gaps in our provision,” says Williams. “So we decided to move everything to one provider to make management smoother. It became apparent that we needed a provider who understood our business and our culture, and who would provide us with a personalised service.”

Pets for Home opted for British managed services provider Claranet, deploying a new WAN across 400 retail locations and 340 veterinarian surgeries nationwide.

Customers can be very unforgiving of downtime and Pets at Home plans to work with Claranet to enhance the Pet Pads system with integrated 3G MPLS connectivity into the solution as a back-up, cementing the business’s 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 provides a backup solution that ensures that data from the retail units is securely stored.

>See also: 5 factors driving digital transformation

One of the most important and immediate benefits of the deployment 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 the iPads as the helpful utility they were 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.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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