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From running shops to serving people

Matt Davies

UK CEO
Welwyn Garden City, UK

16 Mar 2016

The question I’ve been asked most over the past year is: Why did I leave Halfords to join Tesco? The answer is simple. I was fascinated by the challenge Tesco faces. It’s a challenge that involves every single one of Tesco’s colleagues. And it’s this: How do we turn Tesco from a company that runs shops, into a company that serves people?

It’s almost a year since I joined Tesco, from what I considered to be a fairly large retailer – Halfords.

The question I’ve been asked most over the past year is: Why did I leave Halfords to join Tesco? The answer is simple. I was fascinated by the challenge Tesco faces. It’s a challenge that involves every single one of Tesco’s colleagues. And it’s this: How do we turn Tesco from a company that runs shops, into a company that serves people?

In recent years, Tesco had been so focused on operational excellence that we’d lost sight of the most important thing in retail – serving people. To offer what they want and need in a way that makes their lives that little bit easier and better.

To connect with your customers and empower your colleagues to serve day in, day out.

I’ve been amazed at the expertise, dedication and commitment I’ve seen within Tesco. But it’s not enough to have the best technicians, the best logistics, or the best planners. We have to make our customers feel special.

How are we doing that? Through three big opportunities:

1 Listening

Collegue listening to a customer

Really listening is the foundation of everything. One of the biggest assets we have is that our colleagues are so reflective of the United Kingdom. 300,000 people from every corner of the country and every kind of background. So if we get better at listening to our colleagues, we’ll be better at serving customers.

What are people telling us? That they are time poor. Their lives are busy. That households are getting older and smaller (half of all grocery spend is by 45 year olds with no dependent children). And they want simple value for money – nobody wants to use a calculator at the supermarket to work out the best deal.

This has huge implications for us. It means we need to give customers value for money that is consistently helpful, prices which are simple and stable, as well as low. We’re really proud of our Brand Guarantee, because we’re the only retailer to offer instant price matching and money off at the till, but we’ve also been shifting to more consistent, lower prices on hundreds of products and moving away from mid to low promotions.

2 Culture

Colleagues in fancy dress

How do we empower every colleague, globally, to be energised and supported to offer great service, every day? There’s no silver bullet, it’s through lots of little helps that all add up. Our new purpose is at the heart of this – to serve Britain’s shoppers a little better every day. It’s a guide and filter on all of our actions.

This starts with our colleagues in stores – they’re best placed to make our customers feel special. I think of our colleagues as an army of advocates for Tesco. We have to engage and inspire them to champion Tesco because they are proud of the business they work for.

3 Offering great service at scale

The third big opportunity for us is to build on that culture and combine it with our operational expertise to offer outstanding service, at scale.

One of my most outstanding memories of the past nine months has been our company’s reaction to the floods in the North of England. Overnight one week in December our Carlisle store was flooded, the town was also flooded and so were many, many homes. It was incredibly sad – but then something remarkable happened.  In less than seven days the team at Tesco built an entirely new temporary store.

Along with lots of little helps – there are some extremely big helps, that – at times – only Tesco is truly capable of, and that is truly amazing.

We are fixing Tesco under the hood with brilliant retail basics, but we are also building a groundswell around little helps that will define us going forward, and help us build momentum for the future.

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