Last night was the first time I’d seen this programme which centres around Sainsbury’s top bosses taking on and trialling the ideas of “colleagues” – which is clearly one of those words everyone got a memo about and must use instead of “staff” or “workers” – no matter how what sector of the business they’re from.
Last night, we saw 55-year-old in-store PA announcer, Barbara Bentley from Leeds, whose idea to revolutionise Sainsbury’s was “taking the store to the customer”, in other words, trolling around with a trolley full of something on offer and trying to persuade people to buy it…
At the beginning, we saw Barbara at work in the store she’s employed in – in Leeds – modelling Sainsbury’s clothing and subsequently trying to flog it to customers.
Then it was Christmas offers and rather cringemakingly, we saw her approaching customers to have a chat with her on the tannoy about what they’d just bought from the offers range… it didn’t make for comfortable viewing as Barbara kind of radio-styly interviewed a shopper called Suzanne about her purchases in the store.
However, sales figures went up so the idea was trialled in two more stores in Denton and Tatlow. In Denton, the “colleague” chosen to be the trial ‘store host’ was Francesca and she clearly wasn’t comfortable doing the hard sell so instead, she lurked at the end of aisles, rather apologetically offering customers her wares in the form of a trolley full of Easter Eggs. She lasted all of one day before ringing in sick. However, Dawn, the Tatlow branch host, threw herself into the job and the idea with a vigour that bordered on psychopathy.
Her tannoy announcements were a tad awkward to listen to during the programme too because she was a) trying to sound ‘posh’ over the tannoy and b) trying not to sound as if she was reading from a script, but she should’ve been because she kept getting her words muddled.
In the meantime, one of the customer service bigwigs, Jackie Connor, was telling us that she didn’t think the “hard sell” approach was suitable for their customers, and I have to say, I entirely agree with her. I for one don’t want to be hassled when I’m shopping; I just want to get on with it, buy what I went there to get and not be pestered into buying something I don’t want just to make the person with the trolley go away or out of politeness.
However, there are a number of admirable things about this concept in that it never does any harm to ask people actually doing a job what could make it better, but despite the fact that this was clearly very important to Barbara, and she’s born saleswoman, it would irritate the bejesus out of me if she wandered up to me in a store.
But watching her working so hard to make her idea work was the purpose of this programme and work it did in that head office decided to trial her idea in 20 of its stores as of this autumn, so I guess it remains to be seen whether it’ll be taken on nationwide.
I have to say, personally, I hope it isn’t. During the programme, a lot of sales banter was floating about and one that kept cropping up was “sleep shoppers” and I’m definitely one such shopper and that’s how I’d like to keep it thanks. I just can’t be doing with pushy sales types – I can’t stand them on the ‘phone never mind when I’m out shopping, but on the other hand, I couldn’t help but like Barbara a bit more when she dropped the Super Sales persona and shed a little tear when she heard her idea was going to be trialled in other stores.
Well good luck Barbara but I can’t help but hope this idea isn’t “rolled out” to my local Sainsbury’s… I enjoy my mental kip while out shopping and don’t want to have to walk around my local supermarket with a big DO NOT DISTURB sign around my neck.
It was an interesting show though and I’ll definitely be watching more of them, just to see what else comes out of the great think tank that is Sainsbury’s employees!