How Pets At Home’s customer first strategy is enabled by intelligent automation Pets at Home is the UK's largest pet supplies retailer with more than 450 stores, 460 vet practices and 6,000 employees. The company has grown at a phenomenal rate over the last few years, opening new stores, grooming salons and vet practices, and with 50% of sales being generated by services, it constantly reviews performance to ensure further improvements each day. Pets at Home has big ambitions of becoming the best pet care business in the world, so the company has created a culture where employees are equipped to deliver optimal service. To achieve these goals, means leveraging technology, streamlining processes, generating more productivity and most importantly, freeing people from having to perform tedious ‘automatable’ tasks so they spend more time serving customers.
How Pets At Home’s customer first strategy is enabled by intelligent automation
Pets at Home is the UK's largest pet supplies retailer with more than 450 stores, 460 vet practices and 6,000 employees. The company has grown at a phenomenal rate over the last few years, opening new stores, grooming salons and vet practices, and with 50% of sales being generated by services, it constantly reviews performance to ensure further improvements each day.
Pets at Home has big ambitions of becoming the best pet care business in the world, so the company has created a culture where employees are equipped to deliver optimal service. To achieve these goals, means leveraging technology, streamlining processes, generating more productivity and most importantly, freeing people from having to perform tedious ‘automatable’ tasks so they spend more time serving customers.
Initiating automation-driven change
One of the leaders of this initiative is William Hewish, CIO at Pets at Home, who joined the business in 2018. He has been at the centre of driving change in technical platforms for many blue chip companies with recent success at United Utilities, where he spent the last several years leading the technology, data and business change teams.
“We want our staff doing far less mundane, low value activities. Instead, we want to give them more time to perform more stimulating, valuable work that best serves customers. The key enabler here is automation and ultimately we expect it to help drive more sales which will then fuel our continued growth.”
William Hewish, CIO at Pets at Home
A key element of Pets at Home’s growth strategy is using Blue Prism’s connected-Robotic Process Automation (RPA), technology that provides a platform for ‘digital workers’ (software robots) to automate a wide range of business process. As a seasoned, RPA veteran, Hewish has already witnessed the benefits of using Blue Prism – where the technology can drive greater speed, quality productivity, efficiency and innovation - across business operations.
Hewish also understands that the people, talent and structure behind a digital workforce are as important as the technology itself - especially to help scale up an RPA program. Pets at Home’s internal staff didn’t possess Blue Prism technical knowledge, so RPA specialist Robiquity was chosen to address these challenges. Pets at Home was in safe hands with this partner – with over 30 years of combined RPA expertise within its ranks and a track record of helping over 50 large organisations gain maximum value from this technology.
To identify the most automatable processes, Robiquity scheduled kick off sessions with those Pets at Home business people closest to their operational requirements to discuss their operational challenges and establish the best automation candidates. This also provided the necessary insights for Hewish to communicate the potential benefits of RPA to the executive team.
An experienced Robiquity mentor engaged with Pets at Home’s IT support staff – equipping them with best practice knowledge, skills and capabilities to deliver RPA activities. Robiquity’s innovative operating model A.T.O.M, is being used to enable the application of intelligent automation – faster and more efficiently across the business. The Pets at Home team are being guided throughout their journey with five simple steps, from initial technology engagement, through to industrialising intelligent automation across the business – to generate business-aligned outcomes.
RPA in action
While the Pets at Home team complete their training, Robiquity consultants are employing Blue Prism’s connected-RPA to manage the delivery of high value, complex process automations. This started with a proof of value project involving processing Pets at Home’s customer returns refunds. This was an attractive process for automation, being awkward, labour intensive and with a requirement for accuracy and speed too.
The results were remarkable. A Blue Prism digital worker now manages the entire end-to-end process and has reduced the 4 minutes it took a human to complete each return - to only 5 seconds. With an average 60 cases previously being performed each day, has enabled 1250 annual hours to be returned to the business, so staff spend more time serving customers. This has also boosted the company’s ‘rant and rave’ rating to a new high. Buoyed by this success, the RPA team then moved to conducting further legal and finance process automations, which were put into production.
Legal document suite creation
When a joint venture practice is started or sold it requires the creation of between 30-40 legal documents by the in-house legal team and takes 3-5 days to complete per case - with over 35 usually performed each year. A digital worker now performs each case activity in 5 minutes, which has so far, released 2,080 annual hours back to the business – with these highly trained staff members re-purposed onto other more valuable rewarding work. This has not only increased morale, but decreased staff stress too.
Uploading invoices automation
The transactional finance team receive 23,000 invoices per period, which are uploaded to a separate team to print off, and pass back for manual input and payment. A digital worker has reduced the entire process for each invoice from 3 minutes to 10 seconds, with no human involvement. Over 1440 annual hours have been returned to the business – and there are now zero printing costs. The finance team are able to conduct more important work that includes investigating discrepancies and actioning supplier payments.
Managing and sustaining RPA
Once processes are in production, ensuring they have the right support around them is important to sustaining the momentum. Therefore, a period of “hypercare” was introduced where each automated process is supervised by an experienced Robiquity RPA mentor, along with a subject matter expert. Any production issues are immediately picked up and assessed, while certain higher value process are re-engineered and improved too.
With Robiquity’s comprehensive RPA knowledge transfer, the Pets at Home team will ultimately have the capability to operate self sufficiently, selecting the best business cases for automation – while catering for increased demand across the business. Also being explored is how to automate more complex tasks, so Pets at Home is trialling Blue Prism Decipher - an intelligent document processing solution that extracts and structures data from documents.
“The RPA programme is generating many thousands of hours back to the business, enabling our staff to concentrate on more proactive, fulfilling, value adding tasks that better serve our customers. We’re achieving highly positive results that have really helped us achieve wider corporate buy in - which is key to maintaining this success going forward. It’s also great having both Blue Prism and Robiquity by our side – they really are the best technology and delivery partners and will continue to help us sustain this amazing progress.”
William Hewish, CIO at Pets at Home
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