LONDON: Tesco, the UK's biggest supermarket chain, is seeking to build trust with its customers and to improve service and quality following a period focused on growth, its chief executive has said.

"We went through a period of extraordinary expansion," Philip Clarke told Management Today. "We were rolling out our model across the world. Now we're trying to establish the right relationship with our customers."

Part of the new strategy involves developing a less corporate and more flexible approach. Tesco has taken stakes in smaller firms to help them grow, including bakeries and coffee shops that have opened concessions within Tesco stores.

"We don't want to lose our efficiency but we want to get more creativity into the machine," he said and these smaller businesses would help do that.

Clarke disagreed with the suggestion that Tesco was simply trying to build its already significant presence by hiding behind other brands.

"We need to be more relevant to our customers' wishes," he stated. "You can only begin to build a close relationship with them if you get that right."

He also pointed out that around 15% of Tesco's overall investments was now in technology as customers were increasingly buying online.

"Ours is a high-tech, multichannel world and we're building the capability for that," Clarke said. "Whatever way they choose to shop with us, customers want a sensory experience."

To that end, Tesco has opened an app development centre in Shoreditch, east London, and employs 5,000 technologists in Bangalore, India.

Data was another area that Tesco was focused on. "You've got to offer choice. You've got to spot a trend," said Clarke. "You do that by capturing the data – we're very good at that – and then using it to make people's lives better."

Marketing messages have also been rephrased. "'I've reduced the emphasis on shouting about the price and stressed the importance of delivering quality at that price," said Clarke.

Data sourced from Management Today