Monday Morning Reaction: Secret Shopping Wal-Mart
Today and every Monday morning until Congress votes to stop having this hideous first day of the work week, you'll be able to read reader (and retailer) reaction to the previous Thursday's secret shopper review in The Unsecret Shopper.
Today - reader feedback from last Thursday's secret shopper evaluation of Wal-Mart on 73rd Street in Des Moines.
Let me tell ya how this works.
Each time one of these reviews is done, a link to the blog post is emailed to that particular company, along with the following:
"This will hopefully provide you with information you feel is valuable - a behind-the-scenes look into the quality of your store's customer service. Please use the information as you see fit."
And under home plate at Principal Park lies a secret door that opens to a magical portal that takes you directly inside the mind of Kevin Cooney.
Part of the purpose of going to the evaluated store's web site and emailing them the information is to see if they'll respond - just like you'd expect, as a shopper, if you voiced your customer service issues to them. Wouldn't you like to think that if you complained to a retail store about their poor customer service, you'd get a swift response back? Isn't that a fair expectation?
That reaction - or lack of it - is part of the more thorough customer service evaluation I do with all of my clients.
Some retailers do use the secret shopper information given to them - and to their advantage. Managers at Homemakers Furniture shared their Secret Shopper evaluation information with employees, as part of training. That is the hallmark of a smart, progressive company - turning their pain into power.
I haven't heard back officially from Karl Chevrolet since their Secret Shopper review, but I have received off the record comments from sources close to the company. What I can share with you is that, while upper management was understandably none too happy with what I reported, some of the observations of the secret shopper review were shared with parties within the company, as constructive criticism.
That's great news - every company can do things better, even Karl Chevrolet - a company that already does many things, exceptionally well.
The Secret Shopper evaluation of Legends American Grill on Court Avenue, also generated no official response from management - although it was an overwhelmingly positive review, and so perhaps a case of "shut up while you're ahead."
Which brings us to Wal-Mart.
Sometimes we are faced with conundrums - like, do you admit to your spouse who asks "Did you have Mexican for lunch?" as you greet and kiss them at the door upon arriving home from work, that you actually just bought two burrito supremes with extra sour cream at the drive-thru on your way home, stuffed them in your mouth and tried to cover your tracks by flossing and brushing your teeth with the "food debris emergency hygiene kit" you keep in the glove compartment.
Or do you lie and say, "Nope, haven't eaten all day and I'm starving - wanna go grab a taco?"
Today's conundrum is, do I share the reaction I received from someone in Wal-Mart management - that was sent to me by a third-party - or pretend I never stuffed my face with it, and suggest we digest reader comments?
Since you can now smell the Wal-Mart reaction on my breath, I'll paraphrase what I think I can, with you.
It's safe to say that this upper management person with Wal-Mart Corporate expressed gratitude for the insight provided into the store on 73rd, that it would be passed along to other managers, and that the secret shopper observations could be incorporated into future customer service training.
That's music to all of our ears, and the ultimate goal of The Unsecret Shopper - creating better customer service for shoppers, employees and owners.
I'll be secret shopping the Wal-Mart at 73rd again in the not too distant future, to see if things have improved - as I will do with all of the stores reviewed by The Unsecret Shopper.
Meantime, many of you would welcome some immediate improvement to Wal-Mart's customer service template, judging by the tone and volume of reader response I've received since Thursday. Here are some samples:
"I appreciated this review. This is exactly how this WalMart makes me feel. It's an overwhelming shopping experience, lost and ignored in a madhouse, yet I always seem to venture back. It very well may be for that employee here or there that cares to demonstrate that customer service does exist. There's the gentleman in electronics with computer knowledge and a helpful demeanor, there's the customer service manager who's able to chuckle, smile and flip your negative comment into a request for help which he then acts upon, and there's the blonde at the customer service desk who demonstrates patience beyond her means in dealing with unending lines of customers bringing her their complaints of the rest of the building and its inhabitants. I suppose it takes a thick enough hide, and low enough prices, to encourage one to withstand the conditioning it takes to know which employees to seek out, and which employees to avoid. Must we stalk good customer service? Good thing you found Jeff, before it was too late!"
"...your blog is biting, sarcastic, leaning on the premise that WalMart is big and bad--and overall, you are being a bit unfair in your cheap shots."
"Yahoo for you!! Someone finally rates the customer service at Walmart. The store on 72nd st should be shut down!! They are dirty and employees have no personality at all. They have no idea what items are in their flyers and on sale nor are they friendly."
"Your review of Wal-Mart is complete unfair. I've worked there for five years and no one I work with, acts the way you claim they do. Why would any of our employees just ignore a customer? We're there to serve the public, and we do it, every day."
"You do not want to know what I think about Wal Mart, but I still shop there, because it is close to my house."
"It's J.C. "Penney," not "Penny," stupid."
"Seems like Wal-mart violates all your rules of customer service and shopping by "how you feel". I guess that price does mean something..huh? People are going to shop at Wal-mart, Sam's Club and Costco not because of great customer service, but because of price. You might want to modify some of your rules."
"I used to work at that Wal-Mart store until I quit. The management is terrible, it's no wonder their customer service is awful, too."
"All you want to do is criticize people. Don't you ever stop and think that these employees are human beings, with feelings? Imagine how you would feel if your job performance as a customer service evaluator was publicized for everyone to see, especially with the companies that hired you and still went bankrupt? How would that make you feel?"
"Great review and seemingly typical of most Wal-Marts I have been in. Kudos to Jeff!"
[In Mexico the Wal-Marts are called “El Crapo.”] "Cheap shot. Insulting to Mexico. Insulting to Walmart and beneath your dignity to use the word "crap."
[and you’ve got $400 billion in net sales in the recession year of 2009 and a retail empire that’s turned 345 illiterate Arkansasians into 345 Walton family millionaire illiterates.] "That is just plain mean...some of the most educated, kind and generous and hard-working folks...live in the Ozarks and more directly, ARKANSAS. You show a bias and lack of knowledge about the people there."
[Before I get into the review, here’s a little known fact – Sam Walton started working in retail in 1940, at a J.C. Penny in Des Moines.] "The company is spelled PENNEY, not like the copper one. No need to insult Des Moines as if raising and hosting a Sam Walton icon is a bad thing."
"The store out at Jordan Creek is the only Walmart I have been in that was clean and very helpful. I love it when they can direct you to what you are looking for with a smile."
"My experience at the Wal-Mart store on 73rd has been overwhelmingly positive, and I shop there at least once a week. Your review was off the mark."
"Wal-Mart on 73rd has the worst customer service of any Wal-Mart store I've ever shopped at and I've been to dozens of them. Your review should be enlarged to poster size and a copy put up on every wall - maybe they'd get the hint."
"Please take me off your email list. Thanks."
If you also want to communicate directly with Wal-Mart about your shopping experience - good, bad or otherwise - click here.
Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of "The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show," which airs Saturday mornings from 8-9am, on 1350 KRNT. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.