Tesco has asked managers to use basic courtesies with their staff as part of efforts to turn around the struggling supermarket chain.
Managers are being encouraged to say please and thank you to employees and praise them when they have done a good job, in an attempt to encourage better customer service.
Matt Davies, chief executive of Tesco’s UK and Irish business, told The Guardian: “It is about celebrating success and the power of appreciation. There is power in saying thank you and of spotting somebody doing a job well and appreciating that.”
He said Tesco had not sent a missive demanding certain actions, but had communicated a change of culture through staff workshops and conferences and in the way senior management dealt with colleagues.
He added that the initiative was part of Tesco’s aim of rebuilding trust in the brand laid out by chief executive Dave Lewis, who was brought in 18 months ago after Tesco suffered a dive in sales and profits.
Shortly after Lewis arrived, he revealed a multimillion-pound accounting scandal which has led to investigations by the Serious Fraud Office and the grocery industry regulator. Last year the company revealed the biggest loss in its history.
Tesco has since rewritten the way it deals with suppliers, cut prices and slashed costs by sacking thousands of head office staff as well as revamping the management team as it tries to win back shoppers.
“Rebuilding trust is a core part of what we need to do – rebuilding trust with colleagues, customers and the nation at large – and that will take a period of time and will follow from running our business the right way,” said Davies, as he marked his first year at Tesco with his first public speech at the Retail Week Live conference in London.
Davies said he had no regrets about leaving his post as chief executive of the bikes to car parts retailer Halfords and he had been surprised by the warmth of the company culture at Tesco. “I don’t think that warmth is apparent from the outside and part of our challenge is how we demonstrate how much we really care to the nation,” he said.
He said he believed Tesco was “on the cusp of doing something special” after reporting its first underlying sales growth in four years over Christmas. “On every key measure of great service, customers are more positive about Tesco than they’ve been for years,” said Davies. He said customer service was just as important as price, quality and products.
There are hopes that 2016 could be a better year for Britain’s big supermarkets, which have been hit by a price war spurred by rising competition from Aldi and Lidl.
On Tuesday, Sainsbury’s revealed its first quarterly sales growth for more than two years, and last week Morrisons announced its first quarterly rise in underlying sales for four years.
But Davies said Tesco expected the market to remain tough and its recovery strategy was not based on any easing of competitive pressures. “Is it getting any easier? No, not really. It’s still a tough market and being hard-fought right across the UK,” he said.