At AO, the safety of our people remains our top priority as we navigate through these challenging times. They are doing a brilliant job so that we can continue to provide essential services and products for our customers safely.
Like everyone, our customers and our employees are worried about their wellbeing and we’re still receiving questions about the actions that we’ve taken.
We’ve made significant changes to our services and ways of working. Our safety measures go over and above official guidance to ensure that we are protecting people in operational jobs. We are signed up to the British Retail Consortium’s pledge to implement their guidelines for safe practice in the warehouse, alongside other online retailers.
Our customers tell us that as an online electricals retailer we are providing an important service for them. Products like fridges, freezers, cookers and washing machines are vital to people particularly now that homes have become offices and schools as well as the place where we live.
Families need to eat regular hot, nutritious meals and food and medicines need to be stored safely at the right temperature, meaning fewer trips to the supermarket. Additionally, as the NHS advises, clothes need to be cleaned regularly. Their only option is to shop online.
We’re doing more than just selling appliances, we’re helping customers adjust to staying in for the long haul. In recent weeks, our new customers over the age of 65 have increased by over 100%.
At AO we have always focused every day on taking decisions that make our Mum’s proud. That has never been more true than now.
We are now offering installation services again, after suspending the majority of our services due to government guidelines.
We are offering installation services for:
We’re taking a sensible approach to the evolving situation and reintroducing our services when we can safely do so. As such, we’re not offering installation on:
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We’ve made sure that our drivers can comply with social distancing guidelines while completing deliveries by knocking on the customers’ door and waiting at least two metres away. We are also asking customers to work with us in following social distancing guidelines upon delivery and throughout any installation service by keeping your distance and waiting in another room. Our drivers are also asked to wash their hands when arriving and leaving customers’ homes and we are not asking customers to sign any paperwork. All of our vans have been re-stocked with hand sanitiser and wipes. We recommend that you clean surfaces and handles once any installation is completed as an extra precaution.
All of our vehicles are now being deep cleaned weekly by a professional company, with high touch areas like handles more frequently, and every site has a supply of spray and wipes for drivers to disinfect touch points in their cabs before and after every shift.
Heavy appliances and critical install services need two people on deliveries. We are reducing the risks this presents. Our drivers and engineers are staying in the same partnerships and vehicles wherever possible and we are putting members of the same household in teams together.
We are also keeping our drivers fully aware of the symptoms they need to look out for to monitor themselves, their colleagues and customers and are keeping them informed of updates to government guidelines.
Crewe is home to our Logistics head office and two distribution centres. Products arrive in Crewe from our suppliers where they are stored, organised and loaded for distribution to customers via our outbases.
In our distribution centres, we have implemented strict safety measures and adapted our operation to allow full social distancing at all times.
The measures are a combination of official guidance and our own actions which allows employees to go beyond what the Government recommends.
Hygiene measures in the warehouse include:
As a company, we are adhering to all current social distance guidelines and ensuring that persons can work at a distance of at least 2 metres apart where possible.
To help people follow the two metre guidance, we have floor markings in key areas where people usually congregate.
We encourage social distancing on breaks and have split break times to reduce the number of people in these areas. We have added extra canteens and vastly extended break space, including the outdoor smoking shelter.
Non-essential site visits have been stopped and inbound drivers are using separate areas. including separate toilet facilities.
Our outbases are a network of smaller distribution centres supplied by the main distribution centres in Crewe. They provide nationwide distribution coverage so we can offer next day delivery across the UK.
Wherever we are able to, our outbases have adopted the same procedures and processes as our main distribution centres in Crewe. Where space is limited, we have added local procedures to keep our people safe whilst at work.
Protective gloves are widely available, alongside hand sanitiser. Every outbase undergoes a specific deep clean designed to deal with virus contamination on a weekly basis. As well as staggering start times to prevent unnecessary contact, we have floor markings at our sites to limit the number of people in tighter workspaces at any one time.
Everyone based in our offices, including our contact centre teams, are working from home. We understand that offices are built for working, whereas homes are built for living, so we’re supporting our people in every way we can. We’re being flexible with working patterns as we’re aware that many of our employees now have other responsibilities, such as children to look after, or vulnerable family members to support.
We’ve equipped our employees with the best hardware and software for successful home-working, including Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony systems for our contact centre agents.
As well as completing a full risk assessment, we’ve also taken all necessary precautions to ensure our customers data is protected. We’re continuing to use a paperless process in line with GDPR regulations, with our systems only accessed over password protected WiFi and multi-factor authentication (MFA) in place on all phones. All AO policies and procedures remain in full force, including clear desk policies, use of mobile devices, and paperless working.
Through regular communication, we’re proactively making sure our people are aware of the latest Government guidance, and how it applies to the business. While our contact centre has been extremely busy, our agents are doing whatever it takes to support our customers and offer great service in the new working environment.
Having seen many shocking reports and photos, showing the rise of fly tipping cases during this crisis, we are committed to continuing our partnership with Barking and Dagenham council, where AO collects white goods from households at no charge for safe disposal.
The only slight change to this offering is that we’re asking customers to have the goods on their doorstep or driveway ready for collection, so our people don’t have to go into customers homes unnecessarily. However, if you’ve chosen a service that includes disconnection, our drivers will move the appliance outside for you. Anybody can book a collect and recycle slot here if they have an appliance that needs to be taken away.
We’re really proud of our emergency services and grateful for the fantastic work NHS staff are doing to fight COVID-19 on the frontline. We’re pleased to have been able to support some hospitals in a small way by providing doctors, nurses and support staff with appliances so they can continue saving lives.
Kitchen appliances are essential during this pandemic so NHS staff can prepare their own food and minimise the risk of spreading infection. Fridges and coffee machines are also a bonus for refreshments on a busy shift.
For example, we donated products to Stockport Women’s Centre in collaboration with Dixons, putting our competitive differences aside. We supplied kettles and headphones to help them turn temporary accommodation into homes for 48 women who had nowhere else to go.
AO Business’s Supported Living team is providing a vital service to the most vulnerable in society, now more than ever.
Working alongside key charity partners, including GlassPool, Family Fund, Children in Need and Help for Heroes, as well as many of the nation’s housing associations, the AO Supported Living team have provided over 51,000 products to vulnerable adults.
Cheryl Ward, CEO of Family Fund, says:
“Working kitchen appliances are essential for everyone, but they are vital to maintaining the health and wellbeing of many disabled or seriously ill children. This might mean the frequent washing of clothes and bedding when a child has incontinence, or storing medication in fridges, which must be kept at a reliable temperature. If an appliance breaks down, it is vital that parents and carers can replace these quickly and safely, or they could compromise the health of their children.”
“We can provide the support to help families, but we can’t do it alone. Like many charities supporting vulnerable families, we need the help of others to ensure that these essential items reach families.”
The #LivingWithout campaign, led by welfare charity Turn2Us, reveals the grim reality of living without an essential household appliance.
“It’s easy to take for granted a basic appliance until you don’t have one,” a family supported by Family Fund says.
“As a family with two disabled children, a fridge is a lifeline to keep medicines at a useable temperature. An oven is much more than somewhere to warm a pizza - it’s where the only food that my daughter eats gets made. And a washing machine... it’s not just something that loses socks but a vital, essential appliance that enables my family to get though another day of smearing, seizures or nose bleeds.”
AO Business is also actively looking to support emergency services and government bodies who are providing emergency support and accommodation to those worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to keep our people and customers safe, we’ve had to make some massive changes to both our operation and the services we can offer. We understand that these changes are inevitably going to disappoint some customers, especially those who may struggle to install themselves. However, we believe these measures are necessary to minimise risk and keep everybody safe.
For the most part, we’ve had a lot of appreciation of our new measures from customers. Our drivers are still offering that AO smile, while practising social distancing, and staying safe. We’ve received some lovely feedback from customers – whether that’s via email, social media or voicemails for the contact centre team. We’d like you to know that this really makes a difference. This positive feedback is greatly appreciated by all of us at AO and it really encourages our colleagues who are working hard to support customers.
As housebuilders and contractors are returning to work, AO Business is here to help them. We’ve continued to be open for business, offering support to our business customers, raising quotations and helping them to place orders.
Now, as they return to work, we are here and helping. AO Business is here to ensure a smooth transition back to work for our customers in the construction industry. As our site delivery proposition is fundamentally different to our regular consumer deliveries, our teams are able to deliver and install into building plots as normal, whilst maintaining strict social distancing measures.
Our next day proposition is famous within the industry, and we’re ready to help our customers get back up to full speed!