Turning efficiency into a better customer experience

Originalfoto: VG

Visma Retail has over the last year, together with Bunnpris, gained many experiences and insights around self checkout and how it should be implemented.

Bunnpris Blindern opened June 20th, as the first store of its kind, with only self checkout tills. This generated a lot of publicity, leaving many wide eyes wondering how this should turn out..

Self checkout is by some regarded solely as a one way benefit for the retailer to save labour cost by pushing tasks over to the customer. Some start savouring their talks with cashiers in fear of never having that little chat again . Some people fear being left alone to handle a technology they don’t understand. Others, mostly retailers of course, are afraid that self checkout is an open door allowing the customer to walk away with unpaid items.

And sure, self checkout can be any of those.. But it isn’t.. Or needn’t be.

Replacing ALL manned tills with self checkout tills, introduces many challenges to the store personnel as well as the customer. Self checkout is a different way of shopping, both for the customer and the clerks. The more adopted approach of replacing maybe 3 of 8 tills with 6-8 self checkout tills introduces more capacity, while reducing the need for manpower in that area. Manpower that can partly be moved to offering more service to the customers, partly to save costs. And having some manned tills, some self serviced, gives the customer the choice of how they want to finish their shopping. This is almost always perceived as a positive thing by the customers, cutting lines and offering flexibility for the customers.

The psychological barrier for acceptance or even appraisal is higher when you only can do self checkout.. Then all the fears mentioned above enter the head. And sure enough, some people have protested against the concept in Bunnpris Blindern. Offering no choice is just one of those things. But most customers are satisfied… And why is that?

Average waiting time has decreased, making it faster to do your shopping. 7 tills are now always open, compared to 1-4 before June. Nobody wants to stand in line.

Then, having reached the tills, people find it very easy and intuitive to scan the items and pay. No sweat! The user interface and the flow in the POS is designed to minimize obstructions for the customers, and many optimizations have been introduced since the opening.

And both customers and clerks now experience more contact and a closer contact than before. There are always between 1-4 clerks welcoming you, saying hi, and assisting you in the check out area. Self checkout means redefining the cashier to a store host(ess). From repetitive scanning, the clerks now take a more active stance, engaging more with the customers seeking this contact. And always establishing eye contact to check if the customers wants you to assist.

This closer contact with the hosts is also a preventive security measure, making shop lifting more visible and risky. But that dimension is never emphasised, the customer is seen, which is and should be a positive experience. No customers have so far been caught trying to cheat the system in the controls, but some old school attempts have been stopped due to the presence of the clerks walking around in the area!

In short, the innovation efforts of Visma Retail and Bunnpris have created a new store concept that hasn’t caused revenue to diminish, that is appraised by the customers, the clerks think this is a better and more fulfilling way of doing their job, the store is better kept from the extra time available to replenish the shelves, and the shrink is reduced.

All while saving hundreds of man-hours every month.. Looking good so far! We now have a mature concept that we can bring to other stores, and yet a couple of innovations that will further enhance the customer experience in efficient stores.

The lady in this film from Blindern posted on Youtube has some concerns for shopping with larger baskets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPg1nBgEamM

I think we already have the answers to that, look out for changes in your local store in a not to distant future.