Time ran a very interesting article about Wal*Mart’s new initiative called “Project Impact.” Sounds cool and somewhat ominous, huh? So what is “Project Impact?” Well according to time it boils down to 3 things:
- One goal of Project Impact is cleaner, less cluttered stores that will improve the shopping experience.
- Another is friendlier customer service.
- A third: home in on categories where the competition can be killed.
The first goal makes sense. Where as Target’s store environment are friendly, open, and inviting, Wal*Mart’s are dingy, dark, and down right scary. I can’t tell you if making the stores less cluttered will lead to more sales, but it makes sense.
The third goal is a pure prioritization move. Essentially, why put money and effort behind business units and categories that aren’t in your sweet spot? Instead focus on areas where you can excel.
So let’s focus on the goal #2; friendlier customer service. It’s sorta funny when you think about it. You can optimize your shipping, choose cheaper suppliers, update the store layout, and even decrease the pricing. But, none of that matters if the in-store experience is underwhelming. And the biggest contributor to the in-store experience is the people. But, nobody ever wants to invest in people.
Think about it. How often have you recommended a program to a client only to be told, “well, we’d love to do it, but we can’t ask the people on the floor to do that.” It happens all the time. To really make the customer service friendlier you’re going to need new people. Why you ask? Because, changing the personality of people is nearly impossible. Either you’re friendly or you’re not. Seriously. There’s a reason Target has an entire behavior profile driven set of testing that all employees have to pass before being hired. It’s so they can get a person who embodies the Fast, Fun and Friendly mantra that is the Target culture.
When you’re corporate culture is “VALUE” are you really going to get people who are top notch performers that are excited to come to work every day? Well given that Wal*Mart has made it a priority to have friendlier customer service, I’d say no.
Make no mistake, the most important asset is human capital. You can have a great business plan, killer advertising and operational excellence, but if you don’t have the right people in place to carry out your vision, you’ll lose every single time. Maybe it’s time we start investing a little bit more into human capital from the beginning.