Temkin Experience Ratings Spotlight: Sam’s Club

Sam’s Club may not jump in your mind when you think about excellent customer experience… but it should. The retailer earned the highest score in the 2012 Temkin Experience Ratings.

To understand how Sam’s Club made it to the top of the ratings, we spoke with Bala Subramanian, VP of Global Customer Insights.

According to Subramanian “We are a membership organization. Our members pay to belong and pay for the privilege of shopping in our club. It behooves us to understand their needs and be proactive in delivering against those needs and creating a streamlined, positive shopping experience.”

It turns out that this is not a story about designing “wow” experiences or building a dedicated customer experience team, but Sam’s Club focused on customer experience in a way that was consistent with its DNA: embedding it into its ongoing operations. As I discussed a few years ago in the post Customer Experience And The Zen Of Brands, customer experience success does not come from creating Disney-esque events. Great customer experience comes from consistently delivering on brand promises that resonate with customers.

Sam’s Club started a customer experience measurement system two years ago when it decided to measure the customer with the same rigor that it measured financial performance. Subramanian said: “We have a culture of caring about what’s in the mind of the members and a maniacal focus on measurement.”

The measurement framework is fairly simple. Each of Sam’s Club’s 600+ stores gets a monthly score they call the “Member Experience Track” (MET) which covers three areas: In-club operations, Merchandising, and Membership. Underneath those three areas are more than 150 individual attributes that the company tracks. Each store has an overall rating of red (bad), yellow (“okay”), or green (“good”) based on surveys completed by members.

At monthly meetings, the executive team reviews a dashboard that highlights the number of stores in each category (red, yellow, green), looks at key issues driving problems across stores, and also looks at the top 20 and bottom 20 stores. This is a powerful tool for motivating store managers, as Subramanian says: “You don’t want to be called out on the bottom as a member of the ‘Red Club.’”

The MET is very visible throughout Sam’s Club. The scores are embedded into the bonus plans across the company. And if you walk into break rooms or associate training rooms within individual stores, you’ll find a chart showing whether the store is red, yellow, or green on all of the attributes. Stores are sent verbatims about any negative experiences on a daily basis and local stores are expected to contact those members (if they’ve given their permission) within 24 hours.

What’s coming up next for Sam’s Club efforts? Text analytics.

The bottom line: Sam’s Club embeds customer experience measurement into its every day operations

About Bruce Temkin
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, marketing, interaction design, customer service, and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

2 Responses to Temkin Experience Ratings Spotlight: Sam’s Club

  1. Carolyn Watt says:

    Bruce…there’s something quite telling about an organization that is bold enough to publish the good and the bad…It’s an instant click with their members that they care about what the members say. I don’t believe there are any Sam’s Clubs here in Canada anymore. I was a member…I love their MET metric. Thanks for sharing.

  2. mcgntr says:

    I think semantics matter – when you see your customer as a “member” it changes the dynamic. From Sumramanian’s quote it is apparent that membership impacts decision-making at the top. Have executives in other industries become too complacent with the word “customer” ?

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