Wal-Mart? Really?

Posted on September 29, 2008 | in Uncategorized | by CRC

A recent Fast Company blog talked about Wal-Mart’s practices, which often force other smaller companies out of business. Wal-Mart has a bad reputation for how it treats its vendors and its unfriendly behavior toward employees.

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As a native of Arkansas, I remember the days when Sam Walton used to drive around in his beat-up old pick-up truck and they took the magazine _Tiger Beat _off the shelves because they thought it was too racy. I’ve seen small towns altered by the presence of Wal-Mart and watched as people slowly transitioned from visiting small (and not so small) neighborhood stores to shopping at Wal-Mart for everything from paper towels to groceries to car tires.

So I was surprised to read that Wal-Mart is further enhancing it’s newly minted green credentials by creating an environmentally efficient fleet of trucks. This and other articles about the greening of Wal-Mart made me wonder if this behemoth of backwards business practices was turning over a new leaf.

I recently visited a Wal-Mart on vacation and found that they have another innovative practice related to measuring customer satisfaction. I went to the checkout register to pay with my debit card on the electronic kiosk. Along with the pin pad, a question popped up: “Was the cashier friendly to you?” and below you could press “Yes” or “No”. While I wasn’t so sure about the value of the question (How much does cashier friendliness really impact your bottom line, and how reliable are different customers' assessments of what friendly is?) I was impressed with the delivery. Here was an instant and effortless way to measure customer satisfaction. Not only would it take me just a second to tap the answer, but the cashier couldn’t see what I was answering. It made me wonder, “Is the question always the same? Or if I went through again would they ask me how clean the store was?” Either way, the possibilities are endless. With this method you can directly connect a customer’s purchasing behavior to their satisfaction. And imagine if grocery stores with frequent buyer cards used this method! The questions could be linked to a history of buying behaviors to see how purchasing connected to customer satisfaction and whether those who indicated lower customer satisfaction purchased less in the future. The possibilities are endless…