Business

Northern Lights: Meet the Warm-Hearted Associates of Alaska

It takes a special team to stay happy in one of the coldest, darkest places in the country.

Even at temperatures of -30 F, associates in Alaska keep customers — and each other — smiling by taking outstanding customer service to the extreme.

Braving the Elements
At -30 F, common tasks like unloading trucks become an arctic adventure. Five minutes into the job, icicles are already forming on the flushed faces of these associates.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re an assistant manager or a sales associate,” said department manager for fabrics, crafts, and stationery, Chelsea Campbell. “We all share the responsibility of getting the job done for our customers.”

Service for Those Who Serve
This February marked 30 years of service for Command Sgt. Maj. Vento Collins, customer host at Store 2722 in Fairbanks, who started at the store in September as part of his transition away from active duty. The area’s strong military presence means that many families in Fairbanks are from other places.

“They’re not used to the conditions up here,” Vento said. “So they count on us to help them prepare for life in Alaska’s interior. We’re here for them, day and night.”

Ever-ready
Automotive associate Jessie Smith helps customer Cynthia King with 150 pounds of dog food for her three large-breed dogs.

“These associates are always ready to help,” Cynthia said. “That’s why I shop here.”


“I’ve lived in Fairbanks for 75 years,” said Pat Johnson, customer (shown left), with Dominique Green, department manager, furniture. “The associates here are so helpful.”


Alaska Bush Program
Across the state, many people – especially native populations – live in areas that can't be reached by road or ferry. Many don’t have access to the internet, and even for those who do, typical online shipping services wouldn’t make it to their homes.

That’s where the Bush Program comes in, serving customers who need everyday products — or even help with Christmas shopping — in these remote areas. Store 2722 in Fairbanks, Store 2071 in Anchorage, and Store 2710 in Ketchikan all have Bush programs.

“We serve the entire state,” says Trish Stipe, Bush department sales associate in Fairbanks. “The farthest customer would probably be about 600 miles from Fairbanks on the tiny island of Little Diomede.”

The Bush team in Fairbanks can take orders by phone, fax or email. Associates pick the requested items from the floor, ring them up, package them and process them through postage. They then divide the packages into zones by ZIP code, put them on a pallet, and wrap the pallet. The U.S. Postal Service delivers the pallets by plane or boat. (Except to places like Little Diomede Island, where planes don’t go — a helicopter or boat-plane has to deliver those packages.)

“Mostly, we are shipping nonperishable items,” Trish said. “Many of the people in these areas survive by hunting, fishing, and gathering berries.”

The team takes about 10 to 20 orders by phone each day. Another 10 or so Bush customers self-shop—that is, they make their own way to the store to shop and then have the Bush team ship their items back to their homes. Store 2710 in Ketchikan offers self-shop, takes phone orders, and typically serves customers closer to its specific region of the state. Store 2071 in Anchorage processes self-shop orders only and tends to serve the whole state, like the Fairbanks store does.

The Bush team’s favorite part of the program?

“We get to shop for customers,” Trish said. “One customer calls every December and asks us to Christmas shop for his family. He tells us the ages of his children, gives us a budget, and we take care of the rest. We’ll even stuff stockings!”

Editor’s note: A version of this story originally appeared in Walmart World, the magazine for Walmart associates.

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U.S. Manufacturing

In the News: Inside Our Open Call for American Manufacturing

Shrimp, hair gel, sweet potato cake.

Forbes sent a film crew to Walmart’s corporate office in Bentonville, Arkansas, to capture the excitement as suppliers pitched these and hundreds of other products at our annual U.S. Manufacturing Open Call event.

Forbes shared its inside look today. Take a look at what the big day is like for the people behind the products.

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Business

‘Outside the Box’ Breaks Down Blockchain

“Blockchain” is one of the latest business buzzwords making its way around the internet. But this is one word you won’t want to ignore.

Technology is improving the retail experience in ways you may have never imagined. And when it comes to food safety, we can see the way of the future. In Episode 2 of our podcast, Outside the Box, our guests will help break down how blockchain is improving supply chain – and in some cases, saving lives.

“Breaking Down Blockchain” features Brigid McDermott, Vice President of Business Development for Blockchain at IBM. She’s responsible for driving the growth of blockchain, an emerging platform that can radically improve banking, supply chain and other transaction networks. You’ll also hear from Frank Yiannas, Vice President of Food Safety at Walmart.

Outside the Box is our chance to bring together some of today’s most brilliant thought leaders, innovators and visionaries to talk about the retail industry and the roles it plays in society and the global economy.

Future episodes will explore topics such as “The Workforce of the Future,” where industry experts dissect the issues that will face employees in the coming years, and “U.S. Manufacturing, where we’ll talk to a business analyst, a merchandise supplier and a government official about the challenges and benefits of making products in the United States.

If you’re a business owner, an entrepreneur, a maker, a doer, a consumer – anyone! — this podcast is for you.

Learn more about the series and subscribe, and tell us what you think in the comments below.

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Innovation

How Easy Reorder is Making Shopping Even … Easier

Peanut butter beats jelly. Water beats soda. Tortilla chips beat potato chips. These are just a few of the things revealed to us by our new Easy Reorder feature.

What is Easy Reorder? Instead of telling you, let me try and show you. Imagine this … last week you purchased diapers while at your local store. Then you realized you forgot a few things. So, you logged onto Walmart.com and purchased wipes as well as some cleaning supplies and paper towels.

The next time you open the Walmart app, you may notice something different. The site remembers the Walmart.com items you purchased, but also the diapers you bought in your local store – including the brand and size.

Easy Reorder, which is available now on desktops and our mobile app, makes it … well, easy for you to reorder items that you previously purchased at Walmart. Here’s the cool part: We’re integrating both in-store and online purchases to provide you with a single spot to view (and repurchase) the items that you buy most frequently – items like dog food, cereal, shampoo and diapers.

Let me share a little bit more on why we’re doing this. I’ll use myself as an example. I have 151 different items on my Easy Reorder list. I challenge you to go online and try and find 100 individual products to build a list. You’ll find it takes a really long time. Now, you can simply go into a Walmart store, buy the things you need and then, when you come home, everything will be neatly organized on Walmart.com. For me, that means that I get to save a ton of time when I need to repurchase the items I’m looking for. Trust me, with two kids at home, I have to replenish the snack cupboard a lot. Easy Reorder is a game changer.

I’m not the only one who loves this feature. Our customers love it as well, and we’re seeing it in our results – Easy Reorder contributed to the growth we saw in the first quarter.

For fun, I thought I’d share some of the top items on customers’ reorder lists:

Easy Reorder is part of our team’s laser focus on helping customers save both money and time by leveraging our more than 4,700 stores and Walmart.com.

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Community

Why This Associate Wants You to Start With #HelloMyNameIs

“Hello, my name is….” It’s a phrase made up of only four words.

It takes very little time to say – it’s an easy way to begin a conversation. Yet, when people say these words, they can have such a big impact.

My late wife, Kate, started the #HelloMyNameIs campaign in 2013 while living with terminal cancer. As a medic herself, she had become frustrated with nurses and doctors who never introduced themselves to her before providing medical care.

Kate had already been speaking to hospitals and conferences about her experience as both a medical provider and a patient, but through the campaign she hoped to share some key values that resonate beyond people working in healthcare: communication, small acts of kindness, putting the patient at the center of every decision and seeing each person as an individual.

Kate was one of the most determined, resilient people I have ever known. I firmly believe that through adversity, comes legacy. July 23 is International “Hello My Name Is” Day – both the anniversary of Kate’s passing and what would have been our 12th wedding anniversary. We invite everyone – from people to corporations – to join us in celebrating Kate’s legacy by introducing yourself and using #HelloMyNameIs.

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