A year ago they introduced self scanning in a supermarket which I visited regularly. I remember thinking that it might have a big impact on the future jobs for counter employees in any store. Imagine what would happen if everybody is able to scan their own articles. It isn’t that hard -although people might occasionally ‘fail’ to scan an item-, so why not fire all counter employees and introduce self scanners? What use does a counter employee have when people can scan for themselves?
One year later & I love counter employees
Since a couple of months I’m using a Dutch grocery app called Picnic. It is a mobile app which allows you to easily select your articles and they deliver it at your door. And I love it. It is great for ordering beer and other heavy –Christmas– groceries when you live on the fourth floor in a flat which doesn’t have an elevator, sorry dear Picnickers. Since Picnic has no physical shops they are able to offer the same, most often lower, prices and deliver the products without asking an additional delivery fee. Instead of going to a supermarket, with cranky counter employees, I can simply click on the products which I like. It immediately shows me the price, clear product information and how many products I selected. So, why would I even bother walking through the rain (living in the Netherlands has its perks) to visit a supermarket, with the result that I can walk back with two giant & heavy- bags which leave blisters on my fingers?
SaaNT: Supermarket as a nice trip
As you might expect, I don’t go to the supermarket for my weekly groceries. The only time I visit the supermarket is:
A. I accidentally forgot to order a product at Picnic.
B. I’m in for a walk, read: am craving for chocolate or too lazy to cook #pizza.
C. The entire WiFi & cellular network breaks down.
D. When I forget how stupid shops are and think that it is fun to visit a supermarket.
How can they win me back?
The supermarkets near my house are awful. They have long waiting lines, rude personal and often miss the products I want (e.g. a specific kind of bread). Next to this, the shops are filled with annoying people who put their carts in the middle of an aisle blocking my way. So, what can they do?
Remember those cranky cashiers? Put them to use, give them a real job, a nice job which isn’t so easy that you can automate it. Make the supermarkets more personal, fun and attractive. I suggest immediately replacing all the cash registers with check-outs for the self scanners. Do not fire the cashiers. They can become the ticket to win back customers. Make them Customer Happiness Agents. Instead of only letting 14 -17 years old walk around in the shop to refill the stash, let the cashiers help people. A number of tasks they can perform which they might like:
- Help people with their groceries. “Hi Sir, can I help you find the groceries you are looking for?” This would be perfect for the elderly, disabled or lonesome people. Next to this, it can create a strong relation between the stores and its customers.
- Create an app in which people can select & pay for products. Let the Customer Happiness Agents collect the products, put them in a nice box and make it ready for take off.
- Let them offer help putting the groceries in the car, bags, etc.
- Train some of the Customer Happiness Agents to cook, allowing the store to have tasting sessions each day –bonus: let the brands which are used in the recipes pay for these daily sessions.-
- In most stores there is a place where people can drop their children. Let a Customer Happiness Agent keep an eye or even entertain the children. This helps the parents to focus on shopping and will make other shoppers happy as there are no children running & screaming through the store.
From cashier to Customer Happiness Agent
With brands like Picnic arising it is predictable that there will be supermarkets who will ultimately claim that internet took away their business. But that is bullshit. If you run a supermarket, don’t let unmotivated and underpaid humans perform boring tasks all day. A job should always consist of two of the three; Fun, Learning, Money. If they don’t have fun, don’t learn anything new and don’t receive a lot of money, than they will be the reason that people choose for internet to prevent themselves from facing unmotivated humans. And I’m not saying that all the supermarket workers are unmotivated, I’m sure a lot of them really love their jobs but in the supermarkets I visit there are loads of people who are clearly not happy to work.
Create a strong customer focused brand. Bring humans into the hearts of customers. And differentiate from your competitors by delivering wonderful service. Let the service be unexpectedly good.