Is Extreme Efficiency Really The Goal?

A Wall Street Journal article called Stores Count Seconds to Trim Labor Costs discusses how the Meijer grocery chain along with other retailers are starting to use production techniques to monitor the throughput of employees.

The article discusses how Meijer uses the data about the efficiency of cashiers to identify under-performers which can lead to additional training and coaching, transfers to lower paying positions, or even the dismissal of employees. It ends with a quote from a cashier at Dewitt who talks about how she sometimes gets around the system:

It is pretty much survival, you have to learn the tricks of the trade. 

My take: From a customer experience (and loyalty) standpoint, I’m worried. Efficiency metrics can be extremely valuable, but they can easily be misused. The heightened focus on efficiency can easily come at the expense of other attributes of the experience. Unless a company’s brand is built entirely around efficiency, customers want and expect more. Here’s some advice for companies implementing major efficiency initiatives:

  • Balance efficiency metrics with customer satisfaction metrics
  • Reward high efficiency and high customer satisfaction
  • Set wide parameters; only intervene with very low efficiency performers
  • Use efficiency measures to identify and share best practices
  • Use insights to redesign processes, work spaces, and tools
  • Involve employees in the improvement process
  • Track employee satisfaction and actively respond to to any dips

The bottom line: Don’t be so quick to push your customers out the door.

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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