Self-service tills have a reputation for frustrating supermarket shoppers, but The Grocer’s Self-Service Till Test suggests they are becoming easier to use.

A surprising 83% of the 164 mystery shoppers who took part in The Grocer’s test reported having “no problem whatsoever” when asked to take a basket of shopping through self-service tills at Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco across the UK.

The shoppers were asked to buy at least five items, including one that had to be weighed, and the details entered using the touchscreen. Just 17% of shoppers reported problems, either with the bagging area, weighing the item, or finding the item on the touchscreen.

Retalix, which supplies self-service software systems globally and in the UK including for Tesco and Sainsbury’s, said a lot of work was taking place to improve the self-service experience.

“We’ve introduced new technology around the security scales to reduce the dreaded ‘unexpected item in bagging area’, said sales manager Andy Charrington. “Helping retailers improve the customer experience is an important part of what we do and this includes making self-service tills quicker, easier and more intuitive to use.

“We work with experts to continuously improve the clarity of self-service systems and predict the expansion of self-service to mobile phones in the future, which will bring a whole new opportunity for engagement and personalisation between retailers and consumers.”

However, shopworkers union Usdaw said the tills were still frustrating shoppers. “Unfortunately, self-service checkouts have become another flashpoint that can lead to shopworkers being abused, threatened and even physically assaulted,” said general secretary John Hannett. “Frustrated shoppers often take out their anger on the nearest shopworker. This is unfair and unacceptable. On the whole, we do think shoppers much prefer to be served by real people, so it is important that retailers continue to give their customers a choice of how to check out.”

Sainsbury’s self-service tills performed the best, with just three out of 44 shoppers reporting a problem. The worst performer was Morrisons, with 31% of shoppers having difficulties.

Shoppers fed back the results to The Grocer using the Roamler smartphone app, which rewards iPhone users with cash for carrying out crowdsourcing tasks.

In August, The Grocer revealed a survey of more than 4,000 shoppers found 65% wanted more self-service tills in supermarkets, and 57% liked them because they speed up shopping.