Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wal-mart taking their electronics department upscale

Well, maybe not upscale like I think of it: they won't be building half million dollar home theatre demo rooms or anything, but they will be bringing the latest and greatest advances in gadgets to the masses.

TWICE: Wal-Mart Upgrades CE Departments

Bentonville, Ark. — Wal-Mart is enhancing its CE departments with improved assortments, signage and in-store support. The chain is rolling out the changes system-wide beginning this week.
Newly added product lines include Skype VoIP service and accessories, Vizio flat panel TVs and better HTiBs from Sony and Philips. Wal-Mart will also expand its selection of Samsung TVs with more SKUs in larger screen sizes, is adding 1080p LCD panels in sizes over 40W inches from Philips and Polaroid, and is augmenting its digital imaging offering with SLR models from Canon and Nikon.

The key here is "in-store support" as the article goes on to explain:

To prepare for the enhancements, Wal-Mart said its CE department sales associates completed an “aggressive” customer service and product training program this year.

That sounds great, but the proof, as they say, will be in the pudding. Initiatives formulated by key decision makers at large organizations mean well, and are usually full of substance. By an large, people at the VP or Director level deserve to be there, and their ideas are usually good ones. Where things go horribly, horribly wrong is in the execution of these initiatives. As it filters down the ranks from the executive to the operations level, the commitment and buy-in can be diluted, until the game plan rests solidly on the shoulders of some poor soul in a blue smock who just doesn't get it, and will go and do things "the way we've always done them."

Still, Wal-mart is trying to bring their CE game up a notch, and that should make other retailers sit up, take notice, and look hard at things that they can do to improve their own operations.

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Flatland Pastor said...

WAL-MART has further to go than you might think in this regard, especially if buying higher end electronics from them will require actually talking to one of their front-line employees. My son bought his ipod at WAL-MART and the young person who served him knew about as much about providing good customer service as I know about microbiology. We made the purchase in spite of the sales clerk.

I accept that there will be more upscale products available soon in WAL-MARTs across Canada, but I'm convinced the experience of trying to purchase those items will continue to be very much down-scale.

Lee_D said...

Believe me FP, I know.

I'm just still experimenting with the whole "low key" delivery of my cynicism.