Walmart (NYSE: WMT) may feature a greeter at door to welcome customers to the retailer, but many Walmart retail shoppers indicate that is hardly enough.
In a Consumer Reports investigation on customer service, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer and its wholesale retail cousin Sam’s Club, were rated among the worst for customer service. In fact, Walmart and Sam’s were among the worst for customer service in eight industries including appliances, electronics, cell phones and supermarkets.
In the report, one Walmart shopper recounts how a poorly trained and dismissive sales associate insisted that her purchase of the wrong version of a Bible could not be returned because company policy didn’t allow returned books. After 20 minutes and the sales associate’s inability to produce the policy, the reluctant sales associate discovered it could be returned and funds returned to the customer’s charge card.
In tough times, the number of people available to help retail customers usually diminishes. But many Americans believe companies are deliberately making it harder to contact them by burying phone numbers of company websites, diverting phone calls, and steering customers online for answers. When was the last time you telephoned a company’s customer service center and had a human being answer?
In all fairness, Walmart probably was listed in so many categories for poor customer service because is it one of the few retailers that competes in so many sectors, specializes in low-priced items, and its stores are so large, a lap or two around it could amount to a mile’s walk.
But could its subpar service have contributed to Walmart’s stagnant U.S. sales last year? It’s true that many Walmart customers like one-stop shopping and may be willing to give up a little personal attention for the savings that come with cheap prices and bulk purchases. But I doubt that any shopper who isn’t competing to be the next American Idol wants to spend their money with a retailer that allows inaction, long waits and snippy responses from its staff.
Of course, Walmart wasn’t the only big name company to piss its customers off. The report also shares tales of frustrated customers getting bad customer service from AT&T (NYSE:T) and Dell (NASDAQ:DELL). But that should be of little comfort to Walmart or any retailer when its customers can go elsewhere.
If you think they aren’t, read the report which says that 64% of the survey’s respondents said that during the last 12 months they’ve left a store because the service was poor. Sixty- seven percent hung up customer service because their problem wasn’t addressed. In this age of social media, retailers should beware. If they aren’t willing to listen to customers complaints, I’m sure that visitors to social websites, such as privately-held Facebook Inc., Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and YouTube, certainly are.
As of this writing, Cynthia Wilson did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.