I recently read an article that really appeals to me on this
business of Customer Satisfaction and how we plan to compete with the many
terms of competition on the street today – and more coming. I’ve made the
statement often that our major competition in the future won’t be Kmart,
Target, Sears, Penney’s, Shopko, Price Club or Costco, but will be the
specialty chains that are becoming ever more numerous and more successful. They
often carry much larger assortments of their type of merchandise and have
well-trained, product-knowledgeable sales people on the floor to sell it. These
specialists carry practically all our lines such as toys (Toys-R-Us), auto
supplies (Auto Shack), photos and electronics (Circuit City), stationery and
office supplies, sporting goods, health and beauty aids, off-price
ready-to-wear operations, children’s shops, piece goods, etc. not to mention
the super food operations that carry almost everything. In my book, all of the
above are our competitors and we need to constantly reexamine our strengths in
Wal-Mart, rededicating ourselves to serving our customers completely and
winning additional market share.
The article I’m referring to was written by James S. Hensel
three or four years ago in conjunction with The Center for Retailing Studies at
Texas A&M University. The subject of the article was, “Store Managers
Should Be Customer Satisfaction Managers.” I would add that all our store
associates be anointed and serve as customer satisfaction manager as well. To win at this marketing game, Wal-Mart
must excel at customer closeness and careful listening to what our customers
say they want.
The critical link in all this is the local Wal-Mart Store
Managers and associates. Customer Satisfaction and the fight for market share
begins at the point where the customer comes in contact with the store, the
merchandise and the store personnel. It is at this point that we must all
become the customer service managers. Out Wal-Mart and Sam’s Managers have
daily contact opportunities and manage the arena where customer satisfaction
battles are tough and individual transactions are won or lost. Increased sales
through customer satisfaction improvements will not come quickly or easily. Rather,
the battle for sales gain through market share improvement will be won “the old
fashioned way” by getting close to the customer and delivering large doses of
customer satisfaction in each of our Wal-Mart and Sam’s units.
Our present company-wide campaign of having all of our
associates working hard to exceed our customers’ expectations is most
important. As well, it is our determination to make it virtually a condition of
employment for all cashier and special service associates to thank our
customers by name when presented with a check or credit card.
You should know well by now what we consider another
opportunity to build and satisfy our customers and let them know how much we
appreciate their support. That technique is simply having us all greet our customers,
look them in the eye and let them know we appreciate them.
Further, I hope everyone in Wal-Mart by now realizes the
importance of greeting our customers with a smile and a simple “hello.” It’s
part and parcel of this Wal-Mart culture of ours and I’m personally hoping
we’ll get so good at it, all 250,000 of us will be practicing the ritual daily
on our customers. They deserve it and will like it. In my opinion, we should
move to require and expect everyone in Wal-Mart to comply with the above as a
condition of employment. Yes, it is that important to our collective futures.
It’s doing lots of little things better than the competition
that adds up to customer responsiveness that is distinctive and memorable. I’m
convinced we have a tremendous edge in this battle of the retailers for future
market share because of our wonderful associates and their great attitudes of
caring and trying to do things on their own to exceed our customers’
Never before have we had so many wonderful examples flowing
in from all over our Wal-Mart country on what our associates are doing to
exceed our customers’ expectations. I will mention three examples. What is the
best of all is that you’re beginning to realize you all have the authority and
responsibility to satisfy a customer, regardless. Just use your own judgment
and do it. It is truly Wal-Mart magic in action and our customers are loving
it. Again, I stand on this statement that in Wal-Mart, “Our Associates Are
Truly Our Service Guarantee.”
A customer and his family were shopping in our Oxford,
Mississippi, Wal-Mart store. One of the items they bought was a $20 set of
track lighting. After leaving the store, they discovered that the track
lighting was not in the car, even though they remembered going through the
checkout counter with it and it was clearly shown on their receipt. They
thought they had possibly laid it down on the pavement and forgotten to put it
into their car but when they returned to the Wal-Mart store the lights were not
where they had parked nor at the checkout counter. Hugh Walker, an Assistant
Manager, promptly arrived at the checkout counter and, even though the customer
could not remember whether or not he had left with the lights, insisted that
the customer take another set.
Two of our associates in store #770, Great Bend, Kansas,
took a microwave to an elderly customer who has having trouble with the
microwave she had purchased. Christi Birzer, Department Manager and Norman
Swov, from the Garden Center, delivered and set up the microwave and returned
the old microwave to the store.
One of our associates at store #296, Falfurrias, Texas,
opened up the Automotive Center after it was already closed to help out a Kmart
manager and his wife who were on vacation when their car broke down. The
associate took off the car that was on the rack, put the customer’s car on, had
it fixed and had them on their way again within 30 minutes.
Let’s keep doing
those little, but so important things that add up to more surprised and pleased
Wal-Mart shoppers. That is our greatest advantage as we roll into the
1990s. It’s really very simple. It’s a matter of all of us clearly
understanding that our most important task is ensuring customer satisfaction,
regardless. If we do just that and work as a team to accomplish it, listening
and learning from each other, nothing can stop us from becoming one of the
finest, if not the best, retailer in the world. Yes, we can do it together and
do it our Wal-Mart Way.
Thanks – Sam.
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Exceeding Our Customers’ Expectations By Sam Walton,...