Wal-Mart customers are signaling better satisfaction with two key aspects in stores: their overall shopping experience and customer service, according to a survey by Cowen and Co.
Cowen found that 75% of the 2,506 surveyed said they are satisfied with their overall experience shopping at Wal-Mart, and 60% were satisfied with the customer service there.
Both measurements are the best in about two years, though they still lag behind Target.
The condition of Wal-Mart stores and inventory, and the quality of its customer service have been targeted for improvement by U.S. CEO Greg Foran, who this summer said half the stores need help and more recently said a third are still lacking. The push to better pay and train store associates and to have them return to greeting customers and offering help is likely reflected in the improvements measured by Cowen.
The retailer still has far to go, though, especially if it hopes to bring in more well-heeled customers.
Wal-Mart’s growth efforts have mostly centered on growing its wallet share of its lower- to mid-income customers. But recently CEO Doug McMillon told investors that growth lies in expanding its customer base.
“Globally we know that growth will disproportionately come from middle- and upper-middle income households in the years ahead,” McMillon said. “The nature of e-commerce, the nature of the Neighborhood Markets (smaller grocery stores) and other things we’re doing do create an opportunity for us to be even more relevant to customers that are at the higher end of the scale.”
Target, which beats Wal-Mart on measures of overall customer experience and customer satisfaction, has been able to attract a wider array of customers thanks to its design focus and perhaps fewer issues with inventory or store condition. And Target hasn’t had the labor issues that have plagued Wal-Mart, which may serve to exacerbate Wal-Mart's downmarket reputation.