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Self-Checkouts vs Staffed Lanes: Embracing Process Change in Supermarket Shopping

Process improvement is ubiquitous, but so too is the resistance to change.

Love them or loathe them, self-checkouts are becoming a permanent fixture. Our local supermarket recently replaced another three staffed lanes with six conveyor-style self-service checkouts. This change not only caused confusion as the existing self-service checkouts became exclusive to card and basket usage, but it also sparked a social media frenzy as people debated the pros and cons.

I personally am a fan of not only self-checkout, but also the convenience of having an app on my phone and scanning as I navigate through the store. This offers many benefits for me:

  • I can pack the bags as I shop.
  • I can swiftly navigate through the checkouts as everything is pre-scanned, only requiring payment.
  • I have an ongoing tally of my spending.
  • It integrates seamlessly with my digital shopping list.

For me, it simply works. However, I observe others who are more resistant to such changes:

  • They may not possess a smartphone or a digital shopping list.
  • They might not be as accustomed to using technology and could find self-scan confusing or unreliable.
  • They appreciate the social interaction provided by staffed checkouts.

However, this resistance doesn’t signify they’re in the wrong. It simply indicates a differing set of requirements, wants, and needs.

Supermarkets need to keep pace with the rapidity of change, continuously seeking efficiencies to maintain low costs while also attentively listening to the diverse range of opinions their customers possess. In the same vein as in business, involving people in the change process, obtaining their opinions upfront, and appropriately communicating changes can go a long way.

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