Today, there’s all kinds of advice about building better customer experiences using all kinds of technology and processes. What we’re forgetting is that a great experience is relative from customer to customer. Great experiences can only be defined once you’ve decided on who your customer is.
Recently, during my weekly grocery trip, I found myself at the end of a long lineup at Whole Foods. It was near closing time and the express checkout counters were all closed. Although I only had a few items, there was no choice but to checkout at the regular counters and endure the long lineup.
Experience designed for interaction not for speed
It was at this point where I wondered whether Whole Foods deliberately decided not to install self-checkout counters for people like me who sometimes just wants to buy their groceries and go home. The entire Whole Foods experience is designed to be as pleasant and soothing as can be. Aisles are stacked and vibrantly lit to showcase product. The staff is exceptionally friendly and can easily strike up a conversation with you. I’m not sure whether not having a self-checkout process is a conscious design choice by the management team at Whole Foods. The customer-staff interaction certainly does have a positive impact on the overall experience and I’m assuming the typical Whole Foods customer is one who genuinely enjoys the luxury of having friendly staff members to interact with.
Multiple customer segments = multiple customer experiences
In contrast, the Loblaw (Canadian-owned grocery chain) close to my home has both staff-attended checkout counters as well as self-checkout counters. I’ve noticed that the regular checkout counters are primarily occupied by older demographic customers who probably prefer having someone help them with their groceries and/or are not clear on how the self-checkout counters work. Younger demographic customers tend to use the self-checkout counters more often as they pick up their groceries and zip by the lineups at the regular checkout counters. In fact, the store also has 2 express staff-attended counters for people with fewer than 10 items. So that’s 3 different checkout processes that are targeted to serve 3 types of customer segments.
Design the experience for YOUR customer
As a business, you shouldn’t worry about what the latest technology trends are. Focus on your customer and what they’re expecting from you. Make sure your customer experience matches up with their expectations and leave the trend-chasing to someone else. If your customers prioritize speedy checkout, then think about self-checkout options. If your customers care more about friendly staff interactions, they probably won’t use your self-checkout counters. Again, it’s always about knowing who your customer is and what they want.