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David Porter » Blogs: My Own » Grumpy Old Shopper 6 – ‘Management’

Grumpy Old Shopper 6 – ‘Management’

An article by Graham Ruddick about the state of the Tesco empire in the Sunday Telegraph business pages of 30 September 2012 began with the paragraph:

‘Philip Clarke, the chief executive of Tesco, is walking around one of the supermarket group’s stores in Essex with his UK management team.’

And that sums up what is wrong with Tesco these days and why they are unlikely to return to the high-power success they enjoyed for so long.

CEO walking round the store: brilliant. With his management team: pointless.

I Offered to Walk Him Round

A few weeks ago I wrote to Philip Clarke and offered to walk round my local store with him, unannounced. I did this more in sorrow than anger, as I have had a soft spot for the retailing giant for a long time and have enjoyed the Clubcard points and rewards.

I am not a fan of any shopping, as readers will know. (See blogs on offer below)

However, I felt that the top people were not aware of what has gone wrong: service. Pure old fashioned customer service.

I received a reply from someone far further down the Tesco food chain who regurgitated a lot of waffle about offers, price variants and retail-speak. But he wouldn’t actually go and look at it on the ground, not in a suit and disguised as a real shopper.

What Has Gone Wrong?

Had somebody come with me, I would have started from outside by trying to enter the same door that people were coming out of. Great ‘fun’ and no choice. They have provided only one door.

Then I’d have pointed to what is whimsically called Customer Services with a semi-permanent queue that often blocks other aisles. This is because it now deals with everything from returns, to check out problems to lottery tickets to payments to Tesco Bank.  And it doesn’t open till 8am. Why not?

We’d then have wandered the aisles, me doing a shop and trying to work out the kind of alleged offers and cons featured not that long ago on BBC TV’s Watchdog programme about sharp practices.

It’s unlikely the fruit and vegetable area would be full and inviting. In fact on a recent Friday evening, there was alomst no fresh fruit displayed at all. I’d point out how Morrisons now present fruit, vegetables, salads in an appealing, never-empty way.

The chances of the aisles being cluttered with trolleys is high. My companion may point out that things just fly off shelves into trolleys so fast because they are so popular, but that would be a distortion. It’s that they have no programme for clearing the clutter.

On the way round we would be assaulted by endless announcements meant for staff, about getting on a check-out, or wet-spill somewhere. These staff messages usually repeated badly score highly on the irritation charts.

Why can’t individual staff be bleeped and directed somewhere rather than intrude on customers’ thoughts and patience.

The old Tesco promise to force people to wait short times at tills has long gone. Instead they point people to the self-service with all it’s technical problems and expect us to pay the same price for doing it ourselves.

Shopping Is Not Therapy For Everyone

Our world assumes that everyone enjoys shopping and that retail is the new religion for the majority. So it may be, sadly, but there is a sizeable minority who do not conform, subscribe to or obey the general imperative.

And we have to eat, drink, be clothed and need other products, too.

Getting out of the store is a high priority for many people. There is already copious research on how British people have fallen out of love with queuing. Tesco ignores that.

There is no sense of urgency in most till operators. Of course they must chat appropriately, especially to people they know. And most of them are pleasant, polite, helpful and courteous human beings.

A few milk the talking sociability with friends; there should be an instruction to keep things moving. Anything else is sloppy management.

And the actual check-out. Nobody from Tesco high command has been to an Aldi check-out and seen how swift it is every time. Bagging away from the tills and staff who shift quickly are a joy for those who have other things to do with their day.

And the ludicrous Tesco check-out space (a mini shelf) for goods to pile on as you bag them! It has been deliberately reduced in size. Ridiculous.

Ridiculous that customers put up with it. Oh, of course, many now don’t. Which is why Tescos has the air of a once-proud warship now destined for the scrap heap of history.

All the ads, price gimmicks and reduced-product-sizes-for-the-same-price in the world are not going to turn it around. Decent customer service just might.

But what do I know. I’m only a customer, not ‘an expert’ in a suit, just trying to wheel my shopping out the same door that other customers are entering by.

Check-out other Grumpy Old Shopper pieces (if you’re not in a hurry):

Grumpy Old Shopper 5 – Centres, 20 April 2010
Grumpy Old Shopper 4 – Christmas, 23 December 2009
Grumpy Old Shopper 3 – Mysteries, 29 October 2009
Grumpy Old Shopper 2 – Supermarkets, 2 October 2009
Grumpy Old Shopper 1 – Announcements, 10 August 2009

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