Monday, 15 October 2018


No this is not about Tesco which is doing much better under Dave Lewis. Before he came along a better strapline might have been “Every dozy dinosaur needs a kick up the arse”. Having said that I have no idea why they’re targeting Aldi with their new Jack’s stores.

They are going down-and-dirty and as an occasional Aldi shopper I know it’s not down-and-dirty but just has lots of low cost, high quality products. Professor Mark Ritson in Marketing Week said Tesco should be trying to be a better Tesco and not trying to be like Aldi. Aldi is brilliant at being Aldi -  like a shark, ruthless and very efficient. This applies to Lidl too. Both examples of great retailing and high productivity.

But this blog’s not about Tesco it’s about the middle class darling Waitrose or as it’s now known Waitrose and Partners. Warning bell. An expensive rebranding exercise and  the worst profits for years. Does any connection spring to mind?

Let me confess two things. I like the partnership model and I like shopping at Waitrose. But for my loyalty to be maintained I need:
- It to stock what I want
- Its fruit and vegetables to be pristine – they charge enough to guarantee this surely?
- Its service to be exceptional

Recently little niggles have started to occur – rotten bananas, under-ripe avocados which ripen to black nastiness, constant stock-outs, no more Warburton’s bread that we like replaced by private label that we don’t like, slow service in the café, no more free coffee in the cafe on the Waitrose card, serve yourself coffee which runs out and is very messy.

It’s all very trivial, a series of little irritations but they combine to make me feel less loyal. And then it compounds…there are fewer staff around; where’s the presence of a jovial manager the sort who welcomes and is omnipresent; the rumour that you should stop using your Waitrose loyalty card because after a month the algorithm notices and the “lost customer” warning will kick in and you’ll start getting big discount vouchers to lure you back, much bigger than any “loyal” customer gets.

Little niggles build into monster gripes lead to customer loss. The “that’s typical” Victor Meldrew moments keep on happening. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do. I was told about a series of disasters at a hotel with an important customer. In desperation the manager offered a free meal with wonderful wine. All was wonderfully well until the sommelier spilt a glass of Lynch-Bages down the wife’s white dress.

We spend a lot of time talking about big pictures in business but big pictures can be ruined by a series of small smudges. Unless the process works brilliantly and consistently, unless that manager is leading from the front one thing can lead to another.

Every little cock-up leads to customers walking away – and who can blame them. Let’s not forget the maxim “the customer’s always right (even when they’re wrong”.)

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