Business Report Example

The concept of customer service in retail has evolved over the twentieth century. Clarence Saunders started the concept of self-service in 1916 when he set up “Piggly Wiggly,” the first self-service grocery store. This concept helped reduce costs because fewer employees were required to serve customers (The Economist, 2004). However, the right self-checkout solution is needed to help retailers minimize loss. First, the store must consider a flexible solution that allows security settings to be configured based on shoppers’ needs. Secondly, there are choices to be made on technology the vendor utilizes to assist the store/supermarket to get the most value from the self-check solution. Lastly, the selected solution should be based on open standards that allow for easy integration of both the existing and emerging loss-prevention technologies into the supermarket’s self-check environment.

The process of implementation can be divided into the following segments: staffing, management configurations, and technology.

Staffing is mostly concerned with educating the associates by training them to detect shoplifting habits and tactics. They also should be taught how to offer special service to shoppers who may be technologically challenged. Employees who complete this training will receive certificates.

Management configurations create accountability by having employees login using their accounts on the central self-checkout register. Since these accounts have limited accessibility, there is less potential for employee-based shrinkage, thus introducing an extra layer of accountability. Properly configured self-checkout lanes ensure that the associate has the best view of all the lanes which is intended to minimize sliding, bottom-of-basket, and other forms of loss. The store should also maintain a security data base that raises an alarm to trigger the cashier’s involvement in the instances where sales total greater than a specified dollar amount. These are pre-set configurations and each store can set them to suit the supermarket’s specific needs.

Technology, the last component, includes the installation of surveillance cameras around the self-check lanes. If a checkout point does not ensure that all goods are accounted for, then the supermarkets may incur losses because of theft. Questions of security arise when some customers try to take goods for which they have not paid. The cameras may act as a physical deterrent for potential shoplifters. The cameras can be coupled with the store’s incorporation of bottom-basket technology. Sensors and video surveillance are used to scan the bottom of basket or shopping cart to ensure the customer pays for all items.

Some machines may not be user friendly and they may be confusing. In addition, self-checkouts have yet to customize counters that allow persons with disabilities to utilize them easily. This puts efficiency of the system into questions because some customers may spend more time at the checkout point than others. There also exist ethical issues of whether the supermarket will have to lay off its staff since the self-check-out point acts as a replacement for tellers and till employees. Many surveys have shown a growing trend in shoplifting where supermarkets have installed self-serve checkouts. There are also increased cases of customers switching barcodes to lower the cost of an item in stores that have installed self-checkout stations.

No matter how wonderfully the store stocks its products or how cheaply it prices goods, if the checkout experience is disastrous, the store may lose customers. This is because the last impression of the store is what remains vivid in the customers’ mind.

For a store or supermarket to consider implementing self-serve check outs, it should first of all assess if it is actually struggling with certain issues that self-service addresses. These issues may range from long lines at the checkouts, managers or supervisors running registers, perpetually understaffed or unstaffed registers, the store’s inability to deal with spikes or surges of customer, an increased number of customers abandoning their filled carts, and poor cashiering practices such as incorrect scanning, missed items, or the inability to resolve issues.

References:

Easterlin, R. A. (2004). The reluctant economist: Perspectives on economics, economic history and demography. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Bowlby, R. (2001). Carried away: The invention of modern shopping. New York: Columbia University Press.
Mohammed, A. A.-S., & N.K.H, T. (January 01, 2000). Information technology in Saudi Arabia’s supermarket chains. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 28, 8, 341-356.
Edmund, P., Gregory, V. F., & Pedro, M. R. (January 01, 2005). Future impacts of RFID on e-supply chains in grocery retailing. Supply Chain Management: an International Journal, 10, 2, 134-142.
Panos, E. K., & George, M. G. (February 01, 2008). The Design Challenge of Pervasive Information Systems. 29-78.
Cheng, W., Jennifer, H., & Paul, G. P. (January 01, 2012). Customer choice of self-service technology: the roles of situational influences and past experience. Journal of Service Management, 23, 1, 54-78.

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