Natalie Dunn: Improving the shopping experience one trolley at a time

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We want all the customers who shop at Sainsbury’s to have a great shopping experience, so things like the design of our stores, improving customer facilities and regular colleague training are really important. There’s always room for improvement and we learn things every day through customers telling us how their shopping experience could be improved. At the moment, we’re particularly proud of the work we’ve been doing to make it easier for customers with health conditions or disabilities – whether temporary or permanent – to shop with us through designing shopping trolleys with them in mind.

For example, we’ve been working with disabled mum of three Elizabeth Gwilliam to develop a baby-friendly wheelchair trolley, something that currently doesn’t exist. Elizabeth told us she wanted to shop independently with her baby, just like other mothers. We listened, and Elizabeth  tested a prototype trolley in her local Sainsbury’s in Paignton, Devon, and her feedback will allow us and the manufacturer, Wanzl, to improve the design.

There are more than one million wheelchair users in the UK, so we know there are more mums out there who might benefit from this kind of shopping trolley, and we encourage them to contact us and test our prototype trolley so that we can get as much feedback as possible. Once we’ve finished trialling the prototype, depending on the feedback we receive, we hope to be able to make the necessary improvements and have it available to stores on request, just like we did with our triplet trolleys.

This isn’t the first time we’ve worked with customers to improve their shopping experience. In 2014 we responded to calls from parents of disabled children for a more secure shopping trolley for their children and, after months of testing a prototype together, we invested in nearly 600 of these new trolleys across the UK.

Accessible trolleys aren’t the only service we offer our disabled customers – we also provide wheelchairs, mobility scooters, induction loops, accessible toilets and Blue Badge parking. And we like to lend a helping hand when needed. Older and disabled customers are welcome to ask for assistance in all our stores (usually at our customer service desk) – whether it’s to pack bags, fetch items from shelves or push trolleys, we’ll be happy to help.

Finally, we were the first retailer to trial the concept of slow shopping in our stores, and we also created a short film for colleagues on how to communicate with deaf customers, particularly those who use British Sign Language (BSL). We’ve heavily invested in up-skilling our colleagues on non-visible disabilities like dementia and mental health and have recently turned our attention to autism, which we will provide an update on later in the year.

As you can see, there’s a lot happening, but if there’s something missing we want to know about it! Don’t be shy, reach out and let us know how we can improve your shopping experience – just like Elizabeth Gwilliam did.

By Natalie Dunn, Head of Customer Experience