In May, I posted a commentary on why I thought certain retailers were missing the boat by offering customers the option of using self-checkout lanes.
I wrote that in an effort to speed up the process and reduce labor, these retailers were actually creating distance between the value they provide and the customer’s perception of their overall experience.
Earlier this fall, a major Chicago-area grocery chain, Jewel-Osco, announced they were going to eliminate self-checkout lanes at some of their stores, while others will be complete over the next year.
In case you don’t have time to visit the link and read the entire article, below are some key quotes:
"We (Jewel Food Stores) are creating an environment to better connect with our customers and give them more personalized service, one on one. We think that our shoppers will be happy with our improved service." (Jewel spokeswoman Allison Sperling)
“Loss prevention is one of the factors, but the key reason for this decision is customer service.” (Sperling)
“Most of all, people enjoy talking with someone in the store. The self-checkout system just doesn't provide that connection.” (Jeff Weidauer, Vice President of Marketing Strategy for Vestcom, a marketing firm for retailers)
"We believe that in the next couple of years, self-checkout will be eliminated altogether." (Weidauer)
"They've lost that contact, which is part of the whole shopping experience. It almost was like shopping online." (Weidauer)
Read that last quote again: “They’ve lost that contact…”.
Is your organization losing contact with your customers?
Are you reducing face-to-face opportunities like trade shows and other marketing or networking events? Are email blasts taking the place of phone calls?
Are marketing and trade show budgets being cut at the expense of losing valuable contact with customers and potential customers? Have you commoditized the value of your product or service because the purchase has simply become a transaction as opposed to an interaction, in the eyes of the customer?
A 1990 commercial for United Airlines on the value of face-to-face communication, remains as poignant and relevant as ever – watch it again here as a reminder.
Congratulations to Jewel-Osco. We hope they are on the way to building a better customer experience. The good news in all of this is, no customer has asked us to design a self-checkout booth for one of their trade show displays.
Footnote: Also in my May blog, I recounted a story about a woman who became frustrated in the self-checkout line of a local grocery store. Frustrated enough to walk away from her purchase. It was not a Jewel-Osco location. This particular grocery chain recently announced it was closing the 68 Chicago-area stores and leaving this market. Their exit was attributed to declining sales.
Meanwhile, another regional chain has moved into the Chicago market and recently announced plans to open a dozen more stores in the next two years.
They do not have self-checkout stations.