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Wednesday, 1 October 2014


So, this morning we hear of a sales dip at Sainsbury's, on top of Tesco and Morrison's trading struggles (and, in the case of Tesco, also that curious accounting thing) and CEOs scrabble around looking for excuses (sorry, reasons) to shield themselves from the heat.

Strategies are unveiled, company employees are sheep-dipped in the new approach and many fingers are crossed, rabbit's feet stroked and genie bottles rubbed as time ticks by to the next trading announcement.

For me, a humble customer, here's how I see it, at least in one respect.  Checkout service.

In the past months I have shopped around.  I have been in Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Asda and checkout service has been average to lousy.  There are not enough tills open and, thinking about my local Sainsbury's, I have not seen the "basket only" till open in at least three years.  So, tough luck if you only have a few items and no, I am not a fan of self-service tills and why should I have to trudge all the way across the store to stand in a queue at the kiosk whilst some numpty ponders which lottery scratch card to buy?  The customer in theory is king/queen.  The customer in practice is a human cash dispenser.  If supermarkets gave a real damn, checkout cover and service would be exceptional every time.

Top tip: Open more tills and serve customers quicker.  If a customer leaves the store happy, they might well return.

Waitrose seem to do a decent job and employee attitude is better, warmer, more welcoming.

In short, I have high expectations of excellent checkout service in the giants but those hopes are almost always dashed.

I have been in the discounters and their checkout operations are average to lousy too, but I expect it to be that way, for some reason.  Recent trips to Aldi have resulted in long, long waits in queues.  But I'm prepared for that.  I bring a packed lunch and a good book.  Kidding.

All of the supermarkets are doing much the same thing.  They all have offers, they all have choice,
they all try new products, they cater for various income groups, etc.  But, they have lost ground because customers, like voters at elections, have the last word and will not tolerate being treated shabbily.

So, here's the simple plan.  Call it Operation Happy.  Find out the weak links in the customer experience - parking, queuing, whatever and fix that stuff.  Fighting on price alone is a mug's game.

Fighting for long-term customer loyalty through sincere good manners amongst employees plus service efficiency is the new battleground.

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