How Sam’s Club is Using Instant Customer Feedback to Guide Innovation

Instant Customer Feedback

The secret to Sam’s Club’s rapid innovation success? Access to instant customer feedback through solutions like Medallia’s Ask Now solution.

To attract and retain customers today, retailers must adapt and innovate faster than the competition. Rapid innovation demands understanding what to address now, and predicting what customers will want next. In order to beat the competition, it is critical for retailers to get these insights quickly in order to know how and where to focus their resources. Sustainable growth and successful innovation start with strong customer relationships, in which customers are willing and ready to provide brands the information they need in order to meet their needs.

Sam’s Club, an American chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs, is a leader in rapid, customer-centric innovation. Long before 2020 demanded retailers worldwide accelerate their digital transformations, Sam’s Club had its foot on the gas. From converting stores into distribution centers to launching contactless payments through its app, Sam’s Club is known to be one of the most innovative retailers in America.

The secret to Sam’s Club’s rapid innovation success? On-demand access to its members. Through self-service experience features, like Medallia’s Ask Now solution, Sam’s Club is able to engage members immediately to discover how they feel and what they need. Ask Now is a feature that allows administrators to add questions to any ongoing live tracking program in an easy-to-use interface within the Medallia Experience Cloud platform. The solution provides a variety of question types, scale types, and segment filters. Once the administrator enters the question into Ask Now, the survey is updated in real time and eligible participants will be able to receive those questions. Results are available immediately in the reporting dashboard.

Develop a customer experience management program

Tony Lee, a leader on the Sam’s Club Member Experience Insights team, recently joined a Medallia Mastercast to share how his team is able to stay ahead of member needs thanks to on-demand customer experience management tools. These features were especially critical for the business over the past year, when the coronavirus changed the needs of shoppers overnight. Sam’s Club knew it had to act fast to change the way it served its members.  

Here are a few of the ways Sam’s Club uses instant customer feedback as its headlights to guide innovation.

Keep a pulse on member needs with an awareness check

The ever changing nature of the past year made clear communication with members especially critical for success. Changing store hours, enhanced cleanings, and updated operations were only successful if members were aware of them. But as social distancing requirements made face-to-face communications nearly impossible, brands were dependent on one-way communication channels such as email, their website, and physical signage to communicate updates to customers.

In one early pandemic leadership meeting, an executive asked Lee: “Are our members aware of the recent operational changes?” Lee didn’t know, but he was able to quickly — while still in the meeting — spin up a real-time Ask Now survey question to find out. Before the meeting was over, he was able to report back that only a small percentage of members were aware of the recent health and safety measures the company put into place. The team immediately brainstormed ways to improve awareness by changing messaging, moving operational hours to the top of the homepage, and including relevant information in all member correspondence such as marketing promotions. Lee and his team continued to monitor awareness and saw immediate improvements.

Test new solutions with specific segments

Before launching full-scale initiatives across Sam’s Club’s nearly 600 stores, the member insights team used instant customer feedback to get preliminary information to deliver back to the business. 

For example, prior to launching curbside services nationwide, Sam’s Club tested this service through its “Senior Concierge Service,” where seniors and at-risk club members can shop without ever leaving their car. By creating a tag for Concierge Service transactions in the POS, the team could target these buyers with specific real-time Ask Now survey questions. 

Sam’s Club was able to immediately identify strengths and weaknesses of their concierge service through these insights and make any necessary changes based on instant customer feedback. Everything from the friendliness of the associate, to the condition of the merchandise, to how much time they had to wait in the parking lot, helped improve the service. All of these insights then helped ensure a successful launch of Sam’s Club’s nationwide curbside services. And many of the original Ask Now survey questions are now part of standard curbside pickup surveys.

Get into the member mindset

What customers will want next is top of mind for every retailer today. No business wants to repeat the surprises of last year. Luckily, understanding a customer’s mindset can be as simple as asking them.

That’s how the Sam’s Club member insights team has been able to lock into the long-term member mindset and stay ahead of demands. Throughout the pandemic, the team used Ask Now to engage members about how they were feeling and what they imagined the future might look like. 

Lee’s team quickly discovered that a high percentage of members wanted to keep the number of visits to retailers low but still wanted some kind of normal browsing experience to stock up. Trackers helped identify the types of categories members were going to be looking for in the future, which in turn helped the merchandising team better prepare for their needs. This was especially helpful when planning for the holidays. 

For example, members shared that they did not plan on gathering for Halloween but still wanted to get into the spirit. The merchandising team focused purchases on decorations and limited the mass candy inventory, which was a popular pre-pandemic item for trick-or-treating. When it came to Thanksgiving, members indicated that they were still planning on smaller gatherings but would not be holding back on preparing the annual feast, as many wanted to enjoy leftovers. Tapping into the member mindset ensured Sam’s Club was well stocked on key items to avoid the inventory plights many other retailers suffered last year. The entire organization was able to better prepare and meet members’ needs thanks to these insights.

Preparing for what’s ahead

Medallia’s self-service solutions, like Ask Now, offer retailers an easy, seamless way of quickly capturing insights. With Ask Now, organizations can quickly and easily gain answers to their burning questions, test new solutions, and better prepare for the future without having to rebuild their surveys or impact existing programs. These solutions can act as the headlights to guide any organization as you work to innovate in today’s unpredictable climate and prepare for what’s ahead.

Schedule a consultation with an expert to learn more about how Medallia’s self-service capabilities like Ask Now can help you access instant customer feedback to guide innovation at your organization.