Checking out of customer service

People iconHave you noticed the big supermarkets are increasingly bringing in stations where you scan your shopping yourself, to replace staffed cashier points?

What does that say to us? It says that they don’t see themselves as there to serve customers any more. They see themselves as warehouses.

You know, I’m fairly tech-savvy and mentally flexible, though I am in my forties and detect a little hardening of the attitudes. But I find I have a real instinctive objection to this. Partly it’s that the checkout machines always throw up an error or two, like “Unexpected bag in the bagging area”, removing a chunk of the promised time savings. More, though, it’s a feeling that as shops they are obliged to provide me with a bit of human service and interaction.

Well, I can feel myself adapting and maybe in a while those feelings won’t bother me any more. But I’d be interested to know whether supermarkets have lost any customers because of this. Maybe some people have decided that they’d rather go to the friendly local greengrocer after all.

This kind of relates to an advantage small businesses (and perhaps other organisations) have over larger ones. The big players are driven by economics, and seek to cut costs, making all kinds of weird decisions to do so. That has led to a low-grade experience of customer service so widespread that when you give people a good experience they’re surprised. If you listen to what they say and go out of your way to help them, in a pleasant and attentive way, you often get a big happy reaction. People are glad to find there’s still someone who hasn’t been assimilated by the Borg.


1 thought on “Checking out of customer service”

  1. Hi Tim,
    I liked this post. I happened on a book a while ago called ‘tescopoly’ the title of which, says it all. I bought it because I was, like you, tired with the presence this huge supermarket has in our small rural Essex town. What it taught me was just how much of the human touch and the charm it has removed from our shopping experiences. And the driving force? Pure profit. It strips local communities of its own economy by syphoning off big profits for the shareholders and it strips local communities of their very business life blood. This year, my allotment’s gone wild and we are overwhelmed with veg. Our veg is free, healthy and organic and it is saving me from shopping in these ugly shops. I am tentatively spending more on things I really need in local shops than wasting less on things I don’t need so much of from these major stores. Thanks for prompting me to get on my hobbyhorse too!

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