The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) recently released their Retail Report for 2013, which included the top 10 retailers with the worst customer service. At the top of the list reigns a store you can find in cities and towns across the country, Walmart. In fact, Walmart has held that position of worst customer service, or tied with another retailer, for six years in a row! The megastore ranked lowest in both the supermarket and retailer categories. The retailer often boasts its low prices and expansive inventory, but why is their customer service rated so poorly? Walmart has long been the standard for other warehouse stores and is a seemingly indestructible force in the shopping world. So what happened?
Bloomberg news has reported that Walmart’s stocking of shelves has been on the decline. Customers are going to the giant retailer thinking they will be able to find everything on their shopping list, but are finding the store to be lacking. Some shelves even have enough free space for a customer to lay down and take a nap. Customers are finding more and more that they can drive across the street to Costco (who scored very high in the ACSI report) or Target and easily find the goods they are looking for.
Another place that is lacking is the checkout line; Walmart consistently has at least 30 registers in store, and yet only have staff to man 7 to 10 of these. Lines are at least five shoppers deep, and a lot of those shoppers know how to fill up a cart. This lack of staff is creating a “vicious cycle” of under-staffing; not enough workers results in operational problems, resulting in poor sales. Not enough sales, and Walmart cannot staff its stores adequately. A common employee complaint is inconsistency and unpredictability in weekly hours. These staff members are not likely to remain loyal and motivated employees when they do not know if they will be able to pay the bills that week. These labor shortages are resulting in workers being asked to fill in for departments in which they have little to no prior training.
Other retailers on the list behind Walmart include Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreen’s. These retailers are often known for having much higher prices than competitors like Walmart; so why is Walmart ranked even poorer than them? Their prices are typically lower and they have a greater selection. It shows that a low price sometimes cannot beat a good customer service experience. Instead of building store after store across the country, perhaps Walmart should focus on improving processes and procedures on stores already in operation.