person ordering groceries from home

Loblaw optimizes online grocery services with Slack

When Canadians began to shelter-in-place, Loblaw stepped up to help customers shop from the safety of their homes

Author: Lauren JohnsonOctober 20th, 2020Illustration by Sabrina Khadija

Since 1919, Toronto-based groceries and pharmacy enterprise Loblaw Companies Limited has been on a mission to make shopping more convenient for Canadians. The company has also been on a mission to support agility, collaboration and innovation among colleagues in order to scale and launch new services for customers. That’s why in 2019 Loblaw Technology adopted Slack, the secure channel-based messaging platform.

When Covid-19 sent Canadians indoors in mid-March, the online shopping experience quickly became a top priority for Loblaw as orders skyrocketed and online grocery traffic increased significantly. Using Slack channels—a single place to share files and messages—Loblaw helped support the onboarding and training of all new colleagues hired during Covid-19.

nick kuriya loblaw slack

“Slack played a crucial role in bringing teams together in one channel so we could connect with one another quickly in order to launch PC Chef to our customers at record speed.

Nick KuriyaVice President of Meal Solutions, Loblaw

Swiftly scaling Slack to hundreds of grocery stores supporting customers

When Covid-19 struck, colleagues across all departments stepped in to help keep up with the influx of online orders from PC Express customers. Some of these colleagues were new to fulfilling online orders and needed a place to ask questions as quickly as possible to keep up with business.

“Say, for example, I’m from the bakery department and I’ve been tasked with handling online grocery orders for the first time,” explains Shawna Whish, implementation manager at Loblaw Digital. “I’m working the overnight shift from midnight to eight, but the department manager isn’t there to help answer questions that come up.”

In order to provide support and resources for workers, Loblaw Digital scaled Slack usage to more than 650 grocery stores nationally. PC Express workers were onboarded in a Slack channel and could get in touch with training managers when they needed them most. In Slack, workers could ask questions such as:

  • How do I help customers who are using this service for the first time?
  • Where do I confirm customers earned PCO points with their online shopping order?
  • How do I properly substitute items for customers’ orders?

Loblaw PC Express support slack UI

Training managers generally respond to these queries in less than two minutes using threads in Slack channels. With threads, teammates can also:

  • Organize and archive important conversations, making it easier for everyone to find the information they need
  • Start threads from any message in order to ask a question, add context, or give feedback without disrupting a conversation’s flow

Slack’s pin feature also makes it fast and easy for teammates to find and access training documents and videos right in Slack channels.

Launching a meal-kit delivery service with Slack Connect

Perfectly proportioned, beautifully packaged meal kits cater to busy people and their families. Since 2019, PC Chef meal kits have been available for purchase in a select number of Loblaw stores, with offerings such as lemon butter salmon or Oaxaca pork tacos.

But Loblaw knew customers everywhere were hungry for tasty, nutritious meals they could whip up in a jiff. So, teams across Loblaw used Slack channels to communicate with each other in order to quickly release the PC Chef delivery service in just four weeks.

breanne freeman loblaw slack

“Slack Connect made it possible for the team to execute on an ambitious timeline, bringing the service to market in only a matter of weeks.”

Breanne FreemanSenior Manager of Customer Engagement Solutions, Loblaw

“Slack played a crucial role in bringing teams together in one channel so we could connect with one another quickly in order to launch PC Chef to our customers at record speed,” says Nick Kuriya, vice president of meal solutions at Loblaw. “Our speed to market allowed us to quickly scale our customer base for meal kit services during the pandemic.”

Breanne Freeman, senior manager of customer engagement solutions at Loblaw, is the PC Chef platform delivery lead. Using Slack Connect, the Loblaw team could move conversations with different teams as well as Organic Box, an external vendor that partnered with Loblaw on implementation, from email to Slack. As Loblaw built out PC Chef, they could collaborate with Organic Box and ask questions directly in Slack, allowing both parties to troubleshoot issues quickly and effectively.

PC chef slack connect ui

“Slack Connect made it possible for the team to execute on an ambitious timeline, bringing the service to market in only a matter of weeks,” Freeman says. “It helped us bring the Loblaw team together with external stakeholders in Slack channels for quick responses, quick feedback and quick turnaround.”

And if someone from Loblaw was working with a partner in a different time zone, they could jump into the shared channel and get caught up in a flash. “You could also follow various conversations and topics because they weren’t coming in as a whole bunch of emails,” says Freeman.

When navigating a public health crisis, every second matters. Communicating in Slack channels helped teams across Loblaws move fast to meet customers’ needs.

“We are such a vital component of people’s lives,” Whish says. “It was crucial that customers were able to get their groceries in a timely fashion.”

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