Is Extreme Efficiency Really The Goal?

A Wall Street Journal article called Stores Count Seconds to Trim Labor Costs discusses how the Meijer grocery chain along with other retailers are starting to use production techniques to monitor the throughput of employees.

The article discusses how Meijer uses the data about the efficiency of cashiers to identify under-performers which can lead to additional training and coaching, transfers to lower paying positions, or even the dismissal of employees. It ends with a quote from a cashier at Dewitt who talks about how she sometimes gets around the system:

It is pretty much survival, you have to learn the tricks of the trade. 

My take: From a customer experience (and loyalty) standpoint, I’m worried. Efficiency metrics can be extremely valuable, but they can easily be misused. The heightened focus on efficiency can easily come at the expense of other attributes of the experience. Unless a company’s brand is built entirely around efficiency, customers want and expect more. Here’s some advice for companies implementing major efficiency initiatives:

  • Balance efficiency metrics with customer satisfaction metrics
  • Reward high efficiency and high customer satisfaction
  • Set wide parameters; only intervene with very low efficiency performers
  • Use efficiency measures to identify and share best practices
  • Use insights to redesign processes, work spaces, and tools
  • Involve employees in the improvement process
  • Track employee satisfaction and actively respond to to any dips

The bottom line: Don’t be so quick to push your customers out the door.

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about these topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

2 Responses to Is Extreme Efficiency Really The Goal?

  1. The real question for Meijer isn’t efficiency. Improved efficiency is merely a strategy that may or may not help achieve a higher-level goal such as profitability. And I agree that stressed cashiers are going to hurt profits since they provide a poor customer experience. I wrote more about this on our corporate blog:

  2. Pingback: ¿Se pueden aplicar técnicas de “just-in-time” en la administración pública? « El Blog de José Manuel Castro

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