How Much Service Are You Willing to Pay For?

I chatted with a friend the other day who was upset that cashiers at his local Wal-Mart are not always friendly and customer focused. My friend, who is a chef, prides himself on providing excellent service in whatever role he performs. He just doesn’t understand why a store like Wal-Mart doesn’t always appreciate his business.

Let me explain. Recently, he’s seen a few examples at Wal-Mart where the cashier will scan his goods without any interaction whatsoever. No good morning, hello, or anything. This bothers him and it makes him feel ignored and under appreciated. He just doesn’t understand why they can’t be more polite and friendly. Not excusing that behavior, from my perspective, Wal-Mart’s strategy is not necessarily customer focused. I’m not saying some associates are not customer oriented, it’s not their primarily focus. In terms of Wal-Mart, their employee compensation package is quite low – because of supply and demand, workers employed there are not always schooled in customer service. These employees often don’t see the importance and value of service to their customers.

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You sometimes find decent service at Wal-Mart although based upon my experience over the years is the exception rather than the rule. Another store that often lacks the customer focused approach is Menards. Their service is average at best; their motto or brand is Save Big Money At Menards. When’s the last time you’ve heard good service and Menards mentioned in the same sentence? I’ve heard from some former Menards’ employees who worked directly with the founder, John Menard, which he doesn’t focus on serving and educating the consumer. Menards is trying to build loyalty and profits primarily on selection and price. Service is typically an afterthought.

At Home Depot or Lowe’s, customers will pay a little more for support and education about a do- it- yourself project. That’s the expectation as many customers realize they are paying a little more for service and support. If that service disappears, and shopping at a hardware store is strictly on price, how many customers would quickly scramble to Menards to save some money?

I think it’s important consumers realize what they want from their hardware, grocery or discount store. Is it strictly price? If so, then for the most part, don’t have high expectations about service or being educated about a particular product. You’re on your own in terms of figuring how what’s needed. Is it selection and price? Perhaps then, service might not become a priority. Realize most retailers try to focus on a number of key factors although it’s very difficult for most retailers to provide a competitive price, excellent selection, and strong service all in one store. Would you concur?