Coles has deployed a new intranet for staff payslips and management blog posts, that will eventually become a more democratic social network connecting CEO Ian McLeod to managers, head-office personnel, checkout attendants and shelf stackers.
The new MyColes intranet was introduced three weeks ago as part a multi-year strategy by Coles Group Manager of IT Conrad Harvey.
Harvey said in 2011 that the supermarket giant needed to learn how to use social media to seek feedback from internal staff, as well as to interact with customers externally.
He told Business Insider today that the new MyColes platform, built on Microsoft’s Office365 SharePoint, supported blogging and feedback forms “at this stage”.
“We’re going to try social engagement next,” he said. “We’re still working through exactly when and how we’ll adopt social.”
Speaking on a CIO panel at Dreamforce in San Francisco this week, Harvey said it was traditionally a challenge to engage with supermarket staff digitally because their job functions didn’t tie them to a desk.
So far, 60% of Coles staff have logged onto MyColes, which is available to every staff member in the organisation.
“By enabling social features on the platform, we think we can create connections them that don’t exist today: we can get deli managers across Australia to collaborate and learn from each other, and share experiences and frustrations with a support team,” Harvey said.
Social media is more of a challenge for Coles when dealing with customers. In March last year, a Twitter marketing campaign went wrong when Coles’ hashtag was hijacked by critics.
Later that year, Coles’ Facebook page became the centre of a PR nightmare after a post by an angry dairy farmer’s wife went viral, attracting more than 73,000 likes and 4,000 comments.
Coles now uses Salesforce.com’s customer relationship management software as well as the Radian6 tool to monitor social media for customer feedback.
“On the customer side, obviously, [social media] is both a positive and negative,” he said. “it gives us an opportunity to provide value for our customers by sharing ideas about food but also then react to negative commentary or events in our world – normally that’s around the quality of product or a specific event.
“We are rapidly grappling with how to get the right tools into the hands of the right people to listen, react and proactively engage with customers in the social space.
“As a food retailer, it’s about finding the unique value you can add to the equation rather than just focusing on how many people like you on Facebook or how many people follow you, and thinking creatively about what the problems are that you need to solve.”
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