Understand The Change You Are Initiating

If you are going to make a change in your organization, or people’s lives, you must first understand the purpose of the change. Then you must take the change to its fullest conclusion, or else you will have a lukewarm impact. 

Self-Serve Checkout’s Done Wrong

I had two experiences with self-serve checkouts this weekend. The first was with Home Depot[*], where an accommodating and friendly service person talked to me during the entire transaction. The second was with Walmart[*], where a glitch in checking out caused the self-serve checkout to call over an attendant who could enter the code for the Bluetooth speaker I bought. 

Unfortunately, both experiences were terrible. 

At Home Depot, I chose the self-service line because I wanted to be able to continue to listen to the audiobook playing through my (obviously white) earbuds. With a friendly attendant talking to me, I had the choice of missing a part of the book or being rude by ignoring the person. I might have managed to take the middle path and achieve both. 

At Walmart, after helping me, the attendant put the speaker down beside the monitor. When I gathered my goods from the bagging area, I did not pick up the speaker and subsequently lost my purchase. (I realized my mistake about 24 hours later when the speaker was long gone.)

If You Make a Change, Go All The Way

And: Change Your Perspective

I understand that the purpose of the attendants by the automatic checkout is to help people who run into trouble. Having attendants to help people starts with the assumption that the checkouts are there to make the store more efficient. The attendant is there to make sure that as the store is more efficient because of self-service, the customer doesn’t feel too frustrated when they run into trouble. 

But you could also start from the perspective of customers who WANT automatic checkouts. These customers are people, like me, who would prefer to interact with a machine for rote, repetitive tasks. If I run into trouble with checkout, you can provide me with three options: 

  • Let me abandon my item (Amazon knows I do this all the time if I run into an experience that is less then smooth) 
  • Let me continue the automatic checkout with the items that work and then go somewhere else for the required human intervention
  • Make a real-time automatic checkout process that directs me to whether I should use the automated line or not. I could scan items as I pick them off the shelf. By the time that I get to the checkout, the system would know whether a human intervention was needed and could funnel me to a line that had partial self-serve with an attendant who would already be aware of the problem that I was going to have. 

What is Your Change? 

Describing process improvement at major retail stores is easy. But what process are you responsible for that is working at cross-purposes to itself? How can you change your perspective so that you are focused on the desires of a different group of people, but have the same benefit and outcome as you originally intended? Are you frustrating people by saying that you hold one thing important, but then try to deliver on different benefit?

Understand the change that you are trying to make and follow it through to completion.


[*] I choose to name the stores in this post, but not because I have any issue that I think needs to be rectified. I name the stores in the hope that their web-crawlers will read about an actual customer’s experience and that they may gain some insight.