FREQUENT SHOPPERS LIKE SELF-SCANNING OPTION

CHICAGO -- Even if they never venture into a self-scanning lane, frequent shoppers feel having the option to scan their own groceries enhances customer service, according to a survey presented at the Food Marketing Institute's 1999 Industry Convention and Educational Exposition here this month."While 61% of the frequent shoppers surveyed told us that self-scanning improves customer service, only 10%

CHICAGO -- Even if they never venture into a self-scanning lane, frequent shoppers feel having the option to scan their own groceries enhances customer service, according to a survey presented at the Food Marketing Institute's 1999 Industry Convention and Educational Exposition here this month.

"While 61% of the frequent shoppers surveyed told us that self-scanning improves customer service, only 10% of those shoppers used the automated lanes exclusively," noted Willard E. Bishop, president of Willard Bishop Consulting, Barrington, Ill. Bishop participated in a panel discussion at the Food Marketing Institute's 1999 Supermarket Industry Convention and Educational Exposition here this month.

The views Bishop offered on self-scanning were part of an overall customer service survey Bishop Consulting conducted with frequent shoppers from five stores -- representing three chains and two independents.

While on the surface self-scanning doesn't seem to concur with the idea that frequent shoppers want extra attention, Albert E. Lees, Jr., president and CEO of Lees Supermarkets, Westport, Mass., said he is looking at self-scanning as another way to pamper the customer.

"It is kind of like taking a shortcut around a traffic jam. It might take you as long to get there as it would have had you waited with everyone else, but it seems better because you are moving. The self-scanners may or may not get them out of the store quicker, but hopefully they'll leave feeling we've provided them with options to make the experience quicker and hopefully more enjoyable."

Lees said his supermarket is actively looking at self-scanning, but is at least a year away from implementing a system.

Some of the comments from customers on self-scanning revealed that while they don't use the systems often, they believe the self-checkout lanes relieve congestion at the other lanes, Bishop said. "They also like to have the option available. If they see that the regular lanes are backed up, they can go through the self-checkout lanes," Bishop said.

Comments from frequent shoppers who use the technology indicate "they get caught up in the excitement," Bishop said. "Some told us that they actually shop and spend more because of the self-scanning," he said.

Frequent shoppers who use self-scanning checkouts also felt more in control, Bishop noted. "And from what we can see, they are accurate, and in some cases even more accurate than the cashiers," he said.