Effective Deployment Of Innovation Is The Hallmark Of A Great Company


Technology today allows any company to significantly improve the customer experience. However, what separates the great companies from others is their commitment to ensuring the actual customer experience is positive.

Waitrose happens to be one of my favourite grocery stores. I’m also a fan of using whatever smart devices are available to make my life easier. So when Waitrose introduced their ‘handheld checker’ I thought I must try it out. For the life of me, I really couldn’t figure it out. This scanner had a rather large handle with a small screen and it was unwieldy, forcing me to rethink my entire way of shopping. I thought to myself “why would they go to the expense of making these handheld units when they could have just had an app”. Did somebody in head office really think people would re-learn everything just to be able to purchase their own groceries? Unfortunately, yes someone did.

However, Waitrose is a good, customer-focused company. Early in the year I received an email saying they now had a new app called Quick Check. I immediately downloaded it and off I went to the store to do my shopping. It appeared that thorough training for front line staff was not considered to be a significant issue in the go to market plan. They seemed to have some awareness of it, but did not seem to have had an opportunity to use it themselves or role play with their colleagues before the customers started using it. To start shopping with the app, it was necessary to find the in-store QR code. An employee and myself searched a little before finding it – prominent in-store signage would have helped.

Since it was on my phone and it was similar to other apps, I could find my way around the user interface and happily went scanning through the store and joined the queue to checkout. Of course, as previously noted the staff had not been trained yet. So, the cashier had to find someone who had to locate another person who could figure out how to input the bill on their cash register for all of the items I had scanned and process my payment.

As I pick up things every two or three days, I quickly learned how to scan and pay for my items. I even found two self-checkout machines at the far end of the store so I could be in and out quickly. Waitrose now had a very happy customer.

All continued well for a number of months. One day when I arrived at the store entrance to scan the QR code to kickstart my shopping, I couldn’t find it. Apparently, somebody had moved it and placed it behind the window as can be seen in the photos. Given anyone who was using the app obviously appreciated the speed and convenience benefits, this was not very helpful. It took a few weeks to get this sorted and back to its original place.

Waitrose is a successful company in a very competitive industry. However, there remains room for improvement in the in-store execution of new services to improve the customer experience.

Innovation is a fact of life and market success is achieved at the moment of customer engagement when actual customers think their journey is made easier.

There are a few key learnings for any organisation.

1. Understand very clearly which customer segment is most likely to be the early adopters
2. Understand their behaviours.
3. Train, train and re-train your front line staff who will deal with the actual customers.
4. Appoint an employee who knows the new innovation in each and every shift to quickly and promptly assist customers.