The Systems Dilemma

Our weekly Sunday grocery shopping at the Spar Hypermarket saw a change yesterday. As we needed to browse stores at MG Road (Bangalore), we decided to shop at the Spencer's store. Our shopping at Spencer's went a long way in reaffirming our steadfast admiration for Spar, as our Spencer's experience was terrible, to say the least.

From store personnel stacking shelves to littered aisles with 'to be stacked products' to wilted vegetables, the list of what retail stores must never be, seemed endless. I wonder how a store that does so badly on a Retail experience can even hope to survive.

But then I mustn't be shocked. I must count Spar among the few blessings that I can enjoy while going shopping and be content. Messing up on Customer experiences is not limited to the likes of Spencer's. It even afflicts the likes of the iconic Starbucks.

Consider Joel Spolsky's experience at a Starbucks store. In his article, titled, 'How Hard Could It Be?: Good System, Bad System', he writes about how a business firm with one of the best systems, one that piloted its stupendous growth, messes up on simple experiences inside the store. He writes, 'Starbucks is great at operations research. It wouldn't have become the company it is today if it hadn't created detailed manuals telling people how best to assemble the various chemicals that make up a modern adult milk shake. All of those independent coffee shops that have a nostalgic fixation on grinding the coffee beans right before using them, claiming this "tastes better" -- these poor shops go out of business left and right, because they don't have the right system. They make only a handful of drinks in the time it takes Starbucks to serve a hundred.

But as it has grown, Starbucks seems to have lost its knack for figuring out whether the policies dreamed up at HQ are really going to work in the field. Indeed, most of the people posting on Starbucks Gossip seem to agree that Starbucks HQ is hopelessly naive about the reality of the employees' daily work lives. Those icy blended drinks might bring in more customers in the summer, but they take too long to make, so the lines are crazy. And when the lines are crazy, the staff has a hard time keeping the store clean. Hence, my local Starbucks branches are consistently dirtier and messier than the average McDonald's (NYSE:MCD). That's one problem among many.'

Well, what can I say? Maybe I should just go ahead and forgive Spencer's.

Don't think I will. :(


Unknown said…

Though it is not acceptable, I think most people feel bad but forgive as the prices are less and it is a once in a month experience.
raj2885 said…
Agreed to whatever you wrote but my Q is even though Spencer's or for that matter Starbucks lacks service quality, why do they still prosper (atleast Starbucks)? What is that one thing that attracts consumers to a crowded Starbucks rather than to may be a smaller but less crowded barista.
Unknown said…
Well who would not like to buy at Spar. But for people like me, I'd look for convenience...and for me convenience is what is nearest to home. Even if its a small store like home needs, I dont mind.Yes this is emergency purchases that im talking about (even kirana stores are very convinient as they deliver products home). But in the case of a planned purchase where I carry along a list with me and have set aside enough time for shopping, I'd rather go to spar than any other store.

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