LONDON, March 2 -- Tesco, the UK's largest grocery chain, last night won the prestigious Retail Week Customer Service Initiative of the Year award, for its hugely successful "one-in-front" campaign. Using SMARTLANE queue-busting camera technology, developed by IRISYS, in-store queue waiting time is now kept to a minimum for customers, which Sir Terry Leahy, Chief Executive of Tesco, sites as a key factor in boosting store profits.
Described by the judges as a "sight of the future", the queue busting cameras represented "what Tesco does well and what helps give it a competitive advantage".
The IRISYS cameras use sophisticated thermal imaging technology to measure and predict customers' arrival at checkouts, enabling managers to react in real-time to ensure the right number of tills are open to deliver the best possible service to customers.
In a recent earnings call, Sir Terry Leahy credited the thermal imaging cameras as being a key factor in the company's half-year pre-tax profits rising ten per cent to GBP1.092 billion. Leahy commented, "We have heat seeking cameras that sense the number of customers entering a store and predict the checkouts that need to be open in an hour. We can monitor and manage the service customers get much more precisely - by customer, by store and by the minute. Thanks to this, a quarter of a million more customers every week don't have to queue."
The IRISYS SMARTLANE solution uses ceiling mounted infra-red sensors above the checkout lanes to detect the number and behaviour of customer groups at the checkouts. The intelligent sensors automatically calculate the average queue length, average wait time and overall store performance against Tesco's One in Front* (OIF) customer service commitment. Displaying real-time queuing data on the shop floor enables the retailer's management team to deploy their multi-skilled staff to react quickly to potential queuing issues.
Attila Winstanley, Productivity Director at Tesco adds, "Ensuring we offer the best service at the checkouts is one of our core disciplines, and it is also one of our biggest challenges. Historically we have manually captured data on queue lengths at the checkout, but accuracy levels were varied. SMARTLANE accurately captures our OIF performance in real time, allowing Front End Checkout Managers to deliver better levels of service, whilst at the same time optimising the deployment of checkout staff."
Chris Precious Sales Director of IRISYS, said, "While Tesco initially lead the way with this technology, many other retailers both in Europe and the US are now following suit as they recognise that better service, cost-effectively delivered by IRISYS SMARTLANE technology, can drive both sales and bottom-line growth."
IRISYS was recently listed in the Sunday Times Microsoft Tech Track 100 list of Britain's fastest growing technology companies. The Northamptonshire-based company develops infra-red imaging devices that also monitor machines for wear and tear and screened travellers for fever during the SARS outbreak.
* Tesco takes queuing seriously and in 1999 pioneered the One in Front policy (if there was more than one customer in front, they would open another check-out).