The damage caused to your shopping experience through the disconnect between retailers and the customer journey as a whole.

If you check your receipts after shopping, you’ll almost always find a ‘Thank you for Shopping with us’ or similar at the bottom of the slip; it’s a nice touch. However, do retailers really mean it? The reason I ask is that recently, the place where I shop most (to the tune of £250 a week on average) sent me a parking fine of £80 (2 weeks after the event), dropping to £40 if I paid within 2 weeks. In fairness to the retailer, it was the company that manage the car park that sent the fine, citing the fact that I had spent over 4 hours in the shop car park.

However, I had not spent over 4 hours there. I did spend an initial 20 minutes purchasing a newspaper first thing in the morning, then, having left the shop with newspaper in hand, I returned to the same shop 3 hours later to have a cup of tea with my better half. Drinking the tea took 30 minutes, so in total I had been parked in that car park on that day for just shy of an hour. The system marked this as one visit in excess of 4 hours, from the start of my newspaper visit to the end of my tea visit. The small print shows I should not have returned within 4 hours; I was banged to rights so I paid my £40 fine. How would you feel about this if it were you?

The frustration I felt at the time was not necessarily directed toward the parking company, but toward the shop. If they knew I had been given a fine, they could have checked how much I spend a week, and made a different decision in order to keep me as a loyal customer. However, they didn’t, because the car parking management system was completely separate to the in store loyalty programme and ‘never the twain should meet’. In this day and age, customer experience will play a huge role in determining who thrives and who fails in the retail sector. Car parking is every bit a part of the customer experience as the in store or on queue experience; retailers need to look at the whole customer journey which starts and ends at home if they want to have customers that are happy and loyal.

In an ideal world, those in charge would start by focussing first on the customer and the customer journey. Starting from this position would result in a different outcome to the one outlined above.There are many good reasons for outsourcing car park management, but focussing on cost saving (for example) will not deliver the required experience customers seek. The good news is that the technology that can draw the relevant information together is available; it seems to me that the real change that needs to happen is in the mentality of the retailers. I look forward to a time when my car is recognised when it arrives in the retail car park, and I am given an extra hours parking and a free cup of tea if I visit the café. I hope my wait is not too long.

Post Script:I explained my unhappiness to the local store manager who confirmed that there is no link between the car park and the store. He gave me a £50 voucher and advised me to pop in if I need to stay beyond the maximum time limit, and that the fine is designed to stop all day parkers from abusing the car park. In the end, I am left a still loyal customer, mainly because of the compassion of the store manager. Perhaps technology will save him a job next time…

If you have recently had a retail experience outside of the shop that you wished would have been different, please leave a comment or e-mail me at ray.ffrench@cgi.com

 

About this author

Picture of Ray Ffrench

Ray Ffrench

Director, Retail

In a career spanning 30+ years Ray has endeavoured to deliver solutions to customers that are ‘original, stylish and add value’. He has worked across multiple sectors including automotive, transport & logistics, gaming, telco, retail and leisure. In his current role at CGI he is ...

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