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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"We are agents for our customers. We want to sell them what they want to buy, and the name of the game is who can most efficiently deliver that merchandise from raw materials to the customer."1

- David Glass, former President, CEO and CFO, Wal-Mart.

The secret of successful retailing is to give your customers what they want. And really, if you think about it from your point of view as a customer, you want everything: a wide assortment of good quality merchandise; the lowest possible prices; guaranteed satisfaction with what you buy; friendly, knowledgeable service; convenient hours; free parking; a pleasant shopping experience."2

- Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart.


In March 2003, Fortune magazine ranked Wal-Mart as the world's largest and America's most admired company (Refer Exhibit I for awards and recognitions conferred on Wal-Mart).

Fortune's Managing Editor, Rik Kirkland, commented, "Eleven years after Sam Walton's death, Wal-Mart, the company he founded, not only has grown tenfold to become the world's biggest but also is now the world's and America's most admired.

Best of all, Walton's successors have achieved this unprecedented feat by preserving the unpretentious, relentlessly customer-focused culture."3

In November 2002, Wal-Mart was ranked #1 by the customers in the 2002 department store customer satisfaction study, conducted by a leading consultancy firm, JD Power & Associates4 (Refer Exhibit II). Since its inception, Sam Walton (Walton) had cultivated a customer-focused culture at Wal-Mart.

In his autobiography "Sam Walton - Made in America: My Story," Walton stated ten rules that he followed in managing his company (Refer Exhibit III).

One of the rules said, "Exceed your customer's expectations. If you do they'll come back over and over. Give them what they want - and a little more.

Let them know you appreciate them. Make good on all your mistakes, and don't make excuses - apologize. Stand behind everything you do. 'Satisfaction guaranteed' will make all the difference." The rule reflected Walton's commitment to his customers.

Lessons in Customer Service from Wal-Mart - Next Page>>

1] As quoted in the article, "In retailing, the rich are getting richer, and many of the poor will fall by the wayside", by Sawaya, Z., in Forbes dated January 6, 1992.

2] As quoted in the article, "Walmart.com, background information", posted on www.walmart.com.

3] As quoted in the article, "The World's Most Admired Companies" by Paola Hjelt, Fortune, March 3, 2003.

4] Headquartered in California, JD Power and Associates is a global marketing information services firm that helps businesses and consumers make better decisions through credible and easily accessible customer-based information.

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