Efficiently fulfilling customers’ wishes – the Alkotoive service welcomed enthusiastically around Finland
Alko’s aim is to provide world-class customer service. The wide-ranging and constantly evolving selection of over 11,000 products enables Alko’s customers to travel around the world from the comfort of their own home. The customers are served by a multichannel service network including 364 stores, over 120 pick-up points, an online store, and a mobile application. Every year Alko caters to the needs of over 54 million customers. In 2019, Alko’s turnover was 1.14 billion euros. For more information, visit: alko.fi/en
The introduction of the Alkotoive (lit. ’Alko wish’) online service brought the Finnish alcohol monopoly Alko’s customer requests into the digital age. The first version of the service was developed during a three-week sprint, and after a successful pilot, Alkotoive was rolled out to Alko stores across Finland. The number of incoming wishes has exceeded all expectations.
Modernizing customer wishes and their management
Alko has always been collecting customer requests but lacked a process for their management. Wishes were written down at the stores but no one knew how many requests there were and whether they were handled in a balanced way. To modernize the collection of wishes, Alko set out to develop a user-friendly digital service.
The challenge was taken on by Alko’s Innovation Lab, whose main partner is Vincit. Innovation Lab is a place for refining ideas that show potential for development and for testing technological innovations with light prototypes. The best ideas are selected for further development and broader use throughout the chain of Alko stores.
Vincit has the ability to combine dynamic startup thinking, service design, and Agile development, and all of these things contribute to the way we innovate. Vincit’s development capabilities and DevOps services are at a very high level, and the work they do produces a well-structured whole.
Kaapro Kanto, CIO, Alko Oy
Pilot testing within three weeks
Alkotoive comprises an internal request management system and a web page, which is available in three language versions and aimed at the Alko customer. Reporting is facilitated by automation, and AI verifies that the incoming request data is human-generated, thus preventing malicious use.
The first version of Alkotoive was produced in the Innovation Lab during a three-week sprint in January and February of 2020. The first week and a half were used to design the service interface and functionalities as well as store materials, while the second half of the sprint was spent on technical development.
The service was piloted in four stores in the course of two months. During this period, feedback was collected from both customers and staff, and the processing of wishes and delivery of products to the stores was tested. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, which is why in May 2020 the service was rolled out across the chain.
Agile development through focusing and using existing components.The existing microservice architecture sped up the development of the new digital service, enabling Alkotoive to be built on top of components that were already in use. The internal management tools were based on microservices that Vincit had previously built for Alko, making the new service easily adoptable for the staff.
The agile aspects of the tryout were boosted by dividing the whole into three separate parts: the service visible to the customer, Alko’s internal request handling process and the breadth of service use. During the first stage, we focused on the customer perspective and ensured that the internal processes were kept light, selecting only four stores for the pilot. After the pilot, the perspective was expanded, attention was paid to the development of internal data models and reporting, and the service was introduced in all stores across Finland.
Number of wishes exceeded all expectations
"At Innovation Lab, I’m often surprised at how quickly the people from Vincit are able to produce sustainable solutions. Our cooperation is first and foremost built on openness and honesty: we challenge one another, give direct feedback and evaluate each other’s ideas and methods all the time. During the development of Alkotoive, Vincit was able to provide us with high-level design skills and offer insights into well-functioning communication." says Jani Ojala, Development lead at Innovation Lab and DevOps Services, Alko Oy.
The main indication of the success of the Alkotoive project is the number of incoming wishes, which exceeded all expectations after the service was launched in September. In the first two months, the stores received no fewer than 13,000 product requests, and the customers have clearly been excited about the service.
Alko is aiming to have 20–30 percent of the requested products on its shelves, and the objective is well on its way to becoming reality. The digital service helps Alko ensure that the wishes are fulfilled in a balanced way and in line with Alko’s standing and mission.