2013 Retail Customer Service Report – Part 2: Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire & Best Buy

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Here’s a look at three retailers visited this week, and how their customer service looks for the upcoming 4th quarter:

Canadian Tire

It’s still wait-and-see, but it may be ‘three strikes and you’re out’ for me and Canadian Tire.

Over the last three years, I’ve had problems with three different products purchased at Canadian Tire. This, on its own, isn’t a big issue. After all, they don’t make the products, they just sell them. The issue is trying to get some customer satisfaction. So far, I’m 0-for-3. Once was because i didn’t have a receipt. Once was because it (a water cooler) broke beyond a 90 day warranty period. The current one is because the hand-held Dyson vacuum cleaner we purchased …well…sucked… After striking out with customer service, I reached out to the top – to the store owner. He has promised to get back to me, but that was a week ago. We’ll see what happens, but I’m not holding out much hope. If nothing happens, it will be the last time I set foot in a Canadian Tire. There are too many other choices out there to deal with an organization that doesn’t care.

I’m guessing I would normally spend somewhere around $500-$700 a year in this store. How much is it going to cost them to lose me for the next 20 years I’m in their demographic?

Best Buy

I knew what I wanted to buy, but had a few questions. Nobody at Best Buy, unfortunately, wanted to answer them. I counted over a dozen employees – most in groups talking with one another – in the store that was near empty of customers. Not one person approached me, or even looked my way. I spent a good 15 minutes in the department looking at merchandise and reading the information on the boxes. I suppose I could have gone over to one of the employee social circles and begged for help, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, so I left.

Interestingly, when I mentioned this experience to the people in our office, one of my colleagues remarked, “I had the exact same experience last week!”

I wonder how many people do the same thing in this store every day? I wonder what their real potential for sales is?

Wal*Mart

Every time I go into Wal*Mart, I’m reminded why they are the most successful retailer on the planet. This thought is quickly followed by me asking myself why I just don’t shop there more often. I got what I had originally gone to Best Buy for, and was even helped by a pleasant young man in the electronics department. As I went through the checkout, it dawned on me that I have never had a challenge returning or exchanging anything in this store.

Wal*Mart has hung its hat on being the most customer-friendly department store out there. Their stores are bright, clean and easy to navigate. Their product lines are good, and their pricing strategy is aggressive. Their customer service levels are at least as good as other mass merchandisers. The only disappointment (a minor one), is that the “greeters” have pretty consistently forgotten their role. And it used to be an important one. Now, they are more like “ignorers”, and one would be ard pressed to find a smile.

One of the things I’ve always said about business, is that it’s easy to measure how much money you’ve made, but very hard to measure how much you’ve let slip through your fingers. The daily cash register receipts can’t tell you how many frustrated people left a store, or how much a customer might have spent had a caring salesperson spent a little time with him or her. I believe that the dollar figures for this are many times greater than most retailers realize. As I mentioned in the last post, one company we worked with measured the impact of a sustained effort on customer engagement, and instantly saw a stunning 40% increase in their profitability. None of us saw that coming. Sure we expected to see a change – perhaps 5-10%. But 40%?

Canadian Tire and Best Buy are examples of companies who look at their sales performance, and have convinced themselves that they’re doing pretty good. I wonder how they’d feel if they suddenly discovered that they were actually 40% below what they could (and should) be?

1 COMMENT

  1. I have been a long time customer of Canadian Tire – Although my visits are less frequent these days. I feel like they can be doing more overall to grab customers from their competitors. When you walk into a Canadian Tire these days, there is not much consistency between all the different locations. Some stores are bright, have wide aisles and the shelves are neatly displayed while other stores have merchandise stocked to the ceiling, bins upon bins of product and clearance shelves – it almost looks like a giant garage sale. I do however, find their pricing quite competitive these days. As far as their return policy goes, I always need to take a deep breath before returning/exchanging my product at CT. It’s never a pleasant experience. The associates spend a serious amount of time asking questions and inspecting packaging, owners guides, instruction guides and the product itself. I feel like I’m a criminal when I return an item to CT. The amount of keystrokes just to document the return on their PC’s and photocopying of receipts is ridiculous. They need to lighten up a bit – You don’t have to go through any of this at competing stores. Another issue I find is that when you visit a franchised store, they may not accept your return. Not convenient at all. Canadian Tire needs some improvement in these areas. I definitely wish them well and hope they last for years to come.

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