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Investigating Customer Service at a school and at Asda.

Free essay example:

Rachel Smith 12CJ                                                                  Applied Business Studies

Unit 5 – Investigating Customer Service

Introduction:

Customer service is when the employer behaves as though the customer is the most important element of the business. It is catering for what the customers want, need and expect.

In this section of my coursework, I am going to be looking at two contrasting organisations. I will be finding out what the organisations’ internal and external customers need and expect.

The first of my two organisations is Danum School Technology College, the school that I attend. I will now be finding out who the customers are of Danum School.

Section 1

Organisation 1 - Danum School Technology College:

Internal customers –

Teacher-

Needs and expectations

The first internal customer of Danum will be the teacher. The teacher is a very important customer, as without them, classes wouldn’t be able to run.  

To their job in the school to their best standard, teachers will need their own teaching space: a classroom. Not all teachers will be offered a classroom, but they will expect to have their own space to do marking etc.

The teacher will expect their own classroom, as they need somewhere to keep all of their equipment for the lesson. It will also allow them to plan their lessons effectively and be prepared. Therefore, the pupils will receive a better education. Also, as teachers need to bring a lot of equipment to school in order to teach a class, they wouldn’t want to be moving their things around constantly. This would cause more hassle and the items may be heavy. They might struggle to carry them, and could in turn be late for a class.

Furthermore, if the teacher doesn’t have their own classroom, they will have to find the classroom that they are located in for that lesson. This wastes time, and if the teacher is unsure of where it is, the class could start late.

Teacher will also expect to be respected by pupils and other staff members. This is because teaching is their job and they wouldn’t want to be treated unfairly at work, like any other employee. If either other staff members or pupils are disrespectful to a teacher, then they will receive some sort of punishment. This could involve warnings or dismissal for teachers. Pupils will have punishments in place such as detention, etc.

Teachers would also expect to be given fully working equipment that can be used free of charge. They also would like easy access to this equipment, so they can use it as and when they need to. Different teachers will need equipment at different times. If teachers need equipment at the same time as each other, there should be enough to cover each of the classes. If this does not happen, then the classes may not be able to run as expected.

Teaching materials must also be available for teachers to use whenever they need to. Materials such as the interactive white board and stationery are necessities for the classroom. Without teaching materials, the lessons may not be able to run as effectively. Therefore, the pupils will be losing out on their education.

Teachers will also expect a fair amount of break – duties. This is where they have to go around the school and check that everything is running correctly and nobody is doing anything they shouldn’t be: misbehaving. They would expect to have to do this 1-2 times on a weekly basis. This would be regarded as fair to each teacher.

The teachers will definitely want a clear disciplinary system in the school that they are working in. This is because some students will misbehave in lessons and may need to be taken out of a class. The teacher is not allowed to simply refuse to teach someone. Therefore, back-up and support from teachers with more authority, i.e. management to give them support.

As teachers have a lot of work to do such as marking and lesson planning, they will expect to have a fair amount of free periods. Teachers should be given 10% of their time at school of free lesson time. A working area is also an advantage to a teacher as they can have their own space to do marking. If this is not given, teachers will fall behind and lessons will not be prepared properly for. Pupils may also not receive their work back as the teacher wouldn’t have marked it for them. This will result in, the lessons been unsuccessful and pupils won’t be getting the education that they expect.

Another expectation of a teacher is to have a reasonable amount of staff meetings. Teachers expect to have about one meeting a week. If there is anymore than this, then teachers may fail to attend them as they have work to do in their spare time. Also, teachers don’t get paid for any meetings that go ahead in their spare time.

Teacher with management responsibilities –

Needs and expectations

I am now going to look at a teacher with management responsibilities. This is a teacher that has extra responsibilities from their usual job. This could be a head of year, a head of key stage or head of department.

A teacher with management responsibilities will require everything that a teacher wants. There are however some extra things that are entitled to.

Different from a teacher, a management teacher would expect to have their own office or room to do their work in. This is a place where meetings can be held with teachers, parents or students etc. An office is very important for meetings that are private.

If the meeting were about personal problems, a student wouldn’t want anyone listening in, as they may feel embarrassed.

With the responsibilities that they have, they also expect extra pay to other teachers. However, this will depend on the management responsibility that they have. There is a system of management in place, where the teachers get an amount of points for what job they do. This is known as the point system, it decides how much each teacher is paid extra, based on degree of responsibility.

This type of teacher will also want extra time to other teachers. They will expect more free periods, as their amount of work that they have is larger. Not only do they have the teaching side of their job, but also they have other responsibility such as taking care of pupils and attendance checks.

They will need time to do departmental planning, where they have to sort out what work needs to be set etc, head of department will do this. Paperwork and documents will also need to be done in free time. Meetings with pupils and teacher for certain reasons will also be crucial in free periods. This will stop teachers from missing lessons for meetings, as they will do this in their free time.

Another expectation is that they want to be consulted on dismissal and recruitment of staff. They will also want an input on the appraisal of their staff. The appraisal will involve measuring the progress of staff. It will show how well they are doing and any improvements that could be suggested. They will want to be involved in this, as they will want to know whom they may be working with. Approval can be made by the teacher, saying whether they are suitable for the job.

Admin support will also be an expectation. When letters are written out, they will need to be typed up to send home to pupils and parents. The teacher won’t have time to this, so they expect that the admin staff will do it for them. Filing and the producing of documents will also need to be done by admin. The teacher may not be capable of doing this, and so will need to rely on administration as they have the qualifications/ skill needed.

Clear target setting is another expectation of teachers with management responsibilities. Without a clear direction, teachers will not know what needs to be done, and how they can improve on what they are doing. If they don’t know that they are doing something wrong, they won’t be able to improve upon it or achieve their targets.

Administration Staff –

Needs and expectations

Another internal customer of Danum School is the administration staff. They do the producing of financial documents, check attendance records and many other vital processes that keep the school running. They also keep pupil records and contact parents if any problems arise.

A very important expectation of admin staff is adequate office space to work in. Without this, the job wouldn’t be able to run correctly as papers would be everywhere and nobody would be able to move around. If this did happen, admin are entitled to refuse to work, as their conditions aren’t suitable. Also, because of the amount of paperwork, they will want enough storage to put everything in, clearing space to work in.

With storage space, they are then able to organise all of the paperwork and pupil records. If they didn’t have access to this type of storage, then the paperwork would get disordered.

As admin staff will have to work on the computer for most of the day, they will expect to be given regular breaks. This is so employees don’t suffer from any medical problems such as back or neck ache. Breaks will also reduce risks of eyestrain and RSI (Repetitive strain injuries). The health and safety guidance suggests that breaks of 5-10 minutes should be taken after every hour of using the computer. Adding to this, they will expect to be given a comfortable chair to sit on for this amount of time. The chair will help good posture and reduce these risks. As well as this, the working environment should be, well ventilated, at a good temperature, have good lighting and be clean.

In order to do their job correctly, admin staff will expect to be given the correct information on pupils and teachers etc. If the information is wrong, the admin staff may contact the wrong pupils’ parents etc. This will lead to complaints from parents, maybe affecting the school’s reputation.

The admin staff will expect good working equipment. At least, they would expect a computer, as nowadays most work is done on the computer. Records are kept and registration is done on spreadsheets etc. Without the computer, it would not be possible for admin to retrieve these records.

Administration staff, like other staff would expect the same respect that teachers expect of pupils. This is because they are an employee of the school as teachers are, and need to be treated fairly. They will also expect to be respected by fellow employees. If anyone fails to do this, they will expect to be supported by their employer. They will expect either suitable punishment or even dismissal of the employee.

Reasonable holidays will be expected from the admin staff. This is because they work different term times to teachers, so don’t get as much time off. In the school holidays, admin will have to go into school to sort out records and paperwork. They expect flexibility from their job hours in terms of when they can take a holiday.

Training on how to use the school’s systems and programmes will be expected. They expect this training to be updated fairly regularly in order to allow people to do their jobs correctly. If they are unable to use a certain programme, they will be unable to do their job, unless of course someone else knows.

External Customers –

Pupils and Parents -

Needs and expectations

The pupils and their parents are external customers of Danum School. This is because they are receiving a service from the school, an education, and so are classed as customers.

Pupils coming to school will expect the environment to be safe and secure for them to work in. In order to do this, the school should have good security measures in place to protect their pupils. This could be the involvement of security guards, stopping people from entering, if they look suspicious or like they do not belong in the school.

They also want the environment to be effective, so the environment must be fully equipped and clean. Parents will also expect this from the school, as they may have decided what school they want their children to go to. Name badges should be used in school, every teacher or visitor in the school should present this on their clothing, and so it is clear that they belong in the school.

Gates are put around the school to protect the pupils, by preventing people who shouldn’t be in the school from getting in. The gates should be locked in school time, while lessons are running, so nobody can get in and state that they are in a certain class when they aren’t supposed to be. The gates should also be locked after school time, to stop anyone from breaking-into the school and stealing things.

The school should be informed about any parents that are not allowed to be in school, for any reason. For example, if a pupil’s parents have been divorced, one of the parent’s may try to take the pupil out of school, without the other parent’s permission.

Facilities provided by the school should be of a good standard. The facilities include things like, computers, toilets, sports halls and classrooms. If the facilities weren’t of a suitable standard, this means that the pupils may not be able to work properly, and not reach their full potential.

Teaching staff at the school should be fully qualified and motivated in order to positively lead the pupils into their successful future. Without motivation, many pupils will give up, as they may not have had a teacher for a couple of months, so that they are very behind with work. This will be a result of the teacher not being motivated to turn up for the lessons. The negative attitude would be passed onto the pupils.

Parents especially, will want to know how their child is doing at school. They will expect regular performance assessments in order to find this out. The performance check should show information on the pupil’s attendance and behaviour. It may also include how the pupil could improve further. Without this, parents wouldn’t know how their child was doing and if they were doing badly, they wouldn’t be able to suggest ways to improve this.

To keep bad pupils under control and to minimise class interruptions, both parents and pupils would want to see good disciplinary actions in place at school. This could help pupils to be more co-operative and this would improve the overall working environment for other pupils, allowing them to do better.

As well as this, pupils and parents will want to be treated fairly and with respect. They will want to be listened to if they have a problem or query involving the school.

At school, parents and pupils will expect a catering service supplied. This will give the pupils chance to get lunch at school, where it is safe, rather than going out of school where teachers have no control over them. The dinner service provided by school, would give pupils the energy that they need to get through their school day. School would also provide healthier lunch options to choose from, so it will be better for them.

The school should provide extra curricular activities; this could include clubs or other out-of-school activities. This will help motivate pupils, and get them joining in with other people. It could be a good opportunity for socialising and meeting new friends. As well as this, it will be giving pupils their daily exercise needed.

Suppliers –

Needs and expectations

The suppliers will give the school an opportunity to purchase items from them needed. Items such as stationery, books, furniture and electrical and plumbing services are some of the things provided by various suppliers. The school will need a supplier in order to buy these necessities.  

The main thing that suppliers will expect from the school is the correct payment for items and it to be in on time. This is very important, as the supplying company will need to have the money back in order to buy new stock to sell to other companies. Especially now, as the economy is struggling, businesses need to get their money in as soon as possible as much money won’t be coming into the business. Also, if people do not pay on time, this leaves hassle for the supplier; they have to chase up the customer for the payment. They will have to do this by telephoning them and sending out letters.

Suppliers also expect a degree of honesty from their customers. They want to know what is delivered and when it has been received. They don’t want people to be dishonest by saying that their products haven’t turned up, because the payment needs to be made, when they have.  

The school’s supplier will want good communication with them and a main contact point. This is so that, they are only dealing with one person every time they ring up the school. Without the contact point, the supplier will have to speak to a different person every time: this will confuse matters.

The most important thing that suppliers of the school need is loyalty. The school has to be loyal to the supplier; they must not cancel with them and switch suppliers, after being their customer for a long time. This is because the supplier works hard to get the service up to the standard that they expect. This sometimes involves making investments for new equipment to cater for their needs and hiring new staff to cope with the demand. If the school just decides they no longer want that particular supplier, then the supplying business will be in financial difficulties and may even go bankrupt. They will have to dismiss the staff, as they may not be able to pay them if things take a turn for the worse. Any new machinery will also need to be sold to attempt to get back some of their money. The supplier may have to start leasing equipment to improve their cash flow.

The supplier of the school will expect feedback for the service that they have provided. This is because if they do not know that the school isn’t satisfied by the service; they won’t know how to improve it. If there are any problems, they will expect to be told straight away. For example, YPO, the school’s stationery supplier will expect to be informed if anything delivered has arrived late or any products received were below the expected standard. They wouldn’t expect the school to stop ordering from them, without informing them of the problems.

Hirers –

Needs and expectations

Hirers are people that hire out rooms within the school. This could include sports facilities, halls and rooms. The school’s facilities are generally hired out for such things as wedding ceremonies, local football tournaments and evening classes organised by local colleges.

The hirers of the school would expect the facilities to be as described in the advert. E.g. If a classroom is described as having twenty fully working laptops, these should be in the classroom, ready for use. If this isn’t the case, then the people hiring out the room will be entitled to complain to the school, and ask for a refund. This won’t be a full refund, but some of the money will be given back.

The facility that is in use should be clean and tidy. If it isn’t then this means that the environment isn’t suitable for people to work in. The people, who hire out the school’s facility won’t be able to work properly, so may want a refund. This is because the room would be as advertised.

An important factor that the hirer will require is that the space is available for them. If the school take on too many bookings, then this may lead to double-bookings. Therefore, two groups of people will want to hire out the space at the same time.

Organisation 2 – ASDA supermarket:

Internal Customers -

Check Out Operator –

Needs and expectations

The check out operators at the ASDA store will expect certain things from the company that they are working for.

As they will be serving customers for long periods of time every day, they will at least expect to have a chair to sit on whilst they are serving. This will make their job a lot easier as they will be able to be supported whilst they work. By having something supporting them, this will reduce the risk of back or neck strains whilst at work. Therefore, the workers will have less time off of work because of this. The chair gives the check out operator the option to stand or sit whilst they work: they may not want to do either all of the time.

The people working on the checkouts at ASDA will also expect to have the correct equipment in order for them to serve the customers. They will also expect to be given the correct prices for items so they know if the customers are being correctly charged. Most check out operators will be given a price card, which states the prices of the main items that are sold at ASDA. Anything else that needs to be price checked can be done by scanning the products. The operator will also expect that they be given a fully working till. Without this, they won’t be able to carry out their job correctly.

Also, if any problems occur whilst at work, the operators will expect to be supported by other members of staff. The other staff should be available to help with any queries they have with a customer, prices etc. Problems should be dealt with quickly, to not leave the customer waiting for long. Once a customer’s problem is sorted, the next customer will expect to be served promptly. The checkout operator will also expect to have respect from customers and other staff members.  

Appropriate training courses will be expected by till workers. These courses should explain how to use the checkout systems correctly. Training may cover areas such as chip and pin and customer service. By having training, it will allow the worker to work to their best, as they will know the correct way to work.

Check out staff will also expect perks from the company, to thank them for working for them. For example, staff discounts should be given out. This could be a percentage off certain types of items, etc.

Check out operators will expect to have a staff room for them to relax in after their long shifts. This will be used in breaks and lunches by all of the staff working at the supermarket. The staff room should have adequate seating in order to cater for the amount of people working for the company. Other facilities such as coffee makers, vending machines should also be included.

Store Manager –

Needs and expectations

The manager of the ASDA store will expect more from the company than the average worker, as they have far more responsibilities to shoulder, and would be provided with his or her own office space. This space will be used to do any paperwork, or to carry out meetings with other managers and staff. Anyone having a meeting with the manager would expect for it to be of a confidential nature, and as such this is therefore why a meeting room should be provided, separate to the main office…this in order to stop people from listening in on what they are saying or debating. Also, the office space should be a clean environment.

First impressions count…If the store isn’t kept clean, then customers and people visiting may have a negative image of the company overall, and this could well alter opinions about the overall view of ASDA as a Company.

As the store manager has more responsibilities than other employees, they will be expecting to have a larger pay than the till worker for example. Another reason why they will be expecting this is because their job is more skilled than other jobs in the supermarket. They also have to spend time working after work hours (i.e. – at home).

The manager will also expect to be given fully working equipment in their office. A computer should be supplied to the manager because of the amount of work that needs to be done on the computer. It would slow down the work pace if everything had to be done by hand. They must also be included in any processes done in the company – for example the recruitment and dismissal of staff processes.

Another important aspect that the manager will expect to have an input in, is how the store is laid out. He will also want an input into the running of the store, i.e. – what stock is ordered and the quantity of each item.  If the manager decides that he or she wants a change of store layout, then the other employees must work to please him or her, as they are the worker with authority. The manager would expect – that the employees work with them and work towards anything that they want to happen in the store. They require respect from other workers, so they can work well together and the business will in turn work successfully.

Cleaner –

Needs and expectations

The cleaner will expect to be given a working uniform. This is to stop any cleaning chemicals used from ruining their clothes if they are accidently spilt. Another reason for this is so that people can distinguish between the cleaners and till workers for example. Customers won’t be happy if they continually have to ask people if they work at the place.

Equipment should be provided by ASDA and should be fully operational, tested and in a good working condition. There should be adequate cleaning products provided for the cleaners to use.  The cleaners would also expect to be respected and to not be taken for granted by other members of staff. For example, because the cleaner’s job is less skilled than some others, managers or those in higher authority shouldn’t belittle or order them around. They should not tell them to do re-do without just cause, just to have power over other workers. If they aren’t satisfied with what they have done, they should ask politely, as this would then demonstrate a mark of respect for them. Limits need to be set, as to how clean they should be expected to make the store, as they can and will always find something that needs cleaning…so they need to stop somewhere.

Cleaners will also expect somewhere to keep their belongings: coats, bags, etc. A locker room or some other alternative should be provided. If there aren’t any storage spaces, then the cleaner’s things will probably be in the way of their work. This will make their job harder, as they will have to go around everyone’s belongings when they clean. Welfare facilities should also be provided.

External Customers -  

Disabled Customers –

Needs and expectations

Disabled customers visiting the ASDA supermarket won’t be able to access the store very easy as they may have difficulties in walking, for example. Therefore, they will probably have wheelchairs to aid them. Because of this, disabled customers to the store will expect more than the average customer.

As disabled people won’t be able to access the store up the stairs, ramps will be needed for wheelchairs. This will enable to the customer to enter the store easily. They may also expect the ramps to have handles to hold onto whilst they are going up the ramp.

As well as the normal customer, disabled customers will also expect to have supportive and helpful staff. The staff will be available to help disabled customers to find products that they need. If disabled people can’t reach certain products, the staff will be expected to help them to get it. The staff can also help them to find certain products, if they are unsure of what aisle they are on.

In the car park, there should be disabled parking areas. These should be wider than the normal car parking spaces in order to get the wheelchair through. Staff at ASDA should also patrol the disabled parking areas in order to stop people who aren’t disabled from using them. If people who are able are using these spaces, they may not be adequate space for people who actually need them. Disabled customers will expect to have these spaces available for them, and for nobody to use the spaces that aren’t disabled. They will expect fines to be given out to anyone without a disabled permit.

In ASDA as they also sell clothes, they should supply a disabled changing room as well as a non-disabled one. This is because disabled people will need extra facilities such as a wider area so they can access them with wheelchairs. They will also need support from bars to hold onto. Seats must also be included to allow the customer to sit down. Customers will expect these facilities when they shop at ASDA, as without them, they may stop shopping there. This is because they are not catering for their needs.

Disabled customers will also expect that there are automatic doors to enter their stores through. These will make it a lot easier for them to access it, as they won’t have to hold open the doors whilst controlling their wheelchairs/ walking on crutches etc. If there aren’t any automatic doors, then disabled people will have to get help from someone who can open the door for them. They may not be able to do it themselves.

Aisles at checkouts should be wide enough for disabled people to access the tills. If they aren’t wide enough then disabled people won’t be able to get through and so wouldn’t be able to pay for their items. This will stop them from wanting to shop there and ASDA will lose out on a large number of customers.

Aisles in the supermarkets must have adequate room between each other in order for the wheelchairs uses to navigate easily through them. If they aren’t wide enough, then this may cause the customer to accidently knock things over. This will make an unsafe environment not only for the disabled customer, but also for other customers as the aisles may be blocked.

Toilets in-store must cater for disabled customers. They must be wider for easier access. Also they must have support bars to help the customers to get up easily out of their wheelchairs. The disabled toilets must also have a washbasin and dryer. This makes it easier for the disabled customer as they don’t have to go into the main part. They may not be able to reach those basins to wash their hands.

Young Families –

Needs and expectations

As some people will be visiting the ASDA store with children, they will expect certain things that other people may not. Because children are often very active, the parents may struggle to keep control of them, and they may run off into the store. They may then get lost in the store and their parents won’t be able to find them easily.

 Therefore, ASDA need to have an area where the children can get taken to if a member of staff finds them lost. This may just be the customer service desk, where the member of staff can announce that they have found the lost child. This will then inform the parent while they are shopping that the child is okay and that they have a meeting point.

As well as this, the area needs to be safe for the children. Security needs to be around the store to ensure that children are okay in store and that no troublemakers are let into the store. If the correct security isn’t in place, then this could put the children into an unsafe environment.

Parking areas must be available for the family. These should be fairly close to the store, again to enable easy access with prams. The average sized car parking area wouldn’t allow a pram to get through the gap. This would mean that it would make it harder for people to go shopping with their children. They may have to not bring them to the supermarket, and try to get someone to look after them. Again, if people who are not with young children use these spaces, then the customer will expect them to be punished for doing so.

The spaces will make it easier on the customer with a young family, as they are closer to the store. Therefore, it makes it easier to carry the shopping back, whilst holding the pram/looking after the child.

Baby changing facilities should be available at ASDA. The customers will expect this, as they won’t be able to use normal customer toilets. This will be unhygienic and the facilities needed for baby changing won’t be there. If ASDA fail to supply this to their customers, they will be losing a considerable amount of people from shopping at their store, as this is a necessity for people with babies.

In order to shop at ASDA with a child, customers will expect that special trolleys be supplied for them with a place for a baby/toddler seat. This is because the parents would want their children (toddlers) by them so they don’t lose them. The place for the baby seat is needed, as it would be a struggle to steer a trolley at the same time as the pram. Therefore, parents expect to be able to leave their prams in their cars, and have trolleys that allow their baby to be seated whilst they shop.

To minimize the risk of items being broke, items that are breakable should be placed higher up on the shelves in the stores. These should be placed at a level that children won’t be able to reach them at. If the store fails to do this, then this could potentially create an unsafe environment for all customers, not only children.

If items are broke, then there will be sharp edges, so children could cut themselves on them. As well as this, the broken item may be blocking the aisle. This is because the staff may not be aware of this, so will need to be informed first.

The checkouts should be wide enough not only for wheelchairs, but for prams as well. If parents decide that they want to bring their prams in-store, then they will expect adequate room for the pram to get through aisles and to the checkouts. If they can’t get passed, then they may have to get someone to lift the pram over.

Suppliers

Needs and Expectations -

As well as my smaller organisation: Danum School, ASDA will also have suppliers. However, the retail sector generally has suppliers that are smaller than them. The suppliers are usually a mix of smaller and medium sized companies, there are sometimes larger suppliers.

Again, the suppliers of ASDA will expect for them to be loyal customers to them. This is because substantial financial commitments may have been made by the supplier in order to satisfy the supermarket’s needs. Therefore, they would want ASDA to continue ordering supplies from them. If they don’t, then this could leave the supplying company in financial difficulties, and if the company is quite a large contributor to their income, they may even go bust.

As the supplying company will often be smaller than the customer, they will expect for payments to be on time. This is because the supply relies on the large retailers for their cash flow (income). If payments are not on time/promptly paid, this may make the suppliers vulnerable as a company, as they won’t be receiving the money they need to run their small company.

Because the supplier’s customer: the retailer, is in the dominant position, this means that huge pressure will be put on the supplier. The retailer will need large amounts of stock for their company and they will be expecting for them to be reasonably priced. The supplier may be able to offer these prices to them, as long as the supermarket continues to use their service. The supplier will expect not to be pressurized into offering low prices.

The suppliers will expect ASDA to treat them fairly, i.e. – by not putting too much pressure on them to lower their prices. This is often found when supermarkets are dealing with farmers. They pressurize them so much that they are forced to charge prices that are too low for them to redeem a reasonable profit level. If ASDA do this, the supplier will have to stop supplying them in order to keep on top of their costs and gather adequate sales revenue.

Section 2

In this section, I will now be evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the customer service offered by the ASDA supermarket company. I will firstly be looking at the staff working for ASDA.

Staff

General Appearance

The staff employed at the ASDA supermarket all seem to be clean and have a good hygiene. The workers are all smartly dressed in their own specific uniforms for the different areas that they work in. The Staff working on the food counters at ASDA all have hair nets to stop any hairs from going into the meat, savouries etc. When handling the items sold at the counter, they all wear gloves in order for germs to not be spread around. In the food areas are sinks that are used by employees to wash their hands before they produce the items of food. ASDA bake their own fresh bread, so you can see them in the process of doing this. Again they all seem to be well trained in food hygiene as they handle the food with gloves and wash their hands before they start making their bread, they also have their hair up in nets or wear white hats.

It is important that staff working at ASDA wear their uniforms. This is because it allows customers of the ASDA store to distinguish between the workers of each sector of the store. The staff that work in the fresh bread area wear green aprons and have green hats or sometimes hairnets. The hats/hair nets help the customer to recognise that they are from this area. Therefore, they know that they are able to ask them about their bread, and won’t be lead onto another member of staff.

As the employees are all following the necessary food hygiene standards, this shows that they will be providing a quality service to their customers. The food served out into the counters will therefore be of a good quality. However, one thing that I would recommend is that the food should be covered up in order to stop flies from going onto it; the counters are open so flies can easily enter them. This could then cause the food to go off quicker, so customers could be buying this food that isn’t of a very good standard.

The staff look clean, so this gives customers a good impression of the ASDA store. They will know that they are sure to receive a good quality, professional service just by the looking at the appearance of their staff. The staff’s appearance is also important when they are out of work-time. This is because they may still be wearing their uniforms when on their dinner break etc. Therefore, the general public will know that they work for ASDA from the label on their green and black jackets. If they look clean and ready to work, this gives out a good impression of ASDA. If they don’t, then this will give out a bad impression and may jeopardise the reputation of ASDA.

Attitude towards working

Many of the workers at ASDA seem to have a polite manner and are happy to serve you. The workers at the checkout seem to mostly make conversation with the customer, using polite phrases; they seem to be generally interested in talking to you and giving you a good service. This is good, as customers will feel that they are receiving a good service and that the workers there are friendly. Consequently, if they are happy with the service that they have received from the ASDA supermarket, they will tell others about it. Therefore, ASDA will be receiving new customers, and may well be taking them from other supermarket competitors as a result of word of mouth advertising from satisfied customers.

Another thing is that the till workers also seem to want to assist you in the packaging of your bags. They always offer to help, or to get another member of staff to pack things whilst they scan them through. This is known as making ‘On-the-spot decisions’, meaning that the workers use their own knowledge to provide a good customer service for people. They make decisions off their own backs, and don’t rely on other members of staff to encourage them to do something. This may involve them offering to assist them in taking something heavy to their car. However, the decisions made may have bad consequences as the employee may get into trouble for doing something. But this shows that the worker is determined to do anything for the customer, they are ‘customer-centric’. This is the key to success in the customer service sector.

‘To make your shopping experience finish on a good note, you'll be pleased to know that all our checkout staff will be happy to help you pack your bags. The checkout operator will ask you if you need assistance. Our staff are trained specifically to make sure products are packed accordingly, e.g. frozen, breakables, fresh etc’.

This is quoted from ASDA’s customer service information section on their website. The quote shows that ASDA are stating that they are willing to do this for their customers in order to satisfy them fully. The employees working for ASDA are trained in order to provide the best quality service to their customers. Therefore, they are willing to any length to satisfy their customers in order to receive repeated visits from them.

Whilst visiting the ASDA store, I did notice that staff helped a lot in the packing of bags and assisted you if you were on the self-checkout desks. However, there wasn’t a lot of staff around to help assist; only one worker had to help everyone, so this caused the queues to pile up as they had to wait until we were served.

‘As a company, we’re always changing to meet the growing needs of our customers’.

This is ASDA’s mission statement taken from their website. This shows that they are working towards meeting their customer’s needs. Without their customers, ASDA wouldn’t exist, so they need to work towards satisfying them as much as possible. This is a strength of the ASDA chain as they are showing that they are determined as a business to give the customers what they want, when they want it. By doing this, ASDA will thrive as a business, because people will want to keep returning to their stores. Therefore, profit and sales will see an increase.

However, the staff working on the tills can sometimes be slow at serving customers and are not very efficient in what they are doing. Customer service workers are very sparse at the customer service desk and it sometimes takes a while until you get served. This is a weakness of ASDA’s as some customers may not be patient as others and could get angry at the long wait. For example, when I visited the ASDA store, we had to wait in-line for a very long time just to get our money-back for an item that had gone out of date. But once served, we received the full refund and the price of the item.

Staff Knowledge

The workers on the aisles shelving stock seem to have a good knowledge of the store. If you ask the employees where a certain item is, they will know where that item is located. They will not just point to the location, but they will direct you to it. If a customer asks about a certain product, the worker may or may not know the answer. For example, if a customer asks if the product contains any nut traces, they will easily be able to answer this, as they will know that there should be a label on the product stating this. However, if a customer asks about a product’s country of origin, they may not be able to assist them. This is because it probably won’t say this on the item. They can try to help them though, by asking another member of staff.

However, on occasions ASDA staff working on stocking the shelves will only point to where the item is located. They wouldn’t lead you to it, as they will be leaving their job post and may get into trouble from the management. I believe that more opportunities to help customers should be given by ASDA, in order to satisfy customers more. If a customer still doesn’t know after walking in the direction pointed out, then they will have to go back and ask again. This will be wasting more time that the workers should have on stocking shelves. So really, more time spent initially showing them where items are located would save time.

Staff working relationships

The relationship between ASDA’s employees seems to be a good one. All of the employees are available to help each other. Even if they are busy doing something, they will drop what they are doing in order to help them out. However, this could be a bad thing as someone else may need to be assisted, and the employee will then be ignoring them, if not intentionally. Workers should avoid doing this, as they will receive complaints from customers, without even realising what they have done in most situations. The worker should always put the customer first as they are most important. Other members of staff can be seen to afterwards.

When I visited the ASDA store, I found that the shelf workers were talking to each other in a good way. However as they were talking, they didn’t realise that they were in the way of the shelves that people were trying to access. They weren’t actually working, just talking to each other. So no work was being done and yet they were still restricting access not only to the shelves, but also to the aisles with their trolleys.

I believe that they should stop using the trolleys down aisles that are narrow, such as the one I was on. They could consider taking just a basket full of items to stock each and just returning each time with new stock. Multiple baskets of stock could be brought to speed the process up however. But the trolleys take too much room up in the aisle.  I also believe that workers should try to speed up their work in order to clear the aisles quicker before the peak shopping times.

Overall, ASDA staff at the store in Doncaster seems to be doing a good job, but some improvements could be made. The staff working on the tills needs to speed up when serving people and try to resolve any problems instantaneously. This will then result in fewer queues at the checkout and less people will become annoyed. Therefore, the till workers will be doing themselves a favour, as they won’t have to deal with so many complaints. After all, it is the till workers that will have to deal with the majority of complaints from people.

Another improvement that ASDA could make to benefit them is to hire more staff to work on the customer service desk. People going to this desk are likely to be annoyed with the service and may have a complaint. They don’t want to be stood around longer, as it will only make them more annoyed. Therefore, with more staff on the desk, more people can be dealt with and this will resolve any problems that they may have had. This will prevent any rows from occurring and opportunities for workers to become angry with customers.

Premises -

Layout

All aisles in the ASDA store seem to be laid out in a logical order. All of the items are stacked together in order to make it easier for the customer to find what they are looking for. All of the items that are similar are together so that customers don’t have to go from place to place for different items; they may only have to stay in the same area. This makes it easier for disabled people as they won’t have to go far for the things that they need.

As you walk into the ASDA store, the clothing is at the start. Then the store leads onto various toys for children and also stationery. As you walk around the store further, you are lead onto the entertainment aisle. This contains items such as DVDs, CDs etc.

After this, the fresh bread aisle is there. Here, the ASDA staff bakes fresh bread daily. The bakery aisle is very spacious and so has enough room for multiple amounts of people to access it.

However, I did find that the products’ price labels were confusing; they weren’t always aligned with the correct goods. This is misleading for the customer as they may get the prices of items incorrect. The customer may have not wanted to buy the item if its cost was too much. ASDA need to work on this to ensure that people are not being ‘conned’ into buying things that they don’t want. The roll back stickers are sometimes placed in the wrong places, so people will pick up items thinking that they are going to get them cheaper, when in actual fact they aren’t as it isn’t labelled correctly. If ASDA don’t sort this out, then people will choose to shop at a supermarket where the layout of items is better and where prices are correctly labelled.

At the top of every aisle are signs stating what is down that particular one. People therefore know if they are heading in the right direction as they are walking down the supermarket aisles. However, if a customer loses their way, they can easily ask a member of staff, as they will be happy to assist them. The aisle signs are clear to follow, but it is just the layout of certain items in the ASDA store. In the bakery section, ASDA should consider laying out their store in a similar way to Morrisons. Morrisons have a section labelled for their cakes, fresh bread etc. In ASDA, the products all seem to be grouped together so it is hard to find what you want. Straight after the bread, is the milk in fridges. The milk should have its own aisle next to the butter, yoghurts etc in fridges like in Morrisons.

Size of Aisles

When visiting the ASDA store on a Friday afternoon, this was the time when stock was being replaced on the shelves. This caused the aisles to be rather crowded with several boxes: restricting the access of customers. The aisles themselves were not evenly spaced out, some were very spacious and some hardly had any space. It was on the un-evenly spaced aisle that the stock was being put onto shelves. Packaging was all over the floor, as it had not been put into the trolley. This is dangerous as people passing by, may not see the packaging on the floor and could slip and fall. This would cause injury to the customer and would be ASDA’s responsibility to compensate for the accident. I believe that ASDA should train their staff in how to reduce the amount of space used when re-stocking shelves.

I would say that it would be hard on a not very busy day for a disabled person (wheelchair user) to get through some of the aisles, as they are so narrow. Trolley users will also struggle in getting down the aisle. I believe that in order to eliminate this problem, the store manager may need to re-think the position of some of the aisles, as they are way too narrow to get through. On busy days, the aisles will be unbearable for customers, making it very difficult to just get their basic food shop.

Products

Offers

In ASDA, the offers are placed prominently all over the store. These are called ‘Roll Backs’ and are placed on stickers all around the store. They are shown as red stickers with yellow text. The ‘Roll Backs’ are used to entice the customers to buy certain items.  However, I found that it is very hard to see which products the stickers are placed for.

The special offers that ASDA offer are positioned at the end of every aisle, where they can be easily seen as customers turn the corners to another aisle. Popular offers include butter, sandwich fillers, meat such as ham or beef for sandwiches etc. However, with the sandwich fillers, they make it seem like a good discount, but they actually are putting smaller tubs of this product on offer so you end up getting less value for money than if you were to buy the large tubs at the normal price. But because of the large £1 sign placed onto the items, people think that it is cheap, so they will buy it, without even looking at the prices of the larger sandwich fillers. ASDA need to work on giving their customers more value for money when giving special offers. However, most people seem satisfied with the amount of discounted £1 goods on offer at ASDA.

ASDA have been complimented on their wide range of discounted products offered to their customers. They have been compared to Tesco and Morrison’s on the www.mysupermarket.com price comparison site and came out on top.

Product Guarantee

ASDA offer a policy on their branded food and the extra special food range. This policy is the ‘try me, love me’ policy. It states that if any customers aren’t satisfied with the products bought, then they can return the products and receive a full refund.

This is advantageous for ASDA as they will be able to earn respect from their customers. The customers will know that they are guaranteed of a good quality product, or their money back. This shows that ASDA’s products are likely to be of a good quality most of the time, as they would forever be giving their products away.

For ASDA to improve on their product guarantee policy, I believe that they should consider adding more products to this. For example, other well-known branded products should team-up with ASDA to offer a guarantee to customers. This will allow both of the companies to earn the respect of their customers. Therefore, they will receive repeated business, as people will know that their products are of good quality, and if not, then they will be refunded anyway.

Stock Levels

When visiting my local ASDA store at around 3pm on a Friday, I found that products such as bread, vegetables and fruit were low on stock. This may have been because they were waiting for the ‘rush’ hour when people are finishing work and want to call off at the supermarket after, until they stocked up. However, as it was the freshly made bread that was low on stock, ASDA should be constantly producing this in order to supply the demand for it.

I believe that in order to improve their stock levels, ASDA should ensure that they check every ‘major’ product regularly to ensure that they are fully stocked. Especially with fruit and vegetables, these are main products that everyone will need to buy at some point in the day. If the gaps on shelves aren’t filled, then this will seriously ‘put off’ buyers as they will think that stock levels are usually up to the same standard. They will therefore choose to shop somewhere that does regularly keep up their stock levels to ensure that the products that they want will be there when they want them. ASDA needs to ensure that they fully satisfy their customers with their product range and amount of stock available.

Section 3

In this section, I will be describing the ways in which the organisation I’m studying…ASDA maintain, monitor and improve their customer service methods.

Monitoring customer service:

In order for ASDA to improve their customer service, they continually monitor and review the situation. If it is found that improvements can be made, then their Customer Service Management set about organising and making sure these changes occur from recommendations made within very tight timescales.

Factors that need to be considered when monitoring customer service are:

  • How serious is the problem?
  • What is the priority?
  • What needs to be done to correct the problem?

Problems with customer service can either be specific or general. An example of a specific problem could be the long queues at checkouts. General problems will be staff having negative attitudes towards their work.

Customer service at ASDA must be monitored in order to maintain and hopefully improve standards. If the standards at ASDA are dropping, then steps will have to be taken to resolve the problems, and improve the service, so that customers are satisfied. ASDA monitor its customer service by using both internal and external sources.

Internal Sources

Monitoring and feedback of customer services for improvement would include:

  • The number of complaints from customers.
  • The frequency of complaints: how many complaints ASDA has received and if any have been received about a member of its staff, which would include an analysis of complaints.
  • The seriousness of the problems, and a formal system for logging and dealing with complaints- i.e. an internal complaints procedure.

It is important that customer service staff at ASDA, prevent and eliminate any potential problems from re-occurring, this in order that the customer doesn’t return with the same or similar complaint. If they should return with the same complaint, then this would show that ASDA have failed with the promised level of customer service. Should this occur, then ASDA could loose customers, due to them not taking steps in resolving highlighted problems. Therefore, if ASDA do not address and improve their customer service in cases like this, then competitors such as Morrison’s and Tesco will most certainly pick up more of ASDA’s unsatisfied customers, resulting in both a loss of sales and profit.

Typical complaints received from customer usually include problems with the goods offered or service offered. Other typical complaints include problems with the customer service offered.

  • Regular meetings of the customer service ‘team’ are also a form of internal sources to resolve customer service problems.
  • Staff suggestion schemes can be used in stores in order to allow workers to contribute suggestions to what problems they believe exist. As the staff will be the ones working on the tills, aisles etc, they will be the most valuable source of information relating to customers. This is because they will be sorting out the problems on a regular basis, so they will know what people generally complain about. When staff at ASDA suggests ways of improving the company, they will then receive incentives. This will be used as a way of encouraging them to continue providing suggestions for ASDA. As more suggestions are received, they are able to move onwards and upwards as a company.
  • Store visits by senior management members will allow the business to improve their level of customer service. The management will monitor how well they think that the workers are doing and possibly suggest ways to improve. Such as how to talk to customers in a better way, or how to handle certain situations with customers.

Other internal sources could include the monitoring of absence, sickness and punctuality of the workers at ASDA. If it appears that many employees are not showing into work, this will prove that something is wrong and they aren’t happy in their working environment. Therefore, ASDA will need to ask their employees if they have problems and how they can help. If this were to happen, then the problems will be resolved and workers may start to enjoy working at ASDA again. This may brighten their mood, so they will provide a better level of customer service to people. Therefore, people will be more satisfied with their service. The absences will also indicate that there is a lack of motivation throughout the workforce. By having staff meetings people will be able to voice their opinions and the problems can be indicated and resolved.

Staff turnover can also indicate if people are not satisfied with their job. By monitoring this, it will allow ASDA to find out when most people want to leave the business. It could also suggest that there is something wrong with the way that employees are treated. It could be due to poor working conditions, low pay or pay management, etc. This method will involve management talking to people who leave the company. An exit interview will give the opportunity for the staff leavers to explain their reasons for leaving the company. However, many employees could lie in this interview or refuse to do as they want to get out of the company as soon as possible.

Appraisal can be used as a monitoring method. This is where the workers are assessed on how well they work in the business in their job roles. In many businesses, the appraisal process will be done via a discussion between the members of staff and the line managers of the company. Issues can be raised in this discussion as to how they are being treated, or concerns about their rate of pay, etc. This will also give the opportunity to offer promotion to staff as they can prove themselves. By offering promotion it will encourage staff morale and a better service will be offered.

External Sources

External sources that could be used to improve customer service include:

  • Customer suggestion schemes

These are similar to the staff suggestion boxes, but are left out for customers to post suggestions. This can be done anomalously, if the customer doesn’t want to reveal who they are.

In the ASDA supermarket, as you are leaving the store, there is a suggestion box that states ‘suggestions welcome’. This gives customers the opportunity to say what they think about the company. This method of monitoring customer service is advantageous as the feedback is usually honest and shows what people generally think. However, most people don’t want to take the time to fill them in, as they are time-consuming. It is usually the older shoppers that will leave feedback. This could cause this method to be biased, as only one type of opinion is being considered.

  • Focus Groups

This method is where groups of customers discuss the customer service offered by ASDA. Incentives such as competitions and prize draws will be given to any customers that become involved in this process in order to encourage them to continue to discuss the service that ASDA provides. Also, by being offered incentives, customers will tell more people about what they receive for being in a focus group. Therefore, it will be advertised and more people will want to join the focus group and contribute ideas. This may also encourage more people to shop at ASDA, as they know that they are trying to meet their customers’ needs.

  • Random customer questionnaires

The completion of these questionnaires could be encouraged with the use of rewards or competition entries, for example. However, ASDA choose not to offer loyalty schemes to their customers, as they prefer to invest the money into a scheme for driving down prices for their customers. This is a good thing, as ASDA will be lowering more prices in store for their customer to benefit from. However, this may not attract new customers, as customers may prefer to be more ‘involved’ in what the company plans to do to improve. However, they may only want to do this if there are incentives.

Although the customer feedback questionnaires are a valuable source of information that suggests how well the company might be doing, it can also be biased. Again, it will more likely to be the generation of people that fill in questionnaires. This is because they are likely to be retired and have a lot of free time on their hands. Therefore, ASDA will receive most of the questionnaires back from elderly people. This could result in more negative than positive feedback, as old people are likely to pick fault with the service offered and complain more.  

  • Customer Loyalty Schemes

These aren’t offered by ASDA, as said before, they choose to invest their money into projects for the company to reduce customer-spending costs.  Current projects that ASDA are working on include ‘zero waste to landfill by the end of 2010’, ‘avoiding waste’ and the ‘rooting for pig’s campaign’. I believe that although ASDA are doing well with reducing their prices for customers, they should still try to give something back to the customer. Such as the likes of the Boots Advantage Card and the Tesco Club card, that offer savings to customers once they have spent so much in store would be very beneficial for ASDA. It will persuade more people to spend more on a regular basis in order to fill up their card. Tesco send out sheets of vouchers when so many club card points have been received. If ASDA were to do this, it would make the ‘vouchered’ products more popular with customers.

  • External Visitors

These could be inspectors who look at how the company is performing. They could also include ‘mystery customers/ shoppers’. These will assess how well the company is doing; they will grade the company and then feedback comments on the service offered. Things that could be assessed could by the greeting given by staff as customers go to the checkout to pay for their goods, how well the transaction is carried out, how well the member of staff helps the customer. Feedback will be given to the management to allow them to assess what action can be taken in order to improve their quality of service to the customers.

The mystery-shopping programme is a key method of monitoring customer service. This is because it allows the problems to be identified with customer service, and then the problems can be hopefully resolved. In order for ASDA to improve their customer service, the mystery shopper will have to visit on a regular basis so the results can be compared. If the mystery shopper finds that the same problems still arise, then this shows that they haven’t improved any. If they find that the problems previously identified were resolved, then this shows that they have improved.

The mystery shopper is used in store and acts as if it was a real customer, but is actually observing the level of customer service offered.

The mystery shopper measures the customer service monthly on three main areas:

Store Standards – The presentation of the store and its staff.

  • Is the store well maintained?
  • Does the store make it easy for customers to shop?
  • Is there a sufficient amount of staff available to help?
  • Are the workers at ASDA approachable?

Enquiry Service – Are the colleagues offering the right level of service to customers if they have a query?

  • Do staff members greet customers?
  • Do staff take customers to the relevant aisles?
  • Do staff members stay with customers until they have what they need?

Goodbye and Lasting Impressions – Do customers leave with a strong impression?

  • Are there sufficient tills open to fulfil demand?
  • Are the customers greeted in a friendly manner?
  • Does the transaction process run smoothly?

The mystery shopping scheme over the past 12 months has seen ASDA competing against Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s and Tesco in 12 diverse categories. The mystery shopping programme will be done in order to see which supermarket offer the best and most – consistent in-store experience to their customers. The survey was carried out by Checkout Magazine UK in collaboration with GAP buster Worldwide. The team sent out inspectors to 10 of each supermarket in order to gather the information.

The results of the mystery shopping were very close, ASDA found themselves in third place, behind Morrison’s in first place, and Sainsbury’s in second. ASDA shared third place with Tesco with a result of 79.3% each.

Maintaining and improving customer service:

Analysing data gathered:

In order to maintain the levels of customer service offered, the data will need to be analysed.

  • The data gathered must be measured against a standard that everyone agrees with. This will need to be done in order to find out if the customer service is good or bad.
  • The causes of problems found, must be identified.
  • Actions will then be taken to correct the problems.

Factors that could be considered when analysing the level of customer service (for example – speed at the checkout) could be:

  • When does the scanning begin? Is it when the items hit the conveyor system or when the first item is picked up by staff?
  • What happens if a customer asks a question and the member of staff needs to stop working in order to answer it?
  • Will the time of day be considered, as to how long the employee has been working?

After these and more questions have been answered, results can be recorded and analysed. The analysis can be done again at a later date in order to see whether the service has been improved. If it hasn’t, ASDA will be able to find out what the problems are and try to resolve them.

Benchmarking –

When the data gathered on customer service has been analysed, it needs to be evaluated in order to find out just how bad or good the service offered is. To make this happen, clear benchmarks need to be set in order to set targets against.

When selecting the right benchmarks, two main factors need to be considered:

  • The type of customer service
  • What is the minimum acceptable standard

Example benchmarks –

The speed of answering a phone – Before the 5th ring.

The time of arrival of staff to work – 15 minutes before the opening of a store.

The price of goods compared to competing goods – At least the same price.

Staff Changes  

Improvements that can be made to how the staff works at ASDA could be by offering training if needed. By offering training, this will allow the staff to improve, as they will be able to pick up on areas that they aren’t doing so well in. This can be aimed at under-performing staff. However, before doing this, staff issues must be identified in order for them to be addressed. The staff that aren’t doing well will need to be identified and may need to be replaced.

However, if problems with staff are re-occurring then this will be a reason to dismiss someone. If the worker is having a ‘bad day’ and doesn’t feel up to working on that particular day so is rude to customers, then this is a different case. The worker may just need to talk with someone in order to resolve his or her problem.

ASDA need to decide who should carry out training and when it can be done to minimise the disruption to customers. Training could be carried out when there aren’t many customers shopping at ASDA. Therefore, less staff will be needed to work on tills and there should be enough staff there to cover the shifts. Training could be done in the afternoon, mid-week when people are less likely to go out shopping due to work commitments.

Improving Services

In order to improve their customer service, ASDA may need to identify new services that could be brought in. ASDA already offer bag packing, but need to ensure that they keep their word and always offering customers in the packing of their bags. They shouldn’t just say that they would do it once, then not do it ever again. This is because customers will be angry and complain, as ASDA aren’t following through with what they say.  

ASDA also offer a ‘try me, love me’ service. This is where certain labelled products can be fully refunded or replaced if the customer is not satisfied with its quality. This only exists on ASDA branded or Extra Special food lines. With this, ASDA need to ensure that they always ‘keep to their word’ and replace these products if the customer is unsatisfied.

To monitor how well their services are doing, ASDA could check how many returned items they receive from their ASDA branded products or Extra Special ranges. If many are being returned, this means that customers are generally not satisfied with these food ranges, so ASDA need to find out to improve their flavours, quality etc. If not many are being returned, this could just suggest that these people may just be returning them because they are out of date or have gone mouldy for example, so aren’t of a good enough standard to eat.

To help improve the flavours of their products, ASDA could set up special taster desks around their stores. This will help ASDA realise what people like in their food, so they can develop new flavours, textures etc. They will also be able to find out what people don’t like in their food. This will allow the store to not provide things that people don’t like, so hopefully most people will be satisfied with the overall product range.

Section 4

In this section, I am going to look at the impact and effects of legislation on the customer service offered by ASDA.

The Sales of Goods Act

When buying goods, customers are protected by the sales of goods act: one of the Acts of Parliament.

This act states that all goods purchased must be:

  • Of satisfactory quality

They must meet the standard that a ‘reasonable’ customer would accept. The description and price of goods must be taken into account. For example, if the bread baked freshly at ASDA is under-cooked then this isn’t a satisfactory quality, as it can’t be eaten. If it is eaten, then the customer may get food poisoning or become ill. If this were to happen, ASDA would possibly have to give the customer the money back for the price of the item because of their ‘try me, love me’ policy as their bread is an ASDA branded product. Also, the customer would be entitled to take the case to court to prove that their product caused food poisoning with evidence such as doctor’s notes or test results etc.

  • Fit for purpose

This means that the item bought must be fit for the purpose it has been bought for. For example, if a DVD is scratched when purchased from ASDA, it won’t play properly as the songs will probably pause and skip. Therefore, the customer will be entitled to either get their money back for the item (refund), or accept a replacement product.

  • As Described

This means as described on the packaging or a display sign or by sales staff. For example, if the sales staff in the electrical section at ASDA says that a DVD plays Blu-Ray disks and they go home to find that it doesn’t, this means that they are falsely describing the product in order to sell it. The buyer would therefore be entitled to get their money back as it is a criminal offence to make false statements about products. All products must be accurately described on labels or stickers on ASDA’s products, also in this case, workers should be trained into not making false allegations about products.  

ASDA will therefore have to change all of the labels on their products (if their own branded product), if not, they will need to inform the product’s manufacturer. This will give the company extra costs to deal with, on top of other costs.

If this problem isn’t fixed, then ASDA could face having their products being withdrawn from the shelves. Therefore, they will lose out on money from this product. It may also put customers off, if they aren’t supplying the type of product that they want.

Trade Descriptions Act

This act makes it a criminal offence to:

  • Make statements that are false about products offered for sale.
  • Make statements that are misleading about services offered.

The trade descriptions act will affect adverts that are false or misleading. It will also affect packaging and labels in the same way.

ASDA sell DVD players that claim to have CD-R playback. However, ASDA were breaking the Trade Descriptions Act as when customers took this back home, they realised that it didn’t actually play CD-R and that it had been disabled. The customers took the product back to ASDA claiming that this law was being broken. ASDA agreed and offered a replacement DVD player that was worth £10 extra. This means that ASDA tried to fix their mistake of giving customers unfair trading. However, a fine will probably be imposed for ASDA for breaking this law. In order to prevent this from happening again, they will need to regularly monitor their products to ensure that they are being described correctly for what they are.

Sale and Supply of goods to consumer’s regulations

This act implements a EU directive towards consumer law throughout the EU. The laws should help by providing additional solutions to consumers in certain circumstances. In the UK, consumers were already in a position that was strong. However, the following additional rights were granted to consumers in the UK by these EU-based regulations:

-Wherever goods are bought in the EU, consumers will be entitled to their legal rights.

- Consumers in the UK will have the right to a replacement or repaired item if the goods bought are faulty.

- If the goods bought in the EU develop a fault within the first six months develop a fault, the seller must prove that fault was not present when it was purchased, if they wish to dispute a claim made by a customer. This means that a claim is unlikely to be able to be refused by the store within six months of it being purchased.

If customers at ASDA believe that products that they have purchased are not of a satisfactory standard: are defective or faulty, then ASDA will have to offer a full refund for the product, and not just a credit note, as the law entitles customers to the refund.

In February 2008, ASDA sold several ‘Duraband’ microwaves to their customers, and found that these products were malfunctioning. The ASDA Company were concerned that the product was a fire risk, as it was over-heating. They advised anyone who had purchased this product, to disconnect it from the mains, and stop using it. The product was recalled, and ASDA said that they would refund customers as soon as the microwaves were returned to the store, and that no receipt would be required. By doing this, ASDA are not breaking the law, as they offered the customers a full refund and advised them to stop using it, so it wasn’t putting anyone in any harm. Also, the product was said to have passed British Standards.

What happens if the laws are broken?

If any of these laws are broken, then there are certain consequences for the company:

Some legislation makes it a criminal law and some makes it civil law if they are broken.

Criminal law is when it is known as a criminal offence if the law is broken. If a business breaks this type of law, then they can be prosecuted for their actions, fined for what they have done or sometimes the person responsible can be imprisoned.

With civil law, this is where the offence is not criminal, but the customer will still be entitled to a case against the company. This means that the customers can sue a business and take it to court to fight for what they think is right. If the customer wins the case, then the business will have to pay compensation out to them.

Other implications are that courts can seize products sold. Meaning that the store won’t be able to sell the products for a while until the case is resolved with the customer.

If the problem is very large, then a business can be prevented from ever selling a product again. This could be if a product has caused injury for example. It will be done to stop the same thing from happening to others who purchase this product without knowing. Directors of companies may be disqualified. This means that they may not be able to return to their job post ever again, because of what they may have done to another company.

If the products purchased from stores are of a very bad standard, then people will complain and tell others about the bad service/ product. Therefore, this will seriously harm the company’s reputation. In the case of ASDA, they will lose customers to competitors such as Morrison’s and Tesco.

Compliance to the laws:

In order for ASDA to comply with the legislation, a number of costs will need to be paid. For example, if some of ASDA’s products aren’t labelled correctly or are misleading to customers, then they aren’t complying with the Trade Descriptions Act. Therefore, they will need to pay out for any new labels needed, new advertisements, etc. As a result of this, ASDA will find they have to pay for these items, which are very expensive, and they will not have planned to make a budget for this, as it will be unexpected. Therefore, this could bring ASDA into financial difficulties, as they may have to pay out to people, if they lose out a court case, and they will also have to pay to replace the false statements, etc.

In order to also comply with these laws, ASDA will need to train their staff, so they know what the law is all about. With knowing this, it will help them to recognise if the company is breaking it in any way. Also, as the legislation is always changing, it will help the company to keep up with it, so they aren’t caught out with anything.

As the legal minimum age to purchase tobacco was originally 16, ASDA would be previously selling cigarettes to people at the age of 16 or above. However, as it has changed to 18, this means that ASDA would be breaking law if they were to sell to someone at the age of 16. Therefore, ASDA would have needed to train their employees about this new law that has been introduced, in order to raise awareness about the new age, to ensure that under 18’s are not served cigarettes. If they were to do this, then they would be breaking the law.

Products sold at ASDA must all be checked to ensure that they comply with laws such as Trade Descriptions Act, Sale and Supply of Goods act and Sale and Supply of goods to Consumers Act. If any of the products aren’t of a satisfying standard, this means that ASDA will be responsible if anything were to go wrong with the products. If something serious goes wrong with products, then ASDA could be sent to court because of this, and the product will be withdrawn from all ASDA stores. This would affect them, as they would be losing out on sales from this product, and it may have once been popular before something went wrong with it. Also, ASDA will have to pay to fix what was wrong with the product, or buy replacements. This would again be costly to the business.

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