Holy Smiley Face! Walmart brings back greeters

Discussion
May 06, 2016
George Anderson

Back in 2012, I wrote that Sam Walton had to be turning over in his grave over the news that Walmart had decided to remove greeters from chain’s store lobbies. Mr. Sam can now safely turn back over. Walmart has announced that greeters will move to the front lobby in roughly two-thirds of its stores after a pilot found their presence made shoppers feel welcomed.

The company is also adding the new position of customer hosts who fulfill the traditional role of a greeter with the added responsibility in many locations of deterring thieves from walking merchandise out of the store.

A post on the official Walmart blog said a test the company ran last year moved employees from the action alley area near the checkout back to the front door. Customers were happy to be able to easily find someone (associates wear yellow vests) to help them with questions, assist with returns and keep entrances clean.

Greeters, the blog post acknowledged, are “a big part” of Walmart’s company and its culture and that’s why the company intends to keep them in a majority of its locations.

Customer hosts will be deployed in stores where the chain’s data points to higher risks for safety issues, security and shrink. Walmart said it expects to fill about 9,000 new hourly host positions with workers “specially trained to both welcome customers as soon as they walk in and also help deter would-be shoplifters.”

In stores that need customer hosts instead of greeters, Walmart will give affected associates the option of applying for the new (apparently higher paying) positions. During the pilot phase, Walmart found 80 percent of associates affected were able to find new jobs within the company, with an unspecified percent being promoted. Those who were not able to make the transition from greeter to host or some other position were offered severance.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
Do you think Walmart greeters and customer hosts will have a bigger impact on improving the shopping experience or reducing shrink? Are you concerned at all about Walmart combining the traditional welcoming role of a greeter with the anti-theft responsibilities that typically go to security personnel?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Ironically, the first greeters at Walmart were originally charged with reducing shrink out the front door."
"Surprise, surprise, Walmart moved it greeters away from the front door and added self-checkout and shrink went up."
"Glad to see the greeter position is back (when I eventually retire that might be the only thing I’m qualified to do!)."

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14 Comments on "Holy Smiley Face! Walmart brings back greeters"


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Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

Depending on the selection and training of the greeters and hosts, it could have a positive impact on the shopping experience. Ironically, the first greeters at Walmart were originally charged with reducing shrink out the front door. Back in Sam’s day, greeters were friendly and engaging. As time passed their phrase “Welcome to Walmart” became routinized without any passion or even belief. Budget cutbacks made for the natural elimination of the position in 2012.

Going forward, the right greeter properly trained could accomplish both tasks, namely welcome and shrink reduction. As an aside, the host positions could have even a bigger impact on the shopping experience than the greeter.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

What is interesting is that there had been news stories over the years about how effective greeters were in lowering theft. Surprise, surprise, Walmart moved it greeters away from the front door and added self-checkout and shrink went up.

Now not only is Walmart bringing back greeters, but bringing in hosts whose job it is to deter theft. The impact for the stores that have hosts assigned will be far greater on shrink than customer experience.

David Livingston
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

I don’t think it will have much of an impact on either the shopping experience or reducing shrink. First, I never noticed Walmart ever having dropped greeters. Every time I’ve been to a store someone was standing at the front door. They might have not technically greeted me but someone was there. Do not expect Walmart to staff the front door with their most attractive, outgoing and welcoming individuals. Generally the people I see are just warm bodies unable to perform any other function. None that I have seen are in any kind of position to deter theft. The Assets Protection Managers at Walmart are probably the hardest working people in the store. It’s a non-stop carnival of action which takes a brave and confident person to do a good job. I find that some of the most intelligent people working at Walmart are their Assets Protection Managers. They need to watch the front door, back door and all the camera feeds from the eyes in the sky.

Kevin Graff
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

Glad to see the greeter position is back (when I eventually retire that might be the only thing I’m qualified to do!). The right greeter can make a world of difference to the experience. Customers remember their first impression, and last impression, of the store more than any other. A genuine friendly greeting, helpful assistance and a warm exit goes a long way in a retail world that is often just lost in product and price.

John Hyman
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

A sophisticated thief will overcome a less-sophisticated greeter every time. And have you ever met a sophisticated greeter in Walmart?

Greeters are invaluable for helping shoppers with questions but pointing out the aisle number is the best “experience” you can hope for.

So reinstating greeters is good for PR, and perhaps for those shoppers who were tight with the culture of Walmart, but the impact on profitability will likely be marginal.

Shep Hyken
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

I have always liked the greeter concept, and this is something that Walmart has been known for. It’s part of their story. As for reducing shrink, simply having a face-to-face and eye-to-eye interaction helps to deter theft. Shoplifters don’t like to be noticed. I was involved in a training project where we brought in an anti-shrink expert. His comment was that interacting with a customer is one of the best shoplifting deterrents.

The greeter covers hospitality when the customer walks in, but the other employees must support a good hospitality and customer service initiative.

The same can be said for a greeter being part of the anti-theft program. This is just one level of the system. Other employees will have to be aware, cameras may be positioned at strategic points and more.

Kenneth Leung
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

It depends on the Walmart location. I remember Walmart used to hire retirees as greeters which helped with its community involvement image as well as customer service and, indirectly, shrink. I think this will work to improve customer experience and community relations in family-oriented communities. I always thought shrink reductions via the greeters were more due to psychological than physical security.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

Nice try to put a positive spin on preventing theft.

This still does not address what I see as the biggest challenge facing Walmart when it comes to customer service. Getting customers through the checkout line faster.

It is nice to be welcomed into the store and nice to be told thanks for shopping with us. Both of those actions will never make up for the length of time a customer has to spend in the checkout line.

Kate Blake
Guest
Kate Blake
3 years 2 months ago

Whatever…

They think that will impress customers?

The greeter has always been a theft deterrent. It stops the customer so the cameras get a better picture. I’ve worked in all manner of businesses and they all employ greeters.

Maybe Walmart’s shrink is so high that they are desperate for a solution?

Gordon Arnold
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

Like the competition Walmart is having little problem making decisions on how business will be done in their stores. The simply say-so-and-it-will-be-done method still rules the roost as being the best way to get it done. Or is it? Telling store manglers … er, ugh, I mean managers … to place greeters at the doors is interpreted as anyone will do. Nothing could be further from the truth as those with a keen understanding of first impressions will attest to. Appearance, demeanor and willingness should be the primary focus for selection.

Just as important is the greeter’s ability to speak clearly and own a high level of product location knowledge. Sincerity and a pleasant enthusiasm for the visitor will maximize the experience. Stores should be prepared to pay for this and show the associates how it will help if everyone follows and learns to execute as well.

Karen S. Herman
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

Absolutely. Walmart’s return to posting a greeter, and now, customer host, at the front door to assist shoppers is a good move. Simplifying the Walmart shopping experience is important and keeps foot traffic in-store and returning.

Clearly, supporting these employees at peak shopping times is key and alternately, motivating them at slow times is important, too. All too often, when I visit Best Buy, and see the greeter/receipt checker at the front door, they are chatting with other employees or even on their phones.

Motivation and support are key here.

Tim Moerke
Guest
Tim Moerke
3 years 2 months ago

They will likely help with shrink, and they may help a little with the experience, but…it’s Walmart. Nobody shops there for the experience; they shop there because of the low prices. Reinstating greeters won’t change that.

Matt Talbot
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

As brick-and-mortar retailers face increasing competition from online stores, I think the in-store locations have to work especially hard to differentiate themselves from the market.

The appearance of Walmart greeters and customer hosts was an aspect of the Walmart customer experience that made shopping at that retailer different from many other large retailers. Along with reducing theft and shrink, I think knowledgable hosts and greeters will be extremely useful to customers who need additional information about the store and/or products.

On the flip side, I do think some customers do not enjoy the presence of greeters because it may seem like an obstacle in the way of shopping. Regardless, I think the majority of consumers view greeters as a normal part of the Walmart experience.

Alan Cooper
Guest
Alan Cooper
3 years 2 months ago

The greeters have always been wonderful people in every Walmart I have shopped. They also seem to have a keen eye for possible shrink issues. Always a big plus to have friendly greeters at the front doors.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Ironically, the first greeters at Walmart were originally charged with reducing shrink out the front door."
"Surprise, surprise, Walmart moved it greeters away from the front door and added self-checkout and shrink went up."
"Glad to see the greeter position is back (when I eventually retire that might be the only thing I’m qualified to do!)."

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