Monday, 29 June 2015

Why does self-service often mean no service

You've been there, no doubt. The till is flashing and an automated voice is stating "unexpected item in the bagging area." Although you know it's a common scene, there's still a degree of embarrassment as you wait for help. Usually the help arrives without a smile, without a word and a scan of a card and the press of a few buttons and you're on your way again.

My particular pet hate is the Tesco machines that announce to the world that you need to put your Clubcard in, that your Clubcard has been accepted, that you've selected to pay by card, that you need to take your receipt, that you need to take your items.

So many times, self-service means no service. But it doesn't have to be this way. Imagine if you were greeted at the self service land by someone with a smile, who asked you if you'd found everything you wanted, who maybe asked if you've used self-service before. Imagine if they introduced themselves - "my name is Maggie and just call for me if you need anything, I'll just be over here." I bet that more people would be inclined to use the self-service lane. This would cut costs for the retailer whilst still keeping customers happy. A win-win if ever I've seen one.

In all business, but in retail in particular, too many changes are just carried out without enough thought into how they should be implemented. In this case, a retailer calculates that replacing 4 cashiers with 6 self-service tills and one assistant is cost-effective. And they're quite right - in the long-term it will cost less. But the important thought should then go into how to actually make the experience AT LEAST as good as going to a manned checkout. Off the top of my head, I can see three main ways of doing this-

Make it quicker
Make it cheaper
Make the service just as good

The original idea behind the self-service tills probably was to make it quicker. But the speed of the tills and the problems they create stop that from happening much of the time.

I just can't see retailers making it cheaper for the customers that use self-service. We're several years down the road with these tills and there's been no sign yet of a reduction in price or extra loyalty points if a customer saves the retailer money by processing the transaction themselves.

So that leaves the third option - make the service just as good. And that's where I started. So retailers - put your best customer service personnel on the manned checkouts, and make the experience different to the current "no service" that shoppers regularly have to ensure.

Not everything can be bought on the High Street-


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