BLOG: Unexpected item in bagging area


Roger Edwards from Bright Grey and Scottish Provident considers the unnecessary measures companies take that just end up confusing the consumer.

As a consumer I often get annoyed at the daft things companies do to their products and services.

Most of these initiatives seem to have been started with good intentions but I wonder how many of them have been adequately thought through. Because often all the good intentions are eliminated when the reality of the implementation hits home.

For example, self-service checkouts may have been a feature of our supermarkets for years now but they were always in the minority when it came to human vs machine ratio.

Now you enter a supermarket and they outnumber their human counterparts so there's no alternative but to use these incredibly annoying faceless machines.

So the upshot is rather than a smiling assistant you can pass the time of day with, you are faced with a grating mechanical voice that constantly tells you there's an ‘unexpected item in the bagging area'. And low and behold you should want to be eco friendly and use your own bag, as this will completely freak the machine out.

All seems straightforward to start with. Just select 'own bag', place your bag in the bagging area and start scanning your items.

But it's not that easy is it? Because after you've placed your bag in the bagging area the unexplained item message starts up and you have to wait around for a member of staff to verify your shopping bag.

These sort of changes are dressed up as improvements, but in reality are of little benefit to customers. They just create confused and stressed out shoppers. In the protection industry we're going down a similar route with critical illness cover.

We think we're improving the cover by adding more and more conditions but in reality we are causing confusion to the consumer.

There's clearly a market for the product but the complexity could be putting many people off. Ultimately, consumers want clarity, transparency and something they can understand and trust to pay out.

This highlights the need for advice when choosing cover so that people understand what they are buying and can be confident it will meet their needs should the worst happen.

Personally, I miss the interaction with the supermarket check-out assistant. Occasionally you'll be served by someone who is clearly having a bad day but even a grumpy face is preferable to ‘unexpected item in bagging area'.

Likewise, in order to understand the full range of protection products, nothing can replace having a face to face chat with a friendly adviser.


Roger Edwards is managing director at Bright Grey & Scottish Provident


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