Cracking the technicalities of home shopping will no doubt help build shopper loyalty. But, as they gear up for the roll out of their service across the M25 region, Ocado's bosses believe they have another weapon in their armoury: better customer service on the front line.
It's a bold claim, yet joint MD Roger Whiteside says delivery staff Â or customer service representatives Â are vital to communicating the Ocado difference to customers. And he emphasies: "We do things differently."
With that in mind, Ocado reps have been trained to deal with customer queries on their own initiative. They are not just trained to be polite, says Whiteside, but to keep customers on side by resolving problems quickly. They can offer no-questions-asked refunds and have complimentary bottles of wine to give away as goodwill gestures should a customer need placating.
Getting the right brand ambassadors in place starts with the recruitment process, Whiteside says. "We want to recruit people who are interested in customer service Â whatever their age," he explains.
Many Ocado staff come from a service-orientated background and the team includes former policemen, firemen and airline cabin crew.
Half of the staff are women; Ocado has been successful in recruiting young mothers back into the workplace by offering childcare vouchers without a qualification period as part of its employment package. The vouchers have proved popular with fathers, too.
Staff of all ages are represented on the Ocado front line, some coaxed out of semi-retirement due to the flexible part-time working hours on offer.
A share in the glory
Keeping the team motivated has also been considered. All staff have share options as part of their benefits package. That encourages them to work that bit harder and give a bit extra, says Whiteside, as it's their own money on the line.
They also get a chance to buy unsold goods reaching their sell-by dates at discounted rates.
Whiteside adds: "Ocado is different from its rivals to the core. It's an egalitarian business, with a buzzy culture that will be communicated to customers in a positive way. It would be easy to slip into the comfort zone of hierarchy, and we'll be re-assessing to ensure we don't."