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Why won’t Walmart invest in customer service training?

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Those of you that know me already know that I happen to be a couponer. Not an extreme couponer, but a couponer nonetheless. It started out of necessity… or maybe a precaution. You start looking at options differently when you take an instant $75k pay cut. What my husband and I found though is that we cut our grocery budget from $400 a month to a $100 a month and have more food and household goods on hand than we ever did before. So even now that I’m working again, we still coupon. We have to get somewhat creative though because we are busy and this task does take some time; a lot of times that means my husband gets up and goes to the store early or uses his lunch break for grocery store runs. About a week ago my husband ran to the local Walmart in the morning before he went to work to use a few coupons and pick up a few things. The coupon didn’t ring up correctly in the system (he was doing self-checkout) and he went to ask the associate on duty for help. She took one look at the coupon and proclaimed to my husband that he wasn’t purchasing the right product-because it didn’t match the picture. Guys, you can’t go by the picture alone, you have to read the description. Sometimes a coupon is for any item, but they have a picture of only a couple of that brands item on the coupon. Read the coupon! Before you roll your eyes at me, I’m going somewhere with this! I’m not mad that they didnt want to take the coupon, stay tuned. So my husband who is pretty well versed in the world of coupons now explains to her the products that this coupon covers. She gets her manager. Her manager proceeds to tell my husband that he can only use one of the three coupons I sent him with. While this is going on the associate is crossing her arms in the background and repeating that she “is not getting written up for this” because she “just got wrote up last week for a WIC”. The manager is rudely telling my husband a story about how he has spent 30 years in retail and my husband is wrong. Not a big deal. He decides to skip the purchase altogether and we go on about our lives.

Please tell me why Walmart will not invest in customer service training… at all? I told this story to a co-worker who added this story to the pile of Walmart complaints: My friend just got a sewing machine and she has been going crazy with sewing projects. She was at our local Walmart (*note, it is not the same store my husband had his encounter with) and was looking through different fabrics. She asked the associate working that area if a particular fabric she found was curtain material, to which the associate huffed and responded “We can’t comment on the products here either way.” Which would be totally acceptable if the customer was inquiring about the QUALITY of the product, but she wasn’t. So the customer asked if she could help with something that would’ve required her to walk over to one of the shelves. The associate responded “Well I hurt when I walk”. Of course this customer gave up too. I happen to know first hand that not ALL Walmarts are terrible, but c’mon. How many of you have said “I’m never shopping there again?” Why do customers keep going back? Why does Walmart not care about this terrible reputation?

Out of curiosity I’ve googled a couple of things like “Walmart Customer Service” “Walmart complaints” and a couple other phrases. There are websites dedicated to customers venting about their bad experiences. There are youtube videos of employees being rude to customers, engaging in arguments and calling people names. I know they are not the only retail store that will pop up in a bad customer service search nor are they the only ones with terrible videos on YouTube of employee behavior. I also googled the current CEO of Walmart and looked at his employment history. Hmm.   2 things jumped out at me about the Georgia Tech alumni: 1) he is one of those CEOs that likes to get in front of the employees once a year and pretend he knows some of the low-level associates in stores he has probably never been in & 2)his goals have nothing to do with customer service. Go ahead and google him and find out for yourself, his name is Michael T. Duke.

Are they really missing the mark though?

“When I look out on the associates in this arena, I know I’m looking at a strong Walmart.  I’m so proud of the work that you do, and it’s reflected in the success of our company.  Last year, earnings per share were up 10.6%.  We added $22 billion in net sales.  And free cash flow was up 18.1%.”

Sometimes we think our organizations are missing an obvious opportunity to make improvements, but the truth is sometimes we aren’t privy to the back-end of the information to see what the real problems are. And when the people at the top get numbers like this in front of them, you couldn’t convince them with a million bad customer experience videos that they have a customer service problem. If customer service is a problem why are sales up? Numbers don’t lie after all.


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