If the customer is king, then convenience is one of the ways retailers swear their fealty. Making the sales process as simple, hassle-free and enjoyable as possible, is key to enhancing instore experience, thus driving loyalty and repeat footfall. Nowhere is this more true than at the tills.
The transaction itself is more often than not, the last experience a shopper has before leaving your store, and therefore, is one of the key factors in formulating the lasting impression they take away with them. Ensuring queues are kept to a minimum, and the transaction is swift and intuitive is incredibly important in making sure that impression is a favourable one.
So, a mechanism designed to speed up the payment process, while simultaneously reducing the labour cost of doing so seems like a complete no-brainer. Step forward the automated till.
Designed to make payment faster, give customers more control of the process and optimise staffing (instead of one operator per checkout, one employee can oversee an entire bank of self-service consoles) the entire system seems like a fantastic one on paper. So why do they frustrate me so much?
I am not technologically backward. I am not set in my ways. I am not someone who craves human contact with a cashier and yet I am sure I'm not alone in finding self-service checkouts counter-intuitive, painfully slow and incredibly frustrating.
The lines appear shorter, but once you factor in the number of times the error light flashes, or someone waits for authorisation, or someone forgot to use a voucher, or the machine fails to recognise an item's weight, invariably the manned tills are by far the speedier option (although I recognise that the other queue is always the faster one). And my main experience is of buying a sandwich for lunch in my local supermarket - I can only imagine the fun involved in buying 60l bags of compost, a ladder or 2.4m sheets of ply at a self-scan unit.
The final nail in the coffin for me was a recent experience in a supermarket chain where the machine failed to dispense the cashback I had requested. I was sent to customer services, who got me the manager, who said they couldn't do anything until that evening when the tills were balanced, that my money would be refunded to my account and he would call to confirm this. It wasn't. He didn't.
I left messages. He didn't call. The money wasn't refunded. I got angry. I left more messages. He didn't call. Finally, it came down to speaking with the manager, driving to the store and picking up three ten pound notes in an envelope from the front desk almost a week later... for the sake of avoiding a queue that was two people long.
It seems because I had served myself, in the eyes of the store and its management, the fault was my own. So, I'm going back to waiting with a smile on my face as someone else bleeps my items through, because, all things considered, self-service takes too bleeping long.
28 July 2011 | 16:44 |