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Bye bye Dave Lewis – every little helped!

Dave Lewis quits as Tesco Group CEO 30 September

It’s the end of an era.

Dave Lewis is leaving Tesco after six years as CEO. No cloud, no bad trading figures and no flash new job to go to. Pretty unusual! But then Dave was always quite unusual. And not in a weird way!

Six years ago I wrote to Dave just before he started at Tesco. I told him what I thought of the outgoing CEO, Philip Clarke and how I had successfully taken Tesco to court in the previous year. He invited me to meet him and to discuss what consumers thought about Tesco. I liked Dave’s comment in his email “Keep on complaining because that is how we will improve” and waited a while for Dave to settle in before contacting him again. In fact, I waited a couple of weeks, making contact during the week when the story broke about the financial irregularities and suspension of key Tesco personnel. Believing that it would be just what Dave wanted, to meet me because, well he wouldn’t be that busy would he? And even if he was he might like a little bit of light relief. To give him credit he met me the following week. And for nearly three hours too!

Tesco Group CEO Dave Lewis Helen Dewdney in store

I found him to be genuine and personable. Clearly far more interested in what customers, past, present and future thought of Tesco than his predecessor, who in my opinion was greedy and it backfired. Dave wanted to listen to customers and get it right for them and the profits would follow. He was right.

I believe that his answers to the questions below back up what I think about him. For example, his advice on giving positive feedback about good service. He is very much more a people person than one to use social media and Internet, except when he has to (his emails to me were often filled with typos! 😉 )

Over the years I wrote a guest post for Tesco, met the executive team, interviewed the new Chief Customer Officer, disagreed many times on the notorious issue of Fake Farms and adverts (I still maintain that I was right!) and other things, culminating in an exclusive interview with the UK CEO, Matt Davies and Dave Lewis, the only interview that they did together.

Tesco | Complaining Cow meets Dave Lewis and Matt Davies

You can read more about my time working with Tesco in Case study: Tesco and a consumer champion

Here are the answers from Dave Lewis in response to my questions, as part of the interview series “The complaining habits of public figures and those in the consumer world”:

Dave Lewis interview on his complaining habits

1)  Generally, do you complain to a company regarding a faulty item?

If a product is faulty then like anyone else I would want one that isn’t. It’s not that I am complaining as such, but I think it’s fair to speak to the company and seek a replacement. It’s what I would expect of any Tesco customer.

2)   How much does the likely redress have to be before you will complain and why?

I don’t think about it that way…context is important. If I have a bad customer experience because someone made a genuine mistake, I probably wouldn’t complain. We have all had those days. If, on the other hand, I don’t feel valued by a company and I have had a bad customer experience, I will mention it.

3)   How well do you know your legal rights (Consumer Rights Act, different sectors regulations etc.)

I’m no lawyer but I have an understanding. Thankfully, I have never had to refer to them.

4)  If you receive service over and above good do you give feedback? How?

I try to give positive feedback to the individual, in the moment – but of course, there are times when I take good service for granted, as I’m sure many of us are guilty of doing. A thank you goes a long way. I know from speaking to Tesco colleagues that it is always welcome.

5) If you receive poor service how many people do you tell (include your social media followers too!)

I’m not on social media but if I had poor service I would mention it as appropriately as possible in the moment.

6)  If you receive good service how many people do you tell?

Probably not enough – but again I do try to share my appreciation in the moment with the person who gave the great service.

7)  If you don’t really complain or it has to be a significant amount in question before you will, what stops you from complaining?

As I mentioned before, if there is a problem that can be resolved (ie. faulty product), I will try and resolve it. Otherwise, like many people I expect, I don’t want to spend time dwelling on it.

8)  What do you think of using social media to complain?

I would always rather have a conversation with someone, but I know some of our customers find social channels quick and helpful and we have a fantastic social team working at Tesco to help customers with all sorts of questions.

9)  Is customer service/being able to gain redress a factor when deciding where to purchase an item

Not at all. I think it’s fair to expect good service wherever you choose to shop and your rights apply everywhere.

Looking at this through a Tesco lens, customer service contributes to the whole shopping experience. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not always about being able to get a refund but it is about feeling valued and it absolutely has an impact on where people choose to shop. We are constantly talking to our customers and measuring the overall experience in store, which includes questions like are colleagues helpful? Did you have to queue for a long time? I think all these things add up to the overall shopping experience.

10) Do you ever contact a CEO of a company? If so at what point in the complaint process?

No, as I said earlier I try to deal with good and bad service in the moment.

11)  If you have ever used an ADR scheme (ombudsman/mediation/arbitrator) or gone to Small Claims Court tell us about it

No, it’s not something I’ve ever had to do.

About Dave Lewis

Dave Lewis head shot

Dave Lewis joined the Board of Tesco PLC as Group Chief Executive on 1 September 2014.  Over the last six years he has led a successful turnaround of the UK’s leading food retailer.

Before joining Tesco he worked for Unilever for nearly 30 years in a variety of roles across Europe, Asia and the Americas.  His last role at Unilever was President for Personal Care globally.  He has also been a non-executive director of Sky PLC.

Dave will step down as Group Chief Executive of Tesco on 30 September 2020, and will be succeeded by Ken Murphy.

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