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Tesco does best when it champions the customer, says incoming chief executive

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Tesco does best when it’s “the champion for the customer,” according to the multichannel retailer’s incoming chief executive Dave Lewis.

In a video uploaded to Tesco’s YouTube channel, Lewis, speaking at the end of his first week in charge, said the customer experience had to be at the heart of the business.

“I think it’s pretty clear,” he said, “we do have to get back to the core of our business, to a place where we have offered to our customers an experience that’s better than anybody else that operates in the marketplace that we’re in. Now, what that element has to be to be better, we still need to work out together. But we will go back to the core and we will go back to finding out what it is, be it price, be it availability, be it service, that customers need from us so that they reward us with their loyalty.”

Lewis said he would not be making hasty decisions about changing the company, which as the UK’s largest retailer pioneered multichannel retailing in the supermarket sector. Rather he’d be talking to staff, as well as listening and observing rather than acting on preconceptions. But, he said: “What I would just ask everybody to do is to focus on making the customer experience, in whichever country they’re in, better tomorrow than it is today. I think when we do that we’ll be OK in terms of managing the commercial aspects of our business, not needing to make some of the changes that people are advising us to.”

He said: “It’s got to be about an enhanced customer experience and then making it economically viable in a way that our shareholders can appreciate.” And he added: “I think we’re at our best when we are the champion for the customer. When you do that morale feels good, it comes from a job well done.”

Lewis’ comments echo those of his predecessor Philip Clarke, who said last February that an era of new retailing was all about putting the customer first. For Clarke, that meant investing in online and convenience, but it is yet to be seen how Lewis will interpret customer demand. When Lewis’ early arrival – he started on Monday – was announced last week, Tesco also said it would be cutting back on capital spending in areas including IT, which could have implications for investment in digital retailing.

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