My recent in-store experience with Walmart-owned Sam's Club reminded me why I left the retailer and joined Costco a few years ago
Many hope successful businesses will master the entire customer journey, engaging with customers in a personalized way that is seamless across all channels. An experience should make the customer feel more important and satisfied, which will ensure more business down the road. Walmart is definitely taking significant strides toward achieving this goal. The acquisition of jet.com, the introduction of Walmart pay, improvements to its mobile app and online ordering process all point in this direction. The company, however, has a hard nut to crack on this path as in-store workers often look depressed, sad and even grumpy or borderline rude.
I placed an online order with in-store pickup option a few days ago. I was pleased to find that the mobile app on my phone displayed a notification when the order was ready. As I was walking toward the store from the parking lot, I remembered that I can check-in with the mobile app to notify the store - this way I would not have to wait that much for the pickup. (Especially, that the pickup area is in the back of the store at this particular location, so it takes a little while to walk there).
The check-in was easy and went smoothly. The app also reminded me to follow the orange signs in the store to get to the pickup location. There were indeed orange signs all the way to the pickup spot. This is a nice feature to have if I get an item from a store that I haven't visited before. With the check-in, I did not have to wait at all at the pickup location. My item was already near the counter – I was impressed.
Unfortunately, I could not help to notice that the clerk looked sad, indifferent. He hardly acknowledged me or said anything at all. He did not say hello or goodbye, did not thank me for the business. In some ways, he ruined the experience for me.
Few years ago, this was one big reason why switched from Sam's Club to Costco. Employees at Costco just seemed so much happier. They smile, they are happy to get items that you could not find. They sometimes even make small talk with you. This is one of the fundamental differences between these two companies.
If Walmart wants to win more customers and generate more business, the company must help their employees to support this goal as well. Treating them better, paying them better, training them better are probably all necessary steps. Even though the company is making an effort on this front, the company still has ways to go as this story shows. Only solving technical challenges is not enough in today's environment, where successful businesses even go as far as empathizing with customers and providing personalized responses based on recent interactions.