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Tesco fails to deliver – on delivery slots!

Tesco fails to plan for Christmas

Tesco products in a basket

For many years now Tesco like other supermarkets has offered home delivery of your shopping. You can book hourly slots or flexible slots from 6.00am to 11.00pm every day. Tesco also offers a Delivery Saver options where customers can pay for a subscription-based delivery service to save money on the cost of deliveries.

Yesterday (12 November 2020) Tesco customers who are Delivery Savers received notification that slots for Christmas would open two weeks earlier than normal, at 7.00am the following day.

As you would expect, in a repeat of what we saw at the beginning of the March 2020 lockdown, people tried to get slots by staying up to midnight to book a slot as soon as it became available. However, customers queued online for well over an hour and in some cases more than two hours.

The Tesco Twitter feed was plastered with complaints about the site:

Many people complained that friends and relatives who had been in the queue for less time than them but that they were still waiting.

For many of those who were able to finally get a slot they then couldn’t checkout!


Others got through and found their basket had been emptied and had to start all over again.

At 9.45am a Tesco Spokesperson said:

“Demand for online slots over the festive period is high, and we have more slots this Christmas than ever before. We are experiencing high volumes of traffic to our website and Groceries app and are temporarily limiting the number of customers using it. We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused and would like to reassure customers that there are still slots available for both home delivery and Click & Collect over the Christmas period.”

However, this was not strictly true, as slots were not available from 8.45am:

And just a few hours after opening there were still no slots available. This was the situation at 10.00am:

showing all slots from 21/12/20 booked

Despite this, the Tesco Twitter team was still advising people that slots were available. It admitted that there were technical problems causing some of the issues.

Others offered ways round:

and using more than one device or having lots of tabs open can help too.

Numerous people told the team that the system was wrong and suggested solutions, such as using previous information from customers:

Other ideas included: giving priority to people who had been on the delivery scheme for longer than others, especially as some join the scheme purely for Christmas; informing people of where they are in a position in the queue; releasing some slots at different times of the day, especially as the planned 7.00am time left many parents unable to both watch the site and get children ready for school.

During lockdown many people tried to book a delivery slot and many of these people would not even have been Delivery Saver customers. So, in theory, today should have seen fewer customers trying to book a slot!  But it was chaotic and far worse than through lockdown, when people were left without delivery slots. This time they had to wait for two hours to be told they had missed a slot or get beaten by someone who had waited less time than them!

Tesco has increased the number of its delivery slots from 600,000 to 1.5million a week – which is more than double what was available at the start of the coronavirus lockdown but it’s not clear how many more, if any since the end of lockdown when we know slots increased hugely. In may 2020 it was 1.2 million.

Businesses need to be much better at planning these things. Christmas isn’t like COVID, it can be predicted! Tesco needs to learn lessons from previous years and indeed from throughout this year, when reliable home delivery has become so important.

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Know your customer

This week is Customer Service Week run by the Institute of Customer Service. Today’s theme is Insight: Knowing your customer and how to deliver to them.

Like any relationship, people buy from people. Get to know, like and trust your customers, as people. If you get to know your customers then you will grow to like them and trust them in the same way that they will with you.

3 people round table with lap top with tables on

Ask customers for feedback, but not at the end of the whole transaction. Their last memory of doing business with you will be one of having to do a survey. It also benefits you, it doesn’t benefit them. Why should they do it? When you do work you get paid for it, right? They are paying you for a product or service, so why aren’t you paying them in some way? Provide an incentive, a small discount perhaps, and not just entering them into a competition!

Some customers don’t want to email, some don’t want to spend more time on the phone giving feedback at the end of the call, some don’t see any value in ticking a smiley face after an online chat. But many of them DO want to tell you what you did well and where you can improve.

It takes Allsorts, how to treat customers as individuals

Ensure a variety of different methods for customers to give feedback. You should be aware of the limitations and issues with each method and monitor accordingly. Think about simply asking “Would you recommend us to a friend?” which will often provide you with the same valuable information as if you had asked 10 questions. There’s always the option for the customer to give you more details if they want to do so. Again be wary of all “Yes” answers, as they could be saying that just to be quick! And ensure that the feedback is anonymous, so that people don’t feel that they have to give only positive feedback.

You could invite customers in for a fun event. (Covid safe or park the idea for when you can). For example, wine and nibbles whilst getting their feedback. Invite the customers to interview you, make videos, let them share their needs with you and the get them to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. Invite customers who have complained about your service, as they are the people you will learn the most from and who can be turned into loyal customers who will shout about your business.

Senior management staff could learn a lot about their customers by going onto the shop floor or answering the phones too. Certainly making an effort to reach vulnerable customers in the community will have benefits all round.

When you receive the feedback, use it. Use it to shape your business and most of all go back to the customers who gave you the feedback and thank them. A thank you goes a long way and a customer who knows their opinion has been valuable and useful is going to be your best advocate.

How important are good manners in business

How do you get feedback?

Where are your customer service skills? How do you improve them?

How to celebrate and recognise your customer service heroes

Bringing customer service to the Boardroom

Build your brand through Trust, Ethics & Sustainability

If you’d like more ideas on how to improve getting and using feedback see Services.