Monday, January 15, 2007

Giving Customers What They Want

Ah money- that will do nicely

It's a funny thing isn't it. Britain's most successful customer service operator in recent years has been Tesco, about whom we have blogged many times. In the fearsomely competitive retail sector, it has been our leading mass market innovator, it has extended choice and cut prices for millions of customers, and it has generated massive profits for its shareholders. The other supermarkets have been forced to up their games or risk extinction.

And yet, for well over a decade Tesco has been condemned by the liberal media and politicians alike for exploiting the poor, destroying the fabled High Street, and even eroding the very cohesion of British society (don't believe me? Check out this wibble from the BBC this very day).

Later this week we'll hear how the Competition Commission is getting on with its probe into the £120bn pa groceries market, and doubtless we'll be treated to yet another wave of anti-Tesco hysteria. After all, they do have a 30% market share and it's growing all the time.

Now there's no doubt that Tesco is a very aggressive player. And there are clearly questions about its massive land bank, and other property dealings (see this Observer article for summary). And yes, you can bet its property execs are quite capable of skinning local authority planners alive.

But surely nobody can doubt the fundamental reason for Tesco's success: it gives its customers what they want.

How do we know that?

Because you see... and listen very carefully to this because it's quite technical... the customers wouldn't shop there if they didn't want to.

Which means of course that in delivering its service, Tesco always has to make sure customers come first- they're the ones with the money.

In contrast- and I apologise if I'm going to fast for you- our public services never have to put customers first. The ones with the money are not the customers, but the politicians.

So it's hardly surprising that public service customer service tends to verge towards the sh*te. Always and everywhere, you just need to follow the money.

I was reminded of this simple fact when I stumbled across that quite wondrous Hazel Blears Tesco video on YouTube.

In fact, I was so struck that I drew it to the attention of The Bloke, who immediately stapled some choice bits onto the end of a short vid he'd shot a while back outside Slough Tesco. See what you think:

PS Apologies for the quality of the Bloke's vid- he seems to have done this one on a £19.99 Tesco videophone.

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