Message to Associates
Customer Service is Our Key to the Future
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’ expectations.
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.