Tits Up for Tesco?

firstaiddocThe Nuneaton branch of Tesco’s was in trouble and Persil and our other products were not getting the visibility or the sales they deserved. The Lever Midland sales manager called me in as the rep servicing that branch. ‘What to do? Perhaps I could go in at 7.30 before it opened in the morning and give the manager a hand?!”he suggested. I felt this was a very bad idea – such an early start, my dears –  but did not say so since it would have been an early end to my triumphant progression to being head of Unilever – the commercial equivalent of the British Empire. This destiny was not in fact destined to be mine but there was no escaping the importance of Tesco’s. Before the days of central ordering and delivery, salesmen still called in the branch to take their turn on the queue outside the manager’s door of postulant hopefuls  all primed with their promotional offers of the day in a monstrous briefcases with the Cortina parked outside for a quick getaway. The ‘on-the-road’experience was thought to be the best way to knock any arrogance out of the latest crop of marketing trainees with their airs, graces and degrees. Make your day with a rumble in the carpark with the rep from Proctor and Gamble – the American upstarts.

Decades later, I found myself helping out in the new Tesco call centre in Dundee and there was no mistaking the energy and commitment from that extension of the Tesco Empire into Scotland – still largely terra incognito for English supermarkets. Tesco had swallowed up William Lows, the Clubcard was riding high and all was buzzing amongst the largely young workforce – many graduates – as they dealt with the flood of calls. Tesco had done a canny deal taking advantage of regional and local financial assistance so that while I am sure the staff were not paid in groats and sacks of porridge (discounted for staff), they were not earning much but who cared? They were part of an Empire which loomed much larger in their and the nation’s lives than anything that George Lucas could dream up.

The dream has now turned a little sour but it is premature to write them off. Perhaps they might revive an idea they have been playing with for a while and that is branch-based customer panels run by the local manager. The old store meeting model could be augmented by use of social media – to combine a human touch with the data crunched insights of the Club Card. Powerful stuff. It is interesting that their store survey now asks questions that asks you about your emotions when visiting the shop. You are invited to fill in a rather long questionnaire by going to www.tescoviews.com and after all the usual questions about tidy shop, how fresh the fruit and how long the wait at the checkout, you are asked to say whether you really like Tesco’s or not. It would be very interesting to see this ‘feeling index’ for Tesco’s and indeed everyone else’s. Then we could link it to levels of business and see whether shops with a very positive emotional rating did better than other comparable outlets. Lidl does not bother – its version of the visit experience questionnaire does not bother with this touchy feely stuff although it does ask the recommend question. Otherwise it focuses on the traditional pre-occupations – tidiness, stock, staff.

It is good to ask and the exercise acknowledges how vital it is to feel what Barry White would call THE LURRRVE.

 

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