Self-Checkout Becomes the Rule at Tesco Store

Discussion
Sep 30, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


With 60 percent of the checkouts being self-checkouts, Tesco has made those lanes manned by employees the exception to the company’s self-serve rule in one of its Metro stores in London.


The company currently has self-checkouts in 137 stores in the U.K with plans to have units operating in 220 locations by the end of the year. At that pace, self-checkout will become the norm at Tesco stores in the near future.


“Self-checkout has proved very popular with customers in other stores,” said Jonathan Yelland, team leader for self-checkout at Tesco, in a released statement. “It will provide busy office workers in Cheapside with a convenient service and give them a choice of how to pay.”


Alberto Camuri, vice president for retail solutions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa for NCR, said that, in addition to consumer acceptance of the technology, “Self-checkout gives retailers on-demand capacity and unrivalled flexibility when it comes to staffing their stores.”


Moderator’s Comment: Has the acceptance of self-checkout by consumers and the benefits of its use by retailers (staffing flexibility) come to the point
where it will soon become the rule in many retail stores? Is there a set of Best Practices retailers should know to make the best use of self-checkout systems?

George Anderson – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

21 Comments on "Self-Checkout Becomes the Rule at Tesco Store"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Ian Percy
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Tell me again what the advantage of minimizing contact with customers is? Is sending them to a machine rather than to a person to culminate the shopping experience a matter of efficiency, economy or what? It sure can’t be about increasing customer engagement.

And here’s another thing about “research” proving customers love automatic checkouts (or proving anything else). We tend to form survey questions that support our biases. And then poof — we have “proof!” Consumer research leads many retailers astray due to the biased language that’s used.

Now I don’t know how it was done in this case but I’d bet the question wasn’t “If it could be done quickly so you didn’t have to wait, would you prefer that we handle the checkout and bagging of your items for you?”

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 4 months ago
What’s in a name, I hear myself wondering? Why have you selected that particular handle, Scanner? Do you have some sort of stake in the process? As both consumer and observer, I have to disagree with your assertions today. I have seen little or no evidence of convenience to shoppers in having to scan their own purchases. I can easily see benefits to retailers, except, of course, when they have irritated customers wrestling with technology when all they really want to do is work their way through a shopping list, pack up and get home again. My favourite supermarket just closed down the branch I have used for 20 years and opened a new one, much bigger, at the other end of the high street. They hired a lot of new staff and trained them well, added a customer service desk, always have plenty of people out in the aisles to talk to customers and introduced self scanning. I have never seen more than a few people using the latter whereas there are always plenty… Read more »
Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
15 years 4 months ago
Didn’t the banking industry learn that when they encouraged customers to bank outside the building, i.e. ATM’s, that it was a lot harder to get customers inside to sell those higher margin banking products? As someone asked earlier, tell me again why stores don’t want to talk to customers, or why they do hire and train inept employees just so they can frustrate those who come in contact with them? Stores that use self-checkout are just encouraging online retailers to take their place. Sure, every POS manufacturer will state their case on why this is the wave of the future, but isn’t the coming of that wave ensuring their future? Earlier this week, we talked about the cult-like following Nordstrom’s service has. Think they would ever install self-checkouts? It is also interesting to note that when my favorite store, Trader Joe’s, opened in Santa Monica, CA. they didn’t have any scanning, even by the staff. Employees mostly memorized prices, or charged customers the price that ‘seemed fair’. Give me more of that!
Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 4 months ago
Self-checkout, properly implemented, improves customer service. Any assertion otherwise is emotionally based not fact based. Self-Checkout can, when properly implemented, enhance the experience while at the same time reduce labor. Take the activity based work away from the cashier, find the most personable associates you have, and use them as ‘shopper assistants.’ That means that they then have the time to do real interaction with the customer instead of superficial interaction. That’s what it’s really all about. So, in a typical conventional configuration of 4-6 lanes, that means two interactive shopper assistants during busy times and one during non-peak hours. There are real opportunities here, in particular for supermarkets, to really raise their level of service by proper implementation of self-checkout. Done well, the results can be exceptional both to the customer and the retailer. As a side benefit, they actually reduce shrink and reduce mistakes. It’s proven that customers know the produce item they chose and are more likely to ring it correctly. They monitor weight and perform better, more consistent security checks than… Read more »
M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 4 months ago

A more recent, possibly more relevant, supermarket customer service study was published by Consumer Reports, and Raley’s right here in Sacramento was chosen first in the nation. One important reason is that their checkstands and shopping carts are specifically designed for checker unloading rather than customer unloading. Shoppers love it, and it’s part of the superb service culture at the chain. Additionally, there’s never a question about selling age-controlled items like alcohol, cigarettes, and spray paint – none of which would make it through self-checkout – because intelligent, well-trained, civil checkout clerks are on hand to manage the process.

William Dupre
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Every year, for the last several decades, FMI has published shopping trends and the checkout lines are always the most disliked part of the shopping experience. Employee turn over is extremely high, training has always been a challenge and the shopper often initiates a negative experience at checkout. These systems have taken over many other industries, banking was mentioned but how about air travel? It’s this type of techno-phobia that keeps the grocery industry from making money. By the way, a study conducted in Chicago approximately 15 years ago asked shoppers which grocery chain provided the best customer service. It wasn’t Jewel or Dominick’s, the winner was Cub Foods, where shoppers bagged their own groceries.

Brian Abair
Guest
Brian Abair
15 years 4 months ago
I think making a blanket assumption that self checkout is the right choice for every location is taking a retailer down the wrong path. I believe self checkout has to be evaluated for its merits on a location by location basis. There are going to be some areas in a retailer’s marketplace where self checkout is something that is accepted and can be a marketing item for the store. There will be other locations in a retailer’s marketplace where the idea of self checkout is not popular and will not get the needed response from the customers to make it a fiscally positive investment. Retailers are looking at self checkout as a way to lower labor costs. A retailer who has committed more than half of his front end checkstands to self checkout is only looking at the reduction of labor and the positive effects this can have to their bottom line. If you operate a retail location where service to the customer is not an underlying component of your marketing strategy, then self checkout… Read more »
Ron Verweij
Guest
Ron Verweij
15 years 4 months ago

NCR’s FastLane is not the Self-service Concept that will be accepted by the Europeans. At least the pilots of this concept in food stores around here in Holland failed. Customers on the European mainland want to scan a trolley full of goods and I see the FastLane convenient for less then 10 goods.

Now I know Tesco and the British market is a bit different so I am very interested if it works. Tesco trained their cashiers in socialising with their customers what is unique and very well appreciated, so I am unsure if customers will accept this. So, purely as FastLane and to cope with peak traffic, I see it working besides the old-fashioned very social cashier Tesco is famous for.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
15 years 4 months ago
Within its ideal application – when a consumer has a few items and the other lines are long – then I think it works. But that means that SCO will never take over all the lanes in a store – SHOULD never take over, certainly. Retailers need to monitor their customer sat surveys closely when they implement SCO, because those that go overboard, so that customers almost have to use SCO to get out of the store, find that customer satisfaction takes a big hit, and eventually that’s going to undermine any cost savings on the labor side. And I agree, I question the methodology of anyone who says that customers value it. Our own data shows that barely half of people who use SCO find it valuable, and anecdotally, the user interface seems to be the number one issue with it. More interesting to me is the side benefit of cash handling. Some retailers are now looking at automating cash handling even at full service lanes because of lessons learned at SCO. Imagine not… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Count me in with those who are sceptical about how much customers really like self-checkout. Like Warren, my anecdotal observations see far more people in lines with real live cashiers than strolling around the store scanning items to check out themselves. Figures showing that x% of customers use self checkout are largely based on supermarkets who have bullied them into it by removing any real choice. They do NOT allow for flexibility in anything other than the way management wants to manipulate staff and customers. If they are too **** incompetent or lazy to hire and train good staff then this provides the perfect copout. And if they can then further manipulate the data by carefully worded surveys, how wonderful life appears to be. Jes keep right on spinning, boys, maybe if you do it often enough people might begin to believe you.

Robert Straub
Guest
Robert Straub
15 years 4 months ago

Speaking strictly as a consumer, I prefer to have the option of self-service checkouts and will often shop at Fred Meyer (the only grocer with this option in my area of the Northwest) specifically for this reason.

John Kill
Guest
John Kill
15 years 4 months ago
As a shopper, I can’t remember the last time a cashier in any store added to my shopping experience. The cashier is simply a turnstile that I must pass through on my way to my car with my goods. If there is any way for me to get through more quickly I will take it in an instant. I hear everyone saying “customer service” and talking about enhancing the experience. A knowledgeable person to answer my questions within the store does it for me. Once I get to the checkout I don’t want friendly banter. I want to complete the transaction as quickly as possible and get on with my life. If retailers want to provide better service, take the labor savings from self-check and reinvest it into more people on the floor to help customers WHILE they are shopping. I use self-check lanes at grocery and DIY about 80% of the time. The only thing that keeps me out of the self-check lane is when I know I have a lot of produce or… Read more »
Ron Margulis
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

(Full disclosure: RAM Communications is on retainer with Teradata, a division of NCR)

There is a direct corollary here to banks and the use of tellers vs. ATMs. According to industry reports, for most, that is more than half, bank customers, ATMs are the preferred way to withdraw money, make deposits and transfers, etc. over tellers. This is 25 years after ATMs started taking hold. Self-checkout really started making inroads in the last five years, and my guess is that more than half all grocery, mass and DIY volume in the US will be rung up on self-serve devices within three years. Because of the nature of their products (price, listed drugs, size) chain drug, consumer electronics and others will not experience this same level of acceptance.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

I’m totally with David and Ian. Who does this “research” anyway? All the personal observation I’ve done, admittedly anecdotal, leaves me with the consistent and strong impression that shoppers don’t like using these unless they have two items and the lines in the staffed lanes are long. Self-checkout represents typical short-term thinking, seeking the fast payback in labor “savings” vs. long-term customer relationships and satisfaction.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Customers prefer self-checkout when they think they’ll have to wait less. If they thought that cashiers would be faster, they wouldn’t want it. My experience at Home Depot, when they initially installed it, was poor, since it was prone to difficulties. It seems to be more reliable now, and I can predict its quirks more easily, and avoid certain problems. When it’s working well, it can save the high-volume retailer a bundle, particularly if the cashiers don’t add any particular reason to return to a store and never upsell.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 4 months ago

For some retailers, it should be the rule. A case in point is Home Depot, which has one of the worst front-end operations in all of retailing.

More difficult to make it the norm in supermarkets. Usually, a lot of items are involved and — let’s face it — you are asking consumers to do more work. In this case, the technology becomes anti-consumer service. Let’s also not forget that the checkout is the last point of contact with customers. Do you want to make it a completely automated experience?

But if there’s one best practice to follow, I’d say make sure it works. Nothing is going to annoy a customer more than asking them to do the work, then making them wait longer while a problem with the machine — or their input — is fixed. And for heaven’s sake, don’t put a surly clerk in charge of the self-checkouts. Nothing is going to make you lose more goodwill than having a clerk berate a customer for doing something wrong.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 4 months ago
Companies that rely on self checkouts typically are those who have such inept cashiers that the customers find self checkouts a more pleasant experience. I recently did a large market analysis project for a well run regional retailer. They would never dare put in a self-checkout. They hire classy people who know how to deal with customers. They dare not have a customer miss out on the excellent experience received at the checkout. The cashier is probably the last person the customer speaks with at the store and they want to make sure the customer leaves feeling a little bit better about themselves. The Krogers in this market now have about 40-50% of their total checkouts being self service. These same Krogers also operate mostly sub $250k per week stores and have consistantly lost market share. Kroger is thinking short term about labor savings and the bottom line. My client is thinking about operating the best possible supermarket and not sacrificing a good customer service experience. I can see having perhaps 2 to 4 in… Read more »
Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 4 months ago

Who are we kidding? Most supermarkets make changes, not for
innovation and/or convenience, but to save money and,
especially, labor expense.

Supermarkets appear to be telling shoppers that they have a
choice to meet their time needs. But, please, don’t think shoppers aren’t sharp enough to
figure out what supermarkets intentions are.

“Today, our dear shopper, we have a convenience for you, self
checkout lanes. And you still pay the same for your
purchases!!!” Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 4 months ago
In the interest of full disclosure for Bernice’s sake, I am not a proponent, shareholder, vendor or any other stakeholder in self-checkout or any other technology product or service. In fact, I do my best to be dispassionate when it comes to preference regarding them. (While, I have never been accused of not being passionate when it comes to my opinion, I try to be open minded when forming one.) In fact, for years, I was an opponent of self-checkout and held many of the same views expressed here. Since working with it, learning about it, seeing results, both with those I have worked with and others, I have changed my mind on the subject. In fact, so much so that I feel just as strongly positive about it as I once felt negative about it. And, yes, I have been involved in POS and other technology for well over 25 years and the handle comes from a joke made by friends, when for a short time, I was involved in sales of auto-id, and… Read more »
Neil Thall
Guest
Neil Thall
15 years 4 months ago

Over the past 15 years, the consumer trend has been drifting towards the “just do it” world. The evolution of self-service beyond “ATM” space and into self-serve airline check-in is simple proof. Self-serve used to always follow the consumer’s “transaction” path. What transactions did consumers perform on a regular basis that involved transfer of goods/value for $/money? Now, with consumer acceptance of the internet, the “just do it” trend is speeding up. Self-service technology will be racing ahead of the consumer’s transaction path and creating new directions or ways for consumers to execute transactions. Self-service check out will be a common element of many store formats and it will change shape and function quickly. Just do it is soon to be just do it faster!

Daniel Parker
Guest
Daniel Parker
15 years 4 months ago
I found the commentary on this issue very interesting and well rounded. Both sides present strong arguments, but the issue does seem to be somewhat of a conundrum. I don’t have the answer but would like to share a few thoughts. On the one hand, general theory would suggest the retailer always stay as close to the customer as possible, and provide the best quality service that they can afford. Automatic check-out would seem to break that connection and perhaps even “de-humanize” the shopping experience. This would seem to violate Retail 101 principles. On the other hand, I tend to agree that most cashiers (who are rude, inept, slow, etc.) actually “destroy” value, diminishing the overall shopping experience. In addition, by the time I get to the cashier, my main goal is to get out as fast as possible. If automatic check-out can do that (for some types of standardized, easily scannable products), then I would be amenable to using it. One of the commentators brought up the analogy of the banking industry and use… Read more »
wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

The biggest reason retailers deploy self-checkouts in their stores is because:

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...