I paid my weekly trip to supermarket X today to top up the family grocery supplies.  I don’t want to name and shame them because they’re not uniquely slipshod in their detail so let’s just say that I did at least collect my Nectar points at the checkout.

This is today’s customer experience.

It’s Halloween so there’s Halloween tat everywhere as if the world has gone mad for what is essentially an imported American commercial opportunity.

It began at the entrance where the witches’ capes, broomsticks and pumpkins had ousted the useful battery recycling container which was nowhere to be seen.  I enjoyed carrying the 15 batteries I had accumulated at home (why do we get through so many in our household?) all round the premises and out again.

It continued at the end of every aisle with more “special” offers in bins, narrowing the aisles and slowing down the flow of people.

Battling past the rammy at the entrance I reached the fruit and veg aisles that had been cunningly rearranged a while ago so you have to walk a much longer distance past more items before you can get to the next aisle.

Apart from this irritation, the plastic bags for loose produce are now only located at the ends of both sides of the longer aisle, reducing the opportunities to extract one (itself challenging unless you have un-naturally clammy hands) and requiring either a high level of planning skills (“Now let me see, in this aisle I’ll need 7 bags bearing in mind the current disposition of produce” – which of course changes all the time) or frequent treks back and forth to get the next bag.

Except today, of the four corners of the long aisle, three had empty bag containers, adding new excitement and mileage to the regular bag hunt.

A few aisles further on the family’s favoured loaves were not visible anywhere on the bread shelves.  Intuition told me correctly that if I kneeled on the floor (literally – it was the only way) I might be able to see if there were any at the back of the lowest shelf.  There were, and being neither disabled nor a pensioner I was able to reach in and retrieve one from the dark recess.

More labour, at least labour correctly deployed, could have removed all these barriers to the weekly transfer of money from me to the company concerned.

But I was pleased to hear that they had enough staff on the customer service (sic) desk for one of the teenagers posted there to read out every few minutes one of the spontaneously scripted exhortations on the PC to buy this that or the other.

By the time I’d worked my way to aisle 43 I must have heard “Good afternoon shoppers.  Welcome to Sainsbury’s Garthdee [damn, that’s blown it].  Today on special offer we have…” at least half a dozen times.

Well, that’s got that off my chest.

But before you ask what it’s got to do with a blog mainly about the public sector, just reflect.

If you work in the public sector, can you be so sure that the all-important detail of the experience you provide your citizens/customers is that different?

I’ve been reminded on visits to both my GP surgery and a hospital recently that the NHS suffers from two diseases unique to it – posteritis and advanced leaflet mania.

Having to wait both times beyond my scheduled appointments (although to be fair not for too long) I had plenty of chance to look at the helpful information displayed in the two waiting rooms concerned.

In one there were 76 posters, in the other over 30, some on notice boards, some on walls; some horizontal, some hanging at an angle obscuring other posters; some professionally designed, some apparently knocked up by a visual illiterate…and so on.

I didn’t count the leaflets and newsletters on the various racks but I did notice that one newsletter dated from 2007.

Any important messages that might have been conveyed to the halt, lame and infirm parked temporarily in these dreary rooms was completely blunted by the lack of attention to detail the displays demonstrated.

Once again wasted effort and resource and lack of attention to  customer (patient) needs.

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