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Latest Asda figures show weaknesses in sales and customer services

Poor results demonstrate yet again that supermarkets must provide better service or risk losing more business

 Asda’s latest quarterly figures are out, showing a 5.8% fall in sales at established stores in the 13 weeks to the 1st January. Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco supermarkets, by comparison, all showed better than expected financial figures for Christmas trading, and discounters Lidl and Aldi taking on a substantial share of the sales (nearly one million more customers than last year). What is next for the supermarkets?

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow – consumer blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! – says that as customers shopping habits are changing. As we become more savvy about discounts, service, consumer rights and comparison websites, supermarkets will have to up their game. “Customers don’t have trust in supermarkets and this needs to be worked on”, she advises.

Pricing – Consumers want consistent pricing. It even led to the Which? super complaint. The consumer’s voice is getting stronger and supermarkets will have to start listening. If one supermarket shows a lead, then they will win over many a customer so widespread is the complaint.

2)   Something more? – Supermarkets need to offer something over and above price. Price wars will have to end eventually. Rewards etc., will become more important as will service. Tesco leads the way in the clubcard points offering the most per pound and variety of how to spend them. In comparison Sainsbury’s reduced their points value in April last year with fewer choices to spend them on.

3)  Price matching – most customers don’t know how it all works, who matches what and what the rules are. Did you know that you had to have 10 branded items in the Tesco brand match scheme before it comes it comes into play?  Fair play to Tesco for taking it off at the till but its rules are not completely transparent. Consumers want to know that they are getting value for money and price matching is only one way of showing this.

4)    Listening – Supermarket CEOs will have to listen to customers more. For example, Mike Coupe at Sainsbury’s shows signs of following Clarke’s leadership and downfall at Tesco. Last year when Sainsbury’s announced the decrease in nectar points per pound it said it would be making better and bigger offers, with more included in their double-up voucher scheme at Christmas. In reality the double up points scheme was limited to £20 per department with confusion around Christmas gifts and food. £20 limit on toys for a family of 4 isn’t very helpful either! It happened again in 2015. In contrast in 2014 Tesco simplified the doubling-up process so customers could spend across departments with no limit.

5)    Discounters – Consumers are flocking to the discounters, which do not offer the same range as other supermarkets, so people will not completely stop using larger ones and discounters may need to look at more expansion of stock.

6)    Savings – People are looking to save time as well as money and supermarkets will need to look at ways to make it easier and quicker for shoppers to use their stores. Tesco recently changed their minimum spend for click and collect from £20 – £40 but Sainsbury’s has, so far, kept at £20 and Asda’s is free. It remains to be seen if the discounters will provide click and collect and deliveries which would bring more competition to the table and whether Asda will bring its collections in line with others.

7)  Waste – Consumers are becoming more aware of waste and how supermarkets treat suppliers. The BBC documentary War on Waste showed a farmer destroying crops it said Morrisons would not accept plus cancelled orders etc. Dewdney’s research of the issue[1] found that actually some supermarkets are doing really well in reducing waste. She also uncovered the other side of the story from Morrisons regarding a number of issues which was not shown. Supermarkets need to do more in informing consumers of what they are doing or customers will come to their own conclusions.

8)    Advertising – Supermarkets should review their advertising campaigns. Sainsbury’s did well this year but Tesco’s campaign has brought much criticism, from sexism, to unrealistic and disbelief in characters. [2] Advertising on this scale doesn’t bring in the extra revenue to pay for it, so supermarkets need to win customers round in more engaging and innovative ways.

9)    Customer Service – Supermarkets will have to improve customer service. Marcus Williamson – editor of the website ceoemail.com – says that searches for the email addresses of supermarket CEOs are very high. Figures for the last quarter were:

Store         Percentage              Market share            Expected ranking              

Asda                    50.48%                           16.7%                  Tesco

Sainsbury           21.75%                            16.2%                  Asda

Tesco                  16.75%                             28.2%                 Sainsbury’s

Morrisons           5.75%                              10.7%                 Morrisons

ALDI                    2.74%                              5.6%                  Aldi

LIDL                     2.53%                             4.3%                  Lidl

Williamson cautions that Asda clearly needs to work on customer service and complaints policies and procedures.

Contact for media enquiries
Email:             helen@thecomplainingcow.co.uk
Website:         //www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk
Book:              How to Complain: the Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! (ISBN: 978-0993070402)

CEO email website:  CEOemail.com

References
[1] Research available on request
[2] Tesco takes flak in the battle of the Christmas adverts http://ow.ly/YuqRk

 

12/03/2015 Discussing Morrisons figures on BBC Breakfast Business

 

 

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Britain – a nation of complainers

Britain – a nation of complainers

But are they effective in their complaints?

This week’s figures, compiled by Ombudsman Services [1], show that Britons made 66 million complaints last year, which works out at more than one grumble for every adult in the UK. This figure has risen from the previous year. [2]

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, consumer blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! warns of treating the figures with caution.

The figures are taken from a survey of only 2,355 of people and scaled up. It doesn’t show how effective these complaints are. Dewdney comments “It is quite possible that more Britons are moaning more about more things but there is little information on whether these are complaints that are effective and gaining redress or whether it is just people having a rant and a moan.”

So are Britons complaining more? Dewdney doesn’t think so, as she sees the same issues cropping up as they did five years ago. “People are still unsure of their legal rights and so easily get fobbed off”, she explains. “Many companies will try and wriggle out of providing a full refund when it is due, for example. Also people give up when given the run around by companies, or don’t know how to complain effectively and so fail in getting refunds and redress.”

How about social media? This offers a new way for consumers to seek justice, with the proportion of complaints raised on sites like Facebook and Twitter increasing to 36 per cent, up five per cent from a year ago – more than 18 million complaints in total. This may account for the rise in complaints but are they actually complaints gaining redress or are they just rants?

When customer services doesn’t work, people have a number of choices as to where to go next, whether it’s to the CEO, to an ombudsman or even to the small claims court.

Marcus Williamson, editor of the consumer website ceoemail.com which provides contact details for many CEOs, recommends escalating issues to the CEO as a next step, when necessary. He says “Sometimes it takes an email to the top man or woman to get issues moving. It is the best way to get attention for your issue, if you’re being ignored by the usual channels.”

So, how well do you know your legal rights and how to complain effectively?

1) Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to goods that are of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, match the description and last a reasonable length of time. If items you purchase are in breach of this Act you are entitled to a full refund (up to 30 days from purchase) repair or replacement.

2) Under the same Act you are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care.

3) When complaining, put it in writing so that you have the evidence should you need to take the matter further. If you do ‘phone make sure you take the name of the person, any reference number and follow up any agreements made verbally with an email.

4) Be objective, polite and succinct. Bullet point issues if it is a long complaint.

5) State what you want to happen as an outcome to your complaint, such as explanation, apology, refund etc.

6) Give a deadline by which you expect to receive a response and what you will do if you don’t receive a satisfactory one, such as contacting a relevant ombudsman, Small Claims Court etc.

7) If it is a serious complaint, or you are not satisfied with customer services, go to the CEO. The CEO is unlikely to respond personally (although some will) but the complaint will go to a more senior team than customer services.

 

 

References

[1] Link to Ombudsman Services survey: https://www.ombudsman-services.org/2015-complaints-top-50-million.html

[2] Last year’s figure was 38 million complaints.