I only live 5 minutes away from my nearest IKEA. That has a whole host of advantages, (you can pop round for one of their excellent fresh salmon breakfasts on Saturday morning before the crowds arrive). But it also has disadvantages too, (you can all too easily pop round to get smaller items mid-afternoon, at peak shopping times). I made the latter mistake last Saturday. And what a catastrophic experience it was.
I actually popped round to get a couple of bulbs for a new light I had bought. Why on Earth they don’t include bulbs in lights is a mystery to me. Maybe they haven’t read any of Tony Ulwick’s work on the jobs customers are trying to do. Anyway, it was a last minute trip that couldn’t wait until Monday. Although IKEA was packed when I arrived, I managed to find space in the Restaurant for a coffee & cake, before making my way through the store to the lighting department. IKEA has recently changed its retail displays to showcase realistic looking themed “showrooms” that match the life themes that real customers have. The showrooms even have books, clothes and other personal effects to help make them seem more real. Sitting down in one kitchen showroom, I could almost believe I was at someone else’s house waiting for them to brew a fresh coffee. So far so good.
I picked up the two bulbs I needed and made my way to the checkout. What greeted me was like a scene out of Heathrow airport in the middle of a baggage handler’s strike! A sea of very unhappy people with nowhere to go and no way of knowing how long they would have to wait to checkout. Although there were 30 checkouts, only half of them were occupied, and half of the checkouts that were occupied were only taking debit cards(and this in Germany where “cash is king”). I joined the shortest queue with my two bulbs and counted the number of people in the queues nearest to mine. Each queue had about 30 people in it, snaking back up to 50 metres from the checkout into the warehouse area. Some other queues in the distance were even longer. That means at least 15 * 30 = 450 people were waiting to checkout, probably more. And all around us were lonely trolleys piled high with goods that other customers had abandoned. To cap it all, there were half a dozen staff to one side who were engaged in some internal discussion, rather than manning another six checkouts. They didn’t seem to notice the unhappy customers surrounding them. Nor to care about their plight.
I managed to escape this shopping purgatory with my two bulbs in only 30 minutes. Some were not so lucky.
Sampson Lee has discussed the IKEA experience at length in his post on We Need More Pain. In this case, I don’t think the offer of a cheap icecream, even of a whole van load of icecream, would have compensated for my checkout catastrophe. I had had more than enough pain for one day.
What did I learn from my visit to IKEA? First, that I should only go there at the start of the day when the store is not so busy. Second, that whilst IKEA has done a great job with its themed show rooms, that counts for nothing when you can’t buy the damned stuff without queueing for ages. Finally, that IKEA doesn’t really understand the end-to-end shopping experience of its customers. Either that or it figures that customers who have invested so much time in driving there, browsing and shopping will just grin and bear it through the checkout catastrophe.
What do you think? Is your IKEA a checkout catastrophe too? Or does your IKEA provide customer-centric service when things get really busy?
Post a comment and get the conversation going.
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager