I saw in this morning’s news that Booths, the up-market supermarket of northern England, has made the decision to remove all its self-checkout tills from its stores. The company said that the decision followed backlash from its customers and that “we believe colleagues serving customers delivers a better customer experience.”

I’m not surprised. Like Waitrose and M&S, Booths’ customers tend to be older, and my own experience is that these shoppers struggle with the technology. As an aside, has anyone tried to self-scan a voucher in Waitrose? You need a degree in Voucherology!

The Booths story has made me reflect on other technological advances that have made life worse for customers. Two immediately come to mind: car park apps and call centres.

For car parks, where once you could simply put a couple of coins in a machine and pull out a ticket, you now need to either sign-up to 20 different apps or be prepared to spend 10 minutes on a call to an automated system so that you can pay the inflated fee by credit card.

I’ve previously written about call centres – and their disembodied cousin, the chatbot  – but if you now call one of these places you need to be prepared to write-off at least 30 minutes of your life. While I’m on it, why do call centres always suffer from unprecedented demand? Are these organisations simply terrible at forecasting what the demand is likely to be? Or is it, as I suspect, that they’re happy for their customers to wait and wait, silently seething, on the end of the line.

Tesco, the UK grocery market leader, used to use three filters for new store ideas: better for customers, simpler for colleagues and cheaper for the business. It seems that the final filter – cheaper for the business – is increasingly taking precedence in the decision-making process for new technological investments.

So, while I’m not expecting too many other supermarkets to follow suit, I do admire Booths’ decision to remove new customer service technology that makes life worse for their customers.

How about your organisation? How do you assess new customer service technologies? And how do you ensure that the investment will deliver a material benefit to the lives of your customers?

Off The Record: Your Call’s Very Important To Us, Please Hold by Sparks

I’m getting mixed signals, mixed signals, mixed signals

At first she said, “Your call is very important to us”

And then she said, “Please hold, please hold”

Then she said, “Your call is very important to us”

And she said, “Please hold, please hold”