Snow business

101203_snow_blogDecember 2010

Just catching our breath to talk about what has been happening this week. In case you’ve been spared the worst of the snowy weather, some pretty horrendous conditions wrought havoc across large parts of the UK.

Obviously, severe weather hits every business hard – some of our competitors have been out of action all week! – but unlike other large grocery retailers, we don’t operate a string of stores across the country. This has many benefits (our food is kept in optimum conditions in our climate-controlled Customer Fulfilment Centre; supermarkets guzzle huge amounts of energy, to name but two) but means that we are reliant on roads to transport groceries from the CFC to our regional spokes and, ultimately, to our customers.

Unfortunately, this can put us at a disadvantage when major routes are impassable due to severe weather, and that’s exactly what happened this week. Our whole delivery fleet has been fitted with snow tyres, which helped, but despite a huge amount of preparation and some heroic efforts by our brave drivers and customer service staff, the weather got the better of us in some unexpected areas like Kent and Sussex.

What was particularly frustrating for some customers was that they couldn’t see heavy snow where they lived, so couldn’t perhaps appreciate that our drivers were battling on ungritted or uncleared roads en route to them. In circumstances like that, facing heavy snow, icy roads and traffic accidents, we are in the hands of the gods.

Our mission is to deliver groceries in perfect condition and on time, and we take every delayed or cancelled delivery personally. As we say in our severe weather delivery promise (or ‘snow charter’), we do everything possible to deliver an order, and never delay or cancel orders without good reason. This week, we’ve had a team of people wired into the Met Office, staff working through their rostered holidays and head office staff pitching in to help our Customer Service team to call or email every affected customer.

We’re constantly finding new ways to do things better, but it has been a tough week all the same and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel yet, with more challenging weather on its way. We know many people might wish for a white Christmas but – guess what? – everyone here is praying for a long spell of midwinter sunshine over the next few weeks!

Jason Gissing
Ocado Co-Founder

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