I know we are in tough economic times. Sacrifices must be made. Budgets must be cut. But can you go too far? Can personnel cuts go so deep that they become counter productive? For example, a layoff may make no sense if all the cost savings are lost due to overtime paid to the remaining employees. Similarly, cutting staff would seem to be inappropriate if customer service deteriorates to a point that customers are driven away. Yet, many retailers seem to be taking such an approach in the expansion of self-service checkout.
Last weekend, I visited a major home improvement retailer to purchase seeds for this year’s garden. I won’t say its name, but its logo is blue and white. Now, I am generally a fan of this chain and drive a few extra miles because I have found it offers a great selection of goods at a fair price. But mostly, I go there because I have found it’s employees knowledgeable, helpful, and most importantly, accessible. I drive right by this chain’s major competitor (the one with the orange sign) for this reason. But the customer service of that chain is not what this post is about.
By the time my wife and I had finished our shopping, we had a couple of dozen seed packs and related materials. As we approached the checkout, we noted that every aisle was closed except the self-service checkout aisle. Two clerks were working at a closed aisle. When I approached them, hoping that they would open up, they directed me back to the self-service checkout aisle. A sense of dread came over me.
Be honest. Have you ever been able to successfully checkout a dozen or so items at a home center or grocery store without a problem of some sort? I never have. Either an item won’t scan or an “unexpected” item will be detected in the bag, or some other issue will require assistance from the clerk (i.e. how do you ring up two loose screws and three nuts? Or, is this a sweet potato or a yam?)