Passing the Buck
I have a mixed response to the concept of self-check. I continue to see it increasing in usage and see some circumstances where it is the expectation. I’ve seen it used in a very clever way at a clothing retailer in which we just put all our purchases into a bin and it automatically identified our items and the purchase amount. It was so intriguing I was ready to shop again just to try it out once more.
At the same time, I see it’s prevalence in mass market retail where someone with a cart full of groceries holds up the queue through inexperience in working with such machines and creating delays for several others. Over this past weekend, I even purchased drinks at a self-serve kiosk in which I scanned my identification for age validation, then swiped a credit card after which a gate allowed me into the shopping area to select from a variety of canned, bottled and previously prepared beverages. Not sure it is a good idea to us this on a college campus though.
I understand the motivation for this concept, it ultimately improves profitability. Some will try to pass it off as an improvement in the customer experience in one of the most frustrating parts of the customer journey, but let’s be honest that making it part of satisfaction improvement in our customer experience strategy , that is really just internal marketing. Personally, having been a cashier in a summer job many years ago, I like the option of being able to scan my one or two items myself rather than wait in a long line. However, many times the self-checkout line is just as long as the other lines and they’ve eliminated “express” lanes in favor of letting people take care of the service part themselves.
Make it Easier, Not More Difficult
I could speak at length about how retail brands our taking one of the few customer experience touchpoints that can force human interaction and a connection with the customer and eliminate it. How these brands are missing an opportunity to capture the Voice-of-the-Customer through an employee, and the natural impact on the Employee Experience for employees that joined a “service organization”.
That’s been addressed by many with varied opinions on the balance of service, labor costs, customer value and profitability.
One thing that brands need to consider, however, is that while it makes it easy for some, they are making something that should be simple into a complicated task for the customer. Recently I had quite a memorable experience at one of these self-checkout machines at a grocery store – but for all the wrong reasons.
I am very much an “everyday shopper”. After I finish work for the day, I think about the family dinner that evening.
I like keeping food fresh (a challenge on the islands) and walking the aisles of the store thinking about the main course and the accompaniments.
While I usually only get a few items, I usually like to push a cart around the store to hold my items while I shop.
Recently, this got me in a lot of trouble at a self-checkout. As I started checking out, an employee ran over to my self-checkout stand and pulled my cart away from me. I thought it was so someone could get by (a cart usually blocks most of the path), but after looking for a moment, no one was trying to pass by, so I pulled my cart back towards me so I could resume doing the store’s job. Immediately the person monitoring the self-checkout came back and reprimanded me and said that my cart had to be in a certain position otherwise it would set off a security flag. Where she positioned it, I had to take 4-5 steps to get each item, then the same 4-5 steps back to scan the item.
Not very efficient, not easy for me and frankly quite frustrating. I completed the task and went to ask what exactly I was doing wrong that she felt she had to yell at me in front of other customers (I would say that was bad employee experience except that I’m not actually an employee).
She did not directly address my question and just proceeded to say that if I’m “going to use self-checkout, I need to use a hand basket”. That just doesn’t work for my shopping habits and sometimes I have heavy and/or bulky items that would not fit in a basket.
In bringing this up, she simply reprimanded me again stating that I should then just “wait in the long lines for a cashier or do it the correct way here.” I was a little stunned, I really felt like I was a bad-performing employee for a moment and left quite frustrated – have not been back since then.
Is It Really a Good Experience
If someone did a financial linkage analysis, they would discover that this is a potential missed opportunity. Using a customer experience software platform like QuestionPro CX and utilizing our QuestionPro exclusive NPS+, combined with customer feedback closed-loop and our Outer Loop tools, they would probably find even more discontent with such processes.
I’ve heard stories where people being arrested, banned or sued for innocent mistakes. A portion of the job that used to be done by the cashier (“Is that everything for you?” or “Is that something in your cart?”) is not being done.
Using social media analysis or sentiment analysis in your CX Enterprise Software you will find some of these nuances in your process that really aggravate your customers. This isn’t exclusive to retail brands, it can carry across to travel, entertainment and evenB2B focused organizations.
In its simplest form, if you have to “position” a process to make it sound like it benefits the customer ahead of the business, it is probably just the opposite. You will need to monitor the sub-processes around it so the customer does not think they are now doing your job, and being reprimanded for it. That makes for a bad customer experience.
We are excited to meet you in person!
Did you know that QuestionPro XDay will be live and in-person this fall? Join us for a great lineup of speakers and panelists in the AT&T Conference Hotel in Austin, TX, on October 27th. I’d be moderating the live discussion: Linear, Lucky or Lies: the stories we tell with data, with our guest speakers from MGM Resorts, Google, and Research Narrative. Learn all about it here. This is also a great time to speak with our CX and EX consultants and understand the ways you can bring empathy to your customers on a consistent basis.