Still, a hotly contested approach for a customer experience strategy is the self-service approach – especially in retail.
We all have our personal opinions about how these work and when they should be used. I am more of a daily shopper, I like to be able to go in, quickly grab a few items and go through the self-checkout process.
If I have a full cart (perhaps once a month), I will go through a regular check-out lane. As a customer, this process usually works for me.
I also understand the other customer perspectives that the self-checkout approach limits the opportunity to interact with store employees and it de-personalizes the customer experience. It creates longer lines for those that want that personal support and service.
The 3 Assumptions of Self-Checkout
There is also the perspective of the business. It can help contain one of the biggest costs of any business – the employees. At times, you can limit the number of dedicated cashiers so employees can focus on other customer experience touchpoints when not needed at the front of the store. Then you have employees trained in two areas and scale to support the check-out process when it is busy.
Regardless of the scenario, there are three assumptions that make this process work for everyone:
- The customers will have the ability to choose the approach that suits them best – and the business is not ‘forcing the hand’ by shorting the cx budget of available staff
- That this can enhance the employee experience when employees see they have opportunities to benefit by learning new skills that both the company and the employee can leverage to their benefit
- Customers are honest when they are completing the transaction through their journey on any given day, and the retail can trust that customer
The third point is a complicated one – because it is part of the assumption with – or without – the self-checkout. There are plenty of ways that a customer (for lack of a better word) can steal or defraud a retailer.
How is self-checkout affecting the customer experience?
As we’ve seen in media coverage, there are some times that individuals are boldly walking out of stores with a cart full of groceries. We also hear about certain high-demand items that continue to be locked away from customers to avoid theft.
All of this, whether observed directly or indirectly, is affecting the experience.
While many customers know the retailer is not to blame for the actions of others, and they are taking steps to fight this problem, it is also true that these steps can even further impact the customer experience.
Actually, that happened to me this past weekend. As part of my routine, I went to the grocery store to purchase a few items. I had a cart with a few items that I had selected for dinner and a couple of other daily-use items.
After maneuvering through the complex line at the self-checkout (where some customers lack self-awareness and block the path with carts and families), I scanned all my items, paid, and placed them in my reusable shopping bag and back into my cart to make my way back to the parking lot.
Nothing extraordinary. That is until I reached the door. Suddenly, an alarm sounds, the wheels of the shopping trolley lock up and the doors lock in front of me. In a blink of an eye, I have two security personnel surround me and demand that I step back from my cart and hand over my receipt. The claim was that I did not pay for all the items I was attempting to walk out with.
After several minutes of an alarm continuing and all the attention on me as other patrons are unable to exit the store while this is all happening, I kept thinking of the impact on everyone involved. They had to wait while this issue was resolved, delaying them.
There is the “community impact”, with individuals wondering if they are part of the trend being shown in the media. Then there is the safety issue, with doors locked, what if there was an emergency?
After a few minutes, the security guard had reviewed every item in my bag, returned my receipt and sent me on my way. Obviously not able to apologize as it can open them up to legal ramifications, the treatment was less than ideal.
A good reputation is more valuable than moneyPublilius Syrus
I had hesitated to write about this, but suddenly I noticed the incident was mentioned by someone in social media, which would certainly impact their CX Reputation.
I’m sure anyone involved may have mentioned it if the grocer was capturing the Voice-of-the-Customer. As for me, I was understanding of my brief detainment as I’ve directly observed some of these brazen tactics by individuals with retailers and have previously worked within a retail chain and been on the other side of the battle.
However, it still raised many questions even in my own mind about the approach of letting the most brazen walk out the door, while detaining a paying customer – even if by accident (they would not disclose why I was flagged).
There are ways that a brand can look at this with a view on the customer and the company. First, a financial linkage analysis should be conducted based on these circumstances. Second, retailers should be paying closer attention to both the customer feedback loop and sentiment analysis. Finally, for good measure, the retailers should be using Outer Loop change management tools to build a long-term strategy.
Put simply, if there is no shift in actions, retailers only “customers” might be the ones walking out the door without paying.
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