Category Archives: Retail

Carrefour’s Scan & Go Scanners – Is the purchase experience really better?

Every so often my husband and I have a similar conversation where my American roots come out in full force as I get annoyed at the workings (or lack thereof) of something here, and he gets frustrated, telling me that I’m making a big deal out of nothing. This is when I have to tell myself that it’s just not the same over here. And I wonder, “Am I really just overreacting and being too American?” The last time this happened was the other day at Carrefour. That’s right; at the supermarket. It actually wasn’t the first time that we’ve had the same discussion at the check out…

About five years ago Carrefour launched its touch screen “Scan & Go” scanners in Spain. As a loyalty card member you can pick up one of these nifty devices when you enter the hypermarket and scan your purchases along the way as you go. What’s the point? Well, as Carrefour promotes with its “innovation designed to make customers’ lives easier”, it seems there are several benefits:

Carrefour Scan & Go scanner

1. Time saver. After finishing your shopping you don’t have to wait in the long check-out lines; you go directly to the special “Scan & Go” machines where you either get a green light which lets you directly leave after paying and expresses Carrefour’s confidence in you as a customer. Or you can be chosen as a random check where an employee supposedly has to scan a few items in your cart just to make a double check, and then you’ll be on your merry way. I say “supposedly” as this is important to my story.

2. More control for the customer. you scan your own products and easily see your total purchase amount as you go. If you need to add or delete an item, no problem. also, if there’s a special offer the little machine will tell you so.

3. More fun shopping experience. As you have more control and do the scanning yourself, the experience is more enjoyable and in your hands.

4. Carrefour shows its trust.  By putting the checkout experience in the customer’s hands, Carrefour is saying that it trusts the customer and trusts that you really have scanned everything that you’ve put in your cart. GENERALLY.

So, what made my American temper shine through? This was probably the fourth of fifth time that we had finished a big shopping trip, with the cart overflowing, and encountered a “situation” at the Scan & Go checkout station. When the flashing orange light above the stand started blinking I thought, “Great, here we go again.” Now I understand that sometimes just to maintain Quality Control employees need to do a quick double check and rescan some items to verify the order. What I cannot understand is having an employee take out each and every item that we have in our cart to rescan everything again. And, of course, the end result is only to discover that no, we did not steal anything. After a few minutes when I realize that they are actually going to completely disorganize the cart and take out each item to scan again, my attitude comes out. At this point I begin my usual rantings about the lack of efficiency, what’s the point of having a scanner, why don’t they look for real thieves, etc. etc. Really, I might as well be wearing a shirt that screams “USA” to go along with my huffing and puffing.

To Carrefour: great idea to improve the experience, but bad execution when you are telling loyal customers that you don’t trust them at the end of their shopping experience. Now, trust me, I understand that robbery is a problem in Spain. However, if Carrefour consciously made the decision to implement a system such as this in its stores, then they have to show their customers they trust them. If not, instead of improving the purchase experience they are actually running the risk of turning loyal customers away and creating unnecessary frustration.

What do you think? Does Carrefour make the purchase experience better? Should this kind of system exist here in Spain? Does it work for you?

p.s. Interesting article from five years ago about Carrefour’s decision to launch Scan & go: https://socialmediaexperience.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/carrefour-scan-go-una-innovacion-de-la-experiencia-del-cliente/

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Babies R Us logo

Babies R Us – What happens when a global brand goes wrong

Time for a new customer experience reflection, this time with the experience of a global brand with a presence in 13 countries:

If you’re living in the US and pregnant (or post-baby) Babies R Us is the mecca for every and any baby product that you can imagine. When I visited the Babies R Us in Massachusetts while in the US and waiting for my little bundle of joy, I was quite impressed, and at the same time quite overwhelmed, by the amount of “things” that you could need for a baby.

Then I met Phil. In a matter of a half hour Phil became my new best friend and trusted advisor. Who is Phil? Phil is a millennial. He’s a college sophomore who plays on the basketball team, hangs out with his friends after classes, and spends his free time playing on his ipad and texting. The only difference is that Phil also works part time at Babies R us and is totally knowledgeable about baby products and pregnant woman needs. And no, Phil is not a father. According to him, he has a lot of nieces and nephews so he knows a lot about this stuff, and he’s also interested in being a teacher in the future. Thanks to Phil’s help I purchased a lot of great baby knick knacks and whatnots, signed up to be on the mailing list and in the baby club and helped enhance Babies R Us’ annual profit. I also learned a thing or two about nursing needs that I’m not really sure how Phil knew, but I was too impressed to ask questions. When I left the store with my mother that day I wanted to take Phil home with us. Of course, I had a hard time later explaining to my husband that Phil was just a Babies R Us employee who happened to be awesome.

Flash forward a bit over a year to Madrid post-bundle of joy arrival: now that little Nicolas had arrived I realized we were in desperate need of some baby items like an electric swing. Then I remembered that I had seen a Babies R Us not too far away from where we lived, although I had never set foot in the store before. This time entering the store I didn’t have the same illusion as back in the US (probably from the lack of sleep), but I was ready to be greeted by my Spanish Phil (Felipe??) and start to great experience. To my disappointment, there was no Phil. In fact, there was hardly anyone at all. We had to walk around the store trying to find an employee to try to help us. When we finally did find one, she pointed to her watch and said sorry, she couldn’t help since it was her lunch break, but another employee would probably be around. We were finally able to find an employee to ask a question about the swings, only to have her reply that she really didn’t know the difference between the different models available. And that was about it. In general the employees were more on the rude side and definitely not at all like my beloved Phil.

Just last week I was back at Babies R Us in Madrid, this time with more sleep behind me and a better idea of what I wanted, but I was still “greeted” with the same lack of greeting and lack of help. After trying to find someone to ask a question for about 5 minutes, I finally just decided it just wasn’t worth it and left.

Why am I am I writing about this and why should you care if you don’t frequent Babies R Us or don’t have kids? Really this post could be about any brand that transcends international boundaries with its logo and image. As a person with quite a bit of background working in Customer Experience research and most recently in consumer goods marketing, I’m a a real proponent of the importance of delivering a consistent and better-than-good brand experience. Customer engagement is key; if you don’t deliver a full-cycle experience and/or consistent experiences (more the case here), in the long run you lose customers and profits. To me, it seems hard to believe that a global brand like Babies R Us (Toys R Us) can be willing to put its brand name, logo and all that these images stand for on a store that delivers a sub sub-prime experience. In my opinion, with an experience like this, it’s better to skip the big brand and find a local option to fit your needs.

Phil, if you’re reading this, we could use you over here in Spain!

Back to Customer Basics: Eureka Kids

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Customer Experience story here in Spain so here’s a new one I had recently with Eureka Kids after buying a walk-and-ride toy (correpasillos) for my 13 month old. You can decide for yourself how you’d rate this one.

Eureka kids logo

As the expression goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But if you buy a product and it breaks, you expect it to be fixed, right? A month ago I purchased a walk-and-ride toy (http://didicar.es/walkn-ride) at Eureka Kids in La Vaguada shopping center. Eureka kids is a big retail chain here in Spain, but the actual stores themselves are quite small, with catalogues of many products that work through distributors. The toy I bought was guaranteed delivered free of charge to my house two days later. As promised, the toy arrived two days later and my son happily began riding all over the place until…the wheels became totally blocked about 2 1/2 weeks later, much to the frustration of the little guy.

Walk and Ride toy, Didicar

Walk and Ride toy, Dicier

The next day I went to the store and was told that they couldn’t do anything there, since everything is through a distributor, and that I would have to wait until they got in touch with the distributor to see what kind of solution they could offer. So, I left with the broken bike in hand. When I didn’t hear anything back two days later, I called the store again to see what was happening. The girl who helped me was very friendly and assured me that they had put in the complaint with the distributor but hadn’t yet heard back. So, I called again the next day and still no news. Finally, one week after going to the store I received a call that in two days they would be coming to my house to pick up the broken bike and deliver a new one!

How would I rate this experience? The final result has been a success since my problem has been solved and I’ll be getting a replacement bike. But… there were definitely some unnecessary steps/frustrations in the process. It’s important to remember that from the customer POV what can stand out more than the actual end result is the ease (or lack thereof) and trustworthiness of the process itself.

The next time I would definitely think twice about buying a product that goes through a distributor instead of being in-stock in a store in case anything happens. Being a bit finicky about customer service and treatment as I am, I’d like to point out one definite item to improve: keep the customer informed! The only thing that’s gained from leaving the customer in waiting and forcing him/her to proactively connect again with the client is frustration from the client’s side and time/costs from that of the client.

A welcomed “favor” at Decathlon

Those annoying, itchy, long white tags that can be found inside a new item of clothing and that drive you crazy if you forget to take them off — DON’T do it unless you’re sure the item is a keeper. This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you’re dealing with baby clothes sometimes you just assume it’s not necessary.

The other day I went to Decathlon, a huge sports chain here in Spain, and purchased a baby swimming outfit for swimming classes, complete with little matching flip flops.

Decathlon_Logo

Decathlon baby swimsuit

My son’s a big boy, but not huge. Since he wasn’t even a year old yet I decided to go with the 18 month size. When we got home I cut off all 4 annoying tags inside the suit and headed out on my merry way. Unfortunately, when we got to the pool locker room for class I was surprised to find that the bathing suit was way too small. Someone looked like a sausage coming out of its casing. I could barely even pull up the zipper.

So…back I went to Decathlon a few days later not really sure what to expect even though I had kept the sales receipt and all of the little tags that I had cut off. The only thing I didn’t bring was my baby so he could make a sad face when I explained the sausage story.

The person who attended me was very nice and said it would be no problem (all I wanted was an even exchange for a 2 year old size – again he was only 11 months old) until he saw the cut off inside tag. Uh oh. At this point a supervisor had to be called over, to whom I explained again that I really would never have thought that an 18 month old size would be too small. After a small exchange of glances between the two employees I was told that they could do a “gestor comercial” and exchange the item for me, but it was made very clear that this was a big favor since they wouldn’t be able to resell the merchandise. Ok, got it. After a few too many thank you’s I went on my merry way once again with the new 2 year old suit.

Overall impression? I’m happy with Decathlon since they did the right thing and didn’t tell me I was “wrong”, but it was a little strange that it had to be made so clear that they were doing me a huge favor. In any case, I’ll take the gesture/favor and am pretty sure they won’t be going bankrupt because of this incident! The next time I need some sports items I’ll be heading back there.

Toothpaste incident El Corte Ingles

Why I waited 15 minutes to pay for toothpaste. (El Corte Inglés)

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a stickler when it comes to anything customer-service or customer-experience related. Perhaps this is since I’m American or perhaps it’s because I worked on a Customer Experience research team for several years…in any case, as this blog reflects, I am a strong proponent of taking customer experience seriously.

The other day I was at my favorite department store, the Corte Ingles, browsing around to pick up a few items. As are a lot of shoppers, I tend to be attracted by special price promotions or packaged bundle promo packs that promise X amount of savings. So when I saw a special offer for toothpaste that I use frequently, BOGO (buy one get one) 70% off (double packs in this case), I grabbed a couple packages. Alas, it was too good to be true. When I got to the self-checkout and rang my items through they did not come up as the second pack at 70% off.

toothpaste

At this point I had a couple of options: 1. I could just say “forget it” and only buy one pack to avoid having to talk to someone and avoid any hassle or 2. I could talk to an employee and try to figure out what was going on. Now, let me just take a moment to explain that my intention wasn’t to cause a problem, and it’s not that  I couldn’t pay for the toothpaste, but I decided to use this situation as a test to see how the store would react.

Here’s how the test went: 

1. My first response from the employee was one of surprise, but not the defensive, the-client-is-wrong type of response. She said I could go back to the shelf to check if I wanted. So I did.

2. As it turns out, the product was marked incorrectly on the shelf. The 2nd unit at 70% off was correct, but this was related to a different product, not the one shown with the tag.

3. When I returned and told the employee what I had found, she said that she would have to confirm it with the price department (or something like that). She seemed happy to do this, but told me it would take a few minutes. Again, since I had already decided to use this as a test, I decided to wait.

4. It’s a good thing I wasn’t in a rush. Between 5-10 minutes later the employee received a call back confirming that the item was marked incorrectly on the shelf. At this point I was expecting a “Sorry. It is what it is. You can buy it or not”.

5. However, the employee then rung up my items and applied the discount as it should have been, had the items been marked properly on the shelf! Now this might not seem like any big deal to many of you reading this, but I must say that this sort of “the customer is right” attitude is not something I’m used to over here (even though I really was right).

This is why I waited 15 minutes to buy toothpaste. This is why I’m a loyal Corte Ingles shopper. And this is why I (and I’m sure quite a lot of other fellow shoppers, judging by the typically long lines) are loyal Corte Ingles customers willing to spend a little more (see Paying Premium) for a good overall experience.

El Corte Ingles

Would you be willing to pay a premium for a good experience?

Don’t answer right away… Living here in Spain has made me reflect on the topic of paying more for quality and service. Is it worth it? And how much?

There’s a certain very-well-known department store where it’s generally a fact that you may pay a bit more for your purchases, but you can almost always expect friendly, knowledgeable service and no hassles when you run into any problem. After having one too many hassle experiences of running into a problem only to find that you as the customer are wrong (example: See Zara Kids post) or that you can’t make a return for some reason, sometimes it’s worth the price to pay a little bit more.

If you’ve ever lived or traveled to Spain, you’ve probably heard of the Corte Ingles, the massive department store sprawled out around the country. The Corte Ingles has everything – from clothing to a supermarket to a travel department. If you go to the supermarket chances are you’ll notice that prices are slightly higher than your local small supermarket like Mercadona, Día or Ahorramás (some typical stores in Madrid). The supermarket is always packed and with lines at the checkout. So, why would people be willing to pay more to buy the same thing they could get for less at another location?

el-corte-ingles

Let’s think about travel insurance. When you go on vacation or buy a plane ticket there’s always an option to pay for additional insurance in the case that something goes wrong. Do you buy it? What about car rental insurance? The last time I was in the US and rented a car I decided that $25 a day for complete coverage was a lot of money. However, when I learned there was an option to pay less than half of that ($11 a day) for partial coverage, meaning I wouldn’t have to worry about any scratches, small crashes, etc., I signed up. Of course, both of these examples refer to additional services that must be purchased to avoid hassles. Here, we are talking about knowingly paying more (perhaps only 50 cents or perhaps a few euros) to have ease of mind.

Yes, we are still battling an economic crisis here in Spain. But that doesn’t mean that customers aren’t willing to spend. If you take a walk on any day when the sun is out you can generally find packed terraces with people enjoying a bit of sun and a beverage. And you can usually expect lines or reservations necessary at a lot of restaurants during the weekend. And during “rebajas”, the huge rebate and offer shopping period right after the holiday season, the stores are crazy. Crisis? What crisis? Consumer spending is on the rise (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-29/spain-growth-accelerates-as-household-government-spending-rise.html)

Similarly, with consumer goods products it is true that the Private Label is growing at an enormous pace (http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2014/how-private-label-and-retailers-are-disrupting-the-trading-envirornment-in-western-europe.html) but it’s not just price that’s factoring into this growth; quality is a key factor as well. Private label is innovating and providing quality to customers; customers are willing to pay for quality and innovation, with Private Label or with branded products (within set premiums).

81% of European consumers are willing to pay more for superior customer experience. (http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/press/1883120) And 44% are willing to pay a premium of more than 5%. What does this mean? Making customer service and customer experience a focus of any business (yes, it’s just as important as other departments!) pays off to increase sales and retention. Still not convinced? Do a simple survey of customers and the facts will speak.

http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/the-10-reasons-customers-pay-more.html (See No. 6 and 8)

So how much premium are you willing to pay? 5% 2% 10? In my case I would say my premium here in Spain is definitely higher than that in the US. Why? Because I know that the concept of the importance of customer experience is still a novel idea here in Spain, but I prefer good treatment. Back in the US generally the customer is always right and the need for higher premiums isn’t as important.

As I said in my section on Customer Experience, I believe that this is the next competitive battleground here in Spain. Sooner or later…

Zara Home Kids Calle Hermosilla Madrid

Did she just roll her eyes at me? (Zara Home Kids)

Women do it every day, but having a baby is tough work. (I’ll talk about this in more detail in a different blog). At the beginning, just getting out of the house becomes an ordeal or doesn’t even become an ordeal because you don’t end up leaving after all. Having said this, I was feeling quite proud of myself when I made it to the Zara Home Kids store on Calle Hermosilla 22 in Madrid when Nico was about a month old. The reason for the trip was to return a gift since I already had the same present at home. Unfortunately, I was already anticipating a problem… the gift receipt was good for exchanges within 30 days. We were on day 31. I had just received the gift a few days ago, but it had been purchased a while back. Of course when I mentioned to my sister that we were probably going to have a problem, she thought I was joking.

zara home kids

Sure enough, I was right. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until the girl who attended us tried to process the return and realized there was an error because of the date. She had to call her manager to “help out”. That’s when the fun started. The manager was a young woman, in her late 20s and very serious. At first she said that there was nothing she could do because these are the Zara rules (no apology at any point by the way). I then tried to politely explain that I understand there are rules but that I just had a baby and this was the first day I was able to get to the store to make the return..and it was day 31! I tried to nicely say that it really shouldn’t be a big deal since it was only one day and I wasn’t trying to get cash back. Again, she firmly (without any apology nor hint of a smile) repeated that she couldn’t do anything. That’s when I started to get a bit annoyed and dropped the extremely polite tone. After saying that it seemed ridiculous to me that there was nothing she could do as the store manager and that I was going to have to throw out the gift, she finally (with a very annoyed tone and gesture) said that I could make an exchange, but that was it. Ok, that’s all I wanted. With that she stormed off, like I had just made the most unreasonable request.

After a short browse I returned to the cashier (the manager was with her teaching her things on the computer. I guess she was new). The manager completely ignored me standing there in front of her with my exchange and continued to talk to the trainee for about a minute without even acknowledging me. When she finally did it was only to tell me that what I had picked out wouldn’t work because I needed to get something for the exact value of the original gift or more expensive. Could she have mentioned that at the beginning? With my hands up in the air I quickly went back and picked out other items. Meanwhile, my sister was looking on in shock (I think the only reason she didn’t say anything is because she doesn’t speak Spanish). Finally, back at the register one more time, and after waiting yet another minute to be not acknowledged by the manager, she finally went ahead to process the exchange. The whole time she seemed to be even more annoyed than me and verbally made it clear that she was doing me a favor. She also made it extremely clear that I could not make any return or exchange with the new items, as if I were a thief and trying to steal from Zara. Before heading out, as the manager was sighing, I stated that this was no way to treat customers. At this, she promptly rolled her eyes at me and continued talking to the trainee.

I would think that any store dealing with children or children’s items would have a little more understanding, or at least be cordial. Needless to say I have not returned to Zara Home Kids and will never go back to that store. Zara is a massive clothing superstore and my one little experience obviously isn’t going to damage it. However, how many other little experiences like this are happening at other Zaras around the world? How many Zara Kids customers are deciding to shop at specialized kids competitors stores now for a better experience?