By Deborah Wroe

I had an embarrassing experience in Tesco petrol forecourt the other day. I was in a rush. It was sunny and I had my shades on. For the first time in a long time I deliberately did not go to the pay at pump row as I needed something from the shop. I lifted the petrol nozzle and waited, and waited, and waited, and waited for the ticker to go back to zero. And then, across the crowded forecourt came the sound of the man inside “Number 5, number 5, press kiosk.” My reply “where?” Him “press kiosk.” Me “where?” – repeat a few times until helpful fellow customer runs over and presses the teeny weeny button on the pump displaying ‘pay at kiosk’. OK, so maybe had I taken my shades off I would have seen the button. And since when is the shop bit called a kiosk?

Then, last week, also in a rush I needed a few bits and went in Tesco. I took my basket to the tobacco/lottery counter (which they call a kiosk) and was told I couldn’t pay there?! You can in Sainsbury’s – so how was I to know? As an aside.. the more you say kiosk how daft does it sound?

And of course there is Aldi, which is a challenge to the uninitiated. There are no baskets so if you want a few bits you have to pile them up in your arms like Crackerjack, and if you have a trolley woe betide you if you try to pack them as they whizz through the till. No, you are expected to chuck them all in the trolley and repack at the bench provided – (note to Aldi, some of us can pack at superspeed and don’t need to do this).

Anyway, my point is, where are the instructions? Where are the signs? Where is the information explaining the customer journey, what to expect and when? I am not saying you need to be given a leaflet on your way in, or that there should be a kindly member of staff asking, “Have you ever been to a Harvester before?” But if you make the assumption that all your customers have visited you before, phoned you before, shopped with you before or know the ropes, you could be missing out.

When did you last walk a mile or two steps in your customers’ shoes or retrace their journey? You could be missing crucial steps that are hindering repeat business or customer loyalty.

When a customer buys from you, do you tell them what to expect and when?

Do your customers know if it’s self services or table service. Do they know to pay at the end or the beginning?

Do you put opening hours, methods of contact on your website? Do you make it easy for customers to contact you and give feedback, and to buy from you?

Do all your channels clearly represent and deliver the same customer experience?

Does your Twitter account explain if it’s for customer service? Can people expect a response? Is it only active from 9-5?

Make your customers’ journey an easy one to navigate. It might save them from an embarrassing situation, and you from lost business.