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.

Help with your complaints

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Did Eat Out to Help Out really help out?

The Eat Out to Help Out scheme data

Over 64 million meals were claimed in the first three weeks of the scheme. 87,000 claims were made in that time by restaurants. The Government outlined research data from OpenTable showing that “… during Eat Out to Help Out’s third week the number of customers at UK restaurants was 61% higher than the same days last year on average for Monday to Wednesday. The average level across Monday to Wednesday in the first and second week were 12% and 41% respectively.”

The data also shows that the number of customers at UK restaurants was up 17% compared to the same week in 2019

The Government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme saw consumers flock to restaurants to take advantage of an offer of 50% off meals and non alcoholic drinks, up to a maximum of £10 per person. But as the scheme ends today (31 August 2020), will consumers continue to eat out and has it helped?

I’ve been finding out more by asking on social media for people’s views:

Restaurants and safety

There were mixed feelings about safety:

Although Kathleen added that she felt less safe in England!

Shivali provided a win-win for more than just the restaurant and her:

Did restaurants gain?

Restaurants may find that they did not/will not gain as much as hoped, as some consumers spoke about using the scheme to visit restaurants on a different day than usual. Others spoke about not eating out in September, as they ate out so much in August! Some people even spoke about having a three-course meal with each course at a different venue to make even more of a saving. Some even had three meals out in one day (!)

More than saving money

Consumers spoke about going somewhere new and that they would return. For Heidi it was a win for both the restaurant and her.The scheme didn’t just help support restaurants and save consumers a little money though.

Not just helping restaurants

Janet Oganah owns Janet’s List, a curated platform that uses innovative approaches to connect consumers with brands by black women and women of colour from the UK. It provides unique pop-up concept stores in mainstream city locations, strategic retail partnerships and their direct-to-consumer website. She had lunch after a site visit for a potential future pop-up concept store. She usually just has a quick coffee or snack to catch up in person. But she took advantage of the scheme and said:

“We decided to have a ‘lovelier’ lunch than usual so went to the Ivy Market Grill in Covent Garden. This was only my second meal out since lockdown so I was quite nervous. They had but they had good measures in place (temperature checks, a foot-operated hand sanitiser and proper social distancing which was helpful). Petersham Nurseries was our actual preference (but they only opened from Wednesday onwards) so we found an alternative close by (The Ivy Market Grill) on the scheme. That definitely is not a ‘normal’ lunch so felt like a treat and I would go back.”

Has Eat Out to Help Out worked?

So has the scheme worked? It is probably too early to tell but respondents to a Twitter poll asking if the scheme had encouraged consumers to return to eating out, approximately one third of respondents said that it had.

As the survey shows, two thirds of respondents said that it hadn’t made any difference. So whilst many people did take advantage of the scheme, is it likely to help the economy in the long run? Is one third of the country eating out more because of the scheme going to last?  The scheme appears to have helped the sector. However, restaurants and cafes will continue to experience hardship, as they must either turn excess customers away due to social distancing or struggle to get people to visit them.

Wider help for businesses is needed

But should the Government be helping out only one sector in this way? Why just this sector? How about discounts to get people into gyms? Or discounts for UK attractions? The list could go on.

The Government should be looking at general policies, not specifically targeted policies, such as reductions in income tax and VAT, that would help businesses across all sectors.