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Education Buying - Supplier spotlight: Office Depot - Enhancing school supplies procurement

Supplier spotlight: Office Depot
Enhancing school supplies procurement practices

Interview with Chris Clarke - Major Account Manager at Office Depot

In a conversation with Chris Clarke – Major Account Manager at Office Depot, we delved into their expertise in providing school supplies and their commitment to supporting schools and trusts. Here’s what they shared:

 

How long have you been providing school supplies to educational establishments?

As a business, we were created in May 2020, but we can trace our roots back to the 1890s, although we have been providing school supplies to educational establishments for the past 20 years.

 

How do you ensure the quality and safety of the products you supply to schools?

Before including any manufacturer/vendor products in our catalogue, we carry out stringent quality and background checks on them. Once satisfied by their credentials and track record in supplying the products, we progress to product testing under normal usage conditions, to determine whether it’s fit for purpose and how it compares to other vendor samples being offered.

 

The vendor/manufacturer must provide full product details to ensure traceability and reduce risk to the Schools we supply including the country of manufacture and produce regular batch shipment sample reports to ensure ongoing quality so any product deterioration is immediately highlighted. Where a product is presented as holding quality standards and/or certifications (i.e. British Standards, CE Mark, COSHH) we ask for supportive information to verify this.

 

All products supplied must be labelled with barcodes and have at least a 12-month shelf life for products showing expiry dates on the packaging. Products found not to comply with this are rejected, ensuring all product information we give to schools is consistent and sustainable, offering greater security and control within the procurement process.

 

Do you offer eco-friendly and sustainable school supplies options to support green initiatives?

Absolutely! We offer thousands of environmental products enabling greener purchasing decisions and we’re the first in our industry to provide a unique range of social value products in partnership with Social Enterprise.

 

Our online procurement portal, SmartPad flags products with environmental, social, and sustainable accreditations and benefits. It allows users to filter the type of supplier (SME/Region) and exclude the purchase of certain product lines such as those containing single-use plastics and make more sustainable product suggestions.        

 

How do you handle bulk orders and ensure on-time delivery to schools?

For bulk requirements, we have tailored logistics solutions. Orders can be placed manually and managed through our warehouse for convenient delivery scheduling.

 

Our systems are more than capable of handling most large-scale orders for next-day delivery, including bulk requirements for paper.

 

What is your return policy for damaged or unsatisfactory school supplies?

We arrange free collection of returned items within 30 days of delivery, ensuring a hassle-free experience for schools.

 

If products are missing from your delivery, arrive damaged or incorrect, we will credit or replace them.

 

Do you offer an online ordering platform for schools to streamline the procurement process?

Absolutely! Our SmartPad system allows 24/7 access, enabling streamlined procurement across all devices.

 

SmartPad is like your personal procurement wizard! It’s not just an ordering platform; it’s your go-to control centre for all things purchasing. You can set rules to make certain items ‘preferred’ or ‘core’ and the system can even do ‘hard swaps’ when you ask for them. It gets even better! It’s like your shopping assistant that lets you keep tabs on every penny you spend. Want to put a cap on how much you spend on certain items? You set the maximum order levels and keep your budget in check.

 

SmartPad isn’t just about office supplies; it’s your one-stop shop for everything! Need to add print materials, some workwear, or even furniture to your shopping list? No need to juggle between systems. SmartPad’s got it  all in one basket.

 

How do you handle customer service enquiries and resolve issues promptly to ensure a smooth experience for schools?

At Office Depot, we’ve got your back when it comes to addressing queries and resolving disputes. We’ve streamlined the process, logging all issues raised—be it through phone calls, emails, Customer Services, or Live Chat.

 

Each concern gets its own unique ticket number and a set resolution timeframe, ensuring transparency for the school’s end-users. Our Customer Services team is empowered to handle most school-related disputes swiftly, aiming for resolution within an eight-hour window from notification. This means we either provide details on expected delivery times, reorder missing items for your next scheduled delivery, arrange urgent next-day delivery, or issue a credit if needed.

 

Should a resolution need more attention, our escalation procedure kicks in promptly, involving account managers, senior managers, or directors for a swift resolution. We’ve also made it super easy for schools to communicate directly with our customer services team via SmartPad’s live chat feature. Queries through Zendesk’s Live Chat are answered within 30 seconds, while buyers raising their own tickets receive responses within 4 working hours.

 

Every ticket is closed with a reason code, allowing us to track our performance and spot any trends in our service delivery. We value feedback immensely, prompting customers for their insights as part of our Customer Services process. All comments are carefully reviewed to enhance our training and development. If any negative feedback arises, our Customer Service Manager steps in to investigate and resolve the issue directly with the customer.

 

Do you offer bulk discounts or pricing options tailored for schools to accommodate budget constraints?

We are open to discussing the possibility of bulk discounts or pricing options for schools to accommodate budget constraints and are happy to discuss this on a case-by-case basis.

 

How does Office Depot handle emergency or last-minute supply requests from schools?

We can accommodate any requests for next day delivery if we receive the order by 16:00 the day before delivery at no extra charge.

 

We can offer a same day delivery service for emergencies when required but orders need to be placed a minimum of 6 hours before they are required and additional delivery costs will be involved to meet this demand.

 

Can you work with schools to plan for seasonal or periodic supply needs?

Of course! If a school can provide the relevant details such as products, volumes, when needed and frequency, then this will be shared with our Inventory Team who will adjust our stock levels to ensure full availability of the requirements. Thereafter our levels are automatically adjusted to reflect buyers’ requirements and we apply a tolerance for high usage products, or seasonal peaks, ensuring business-critical stock is always available.

 

We also have the functionality on SmartPad to set up subscription orders which allows the user to create repeat orders.

 

What do you think makes Office Depot a great choice in the education sector?

Office Depot can provide a truly consolidated solution. Not only through our industry-leading central distribution hub that stocks thousands of product lines and world-class logistics capability but also working with our suppliers, to make up to a million products available via our SmartPad. This allows our customers to rationalise the supply chain, reduce cost, enhance efficiencies, deliver added value and reduce the carbon footprint.

 

Dedicated Account Management

We have an Account Management Team, that not only includes a Customer Services helpdesk and Account manager but also an Account Support Executive who will work in assisting to meet the contract requirements. Their role is one of added value solutions we offer to each School which allows us to separate strategic account development from account maintenance and daily operations. They are fully aligned to the contract and will build excellent relationships with end users ensuring a faster response time to all of your enquires.

 

They are responsible for the following:

  • Maintain all account structure data such as delivery locations, user data and billing workflows.
  • Own changes to the account such as adding and removing sites and users. Change billing conditions or cost centre data.
  • Ad-hoc pricing requests and core addition requirements.
  • Support with new category solutions.
  • Complex queries

 

Product Specialists

Our experience with the latest innovations in technology and smart data allows us to offer each school an unrivalled end-to-end business solution, taking away the headache of day-to-day operations.

 

We supply everything from everyday stationery to facilities management supplies, workwear, PPE, and furniture, but despite our broad range, we are not a generalist supplier. Each of our product categories are supported by teams of dedicated experts. In addition, we can source third party products via our experienced Specials Team and established Tail management division, giving Schools access to an even broader range of goods. This positions us to offer a true one-stop solution – eliminating the time and administration of managing multiple suppliers.

 

 

“It is our ambition to grow the products we offer our customers through our “endless Aisle” with our aim to have a million products online by the end of the year. We’re working with some of the leading manufacturers and biggest household brands to extend our range. This will offer our schools a wider choice allowing them to purchase more from us and to reflect their changing needs.”

 

 

One order, one delivery, one invoice.

Our consolidated solution provides each school with the ability to place one order, receive a single delivery, process one invoice/lodge card charge and view a single set of back up data reports to keep control of your product costs. This means you and your team will spend less time on repetitive, non-critical, everyday tasks such as sourcing and benchmarking products and prices, and processing orders and invoices.

 

Investing in our future

A major project for our business in 2022 was to implement a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. This means we can offer greater choice to our customers in the way of product and delivery method and offer an enhanced customer experience, reducing our operating costs and savings that we can pass on to our customers. It will also enable enhanced delivery tracking, online access to additional reporting, invoice copies and POD copies.

 

A clear and measurable environmental and social strategy

Office Depot champions environmental and societal change and believes responsible business is where we respect and nurture our planet, our community and our people with the actions we take.

 

Our lifecycle approach to sustainability, focuses on 3 core areas – Planet, People and Partners and we’re developing our strategy in line with what’s important to our customers – to support their sustainability objectives; and the UK Government’s long-term goals for carbon net zero.

 

To meet our Environment/Sustainability/Carbon Neutral/Social Value goals we have achieved the following:

 

  • Achieved – Silver Ecovadis Accreditation with a defined roadmap to Platinum. We are expecting to achieve Gold by Q1, 2024.
  • Achieved – ISO14001 EMS, ISO27001 Data Management. We expect to achieve ISO 45001 during 2024.
  • Achieved – CDP Award, Environmental Framework
  • Achieved – Carbon Net Zero Energy Management Audit. We have replaced the lighting for more environmentally efficient versions in our Central Warehouse.
  • Achieved – Signed a multiyear partnership with The Tree Council that will see 30,000 trees & 7km hedgerow planted
  • Achieved – Creation of a sustainability board with Paragon Group companies, to share ideas and best practice, leading to publication of an Environment Manifesto
  • Achieved – Membership of ethical bodies/ombudsman’s; SEDEX (Supplier Ethical data Exchange) Reg. No. ZC 100753 and ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative)
  • Achieved – Membership of the BOSS Federation Single Use Plastics Forum
  • Achieved – ETI Foundation Member with a commitment to reaching base code by Q1 2024 and full ETI membership by Q3 2024
  • Achieved – Planet Mark, committed to the programme working through Framework for completion by the end of the year.
  • Achieved – Calathea is a software platform that enables understanding, benchmarking and assessment of our supplier’s sustainability agenda on a continual basis in real time. Allowing us to set bespoke sustainability targets on a supplier-by-supplier basis enabling achievement of your corporate sustainability objectives.
  • In progress – Going for FSC promotional license (custodial programme) for on-sellers.
  • In Progress – we have a plan in place to reduce our scope 1 and 2 CO2 emissions by 21% over the next two years by introducing ISO50001, replacing all the lighting across our HQ and other aging machinery and by introducing better metering across the site.
  • In Progress – ISO45001- Health & Safety and ISO ISO20400:2017 – Sustainable Procurement Practices and Greenhouse Gas standard ISO 1406-
  • In Progress – Investors in People Award.

Office Depot is an exemplary partner for schools seeking reliable supply solutions. Their stringent quality checks, eco-friendly options, and streamlined procurement processes ensure safe, sustainable, and efficient supply chains.

They prioritise customer satisfaction by efficiently managing bulk orders, offering responsive customer service, and accommodating budget constraints. The SmartPad system simplifies procurement, enabling budget control and sustainable product filtering.

Office Depot’s proactive approach to handling emergencies and planning for seasonal needs underscores their commitment to supporting schools’ evolving requirements. Their consolidation of services streamlines administrative tasks, allowing schools to focus on education.

With investments in technology, environmental initiatives, and a commitment to customer-centric solutions, Office Depot emerges as a dependable ally dedicated to the growth and success of schools.

Looking to streamline your school’s supply process? Explore Education Buying’s School Supplies framework, featuring Office Depot and other top suppliers. Access efficient, sustainable, and reliable solutions tailored for educational needs. Partner with Office Depot and renowned suppliers within the framework to enhance your school’s supply chain today!