Lessons in Customer Service from Wal-Mart

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Case Details:

Case Code : MKTG080
Case Length : 15 Pages
Period : 2003
Pub Date : 2003
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : Wal-Mart
Countries : India

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Introduction Contd...

Apart from being one of the core elements of its culture, Wal-Mart's pursuit to provide the best customer service had its effect on the pricing and purchasing policies of the company. On the importance of providing customers value for their money, Walton said, "We believe in the value of the dollar. We exist to provide value to our customer, which means that in addition to quality and service, we have to save them money.

Every time Wal-Mart spends one dollar foolishly, it comes right of our customers' pockets. Every time we save them a dollar, that puts us one more step ahead of the competition - which is where we always plan to be."5

Wal-Mart was one of the first few companies in the retailing industry to use IT to offer value-added services to customers.

Commenting on Wal-Mart's venture into e-business through the launch of its site, Wal-Mart spokeswoman, Melissa Brown, said, "It is yet another way for us to take care of our customers."6

Walton - A Customer-Focused Leader

In July 1962, Walton - an economics graduate from the University of Missouri, established the first Wal-Mart Discount City in Rogers, a small town in the state of Arkansas, USA. He laid down three principles that later became an integral part of Wal-Mart's culture.

The principles were - respect for the individual, striving for excellence, and service to customers. Wal-Mart's employees, also known as associates, were given a place of importance in Walton's scheme.

Walton believed that if employees were respected and treated well, they would in turn treat the customers with respect, and satisfied customers would continue their relationship with Wal-Mart.

Associates were encouraged to come up with innovative ideas to solve their day-to-day problems, set new performance goals, make their work enjoyable and strive for excellence.

They conducted meetings, known as "grassroots", where they discussed ways and means to improve their performance. Walton emphasized the importance of keeping overall operating expenses low, so that the benefits could be reaped by both the company, through enhanced profitability, and by the customers, through reduced prices...

Excerpts >>

5] As quoted in the book, "Sam Walton, Made in America: My Story", by Sam Walton and John Huey, Page 13.

6] As quoted in the article, "A leader beyond bricks and mortar," in Discount Store News, dated October 1999.

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