Nowadays, there exists a variety of types of service operations which influence the functioning of a company and its relationships with customers. Obviously, in the modern economy it is practically impossible to ignore the problem of effective interaction between a company and customers since the customer satisfaction is considered to be one of the major goals of any company that sales its products and services, especially if the company operates worldwide, such as Wal-Mart. In this respect, it should be said that the fact that such companies are highly dependent on its customers makes it extremely important to apply the effective type of service operations in order to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty of customers to the brand of the company that implies the growing domination of customer-as-participant type of service operations.
First of all, it should be said that basically it is possible to single out three major types of service operations: quasi-manufacturing, customer-as-participant, and customer-as-product. In this respect, it should be said that quasi-manufacturing is basically applied in the food and drinks industry where it has already proved its effectiveness since provides ample opportunities to organize effectively all the operations starting from the reception of raw materials by a company to its cooking, packaging, etc. till the final delivery to the customer directly. This type is quite simple and practically does not need any involvement of a customer. In contrast, to quasi-manufacturing, customer-as-participant implies the involvement of customers in the service operations in the sense that customers preferences, tastes and interests should be taken into consideration while developing, creating and delivering a product or services to the customer. As for customer-as-product, it should be said that nowadays this type of service is considered to be less effective since it implies that all the operations of the company mainly targets the satisfaction of customers basic needs without wide ranging of services depending on the particular need of customers and without regard to their background, preferences, and income.
Speaking about Wal-Mart, it should be pointed out that traditionally, the company used customer-as-product type of service operations since the company was traditionally oriented on customers with a low level of income and suggested its products and services at the lower price, or at any rate, Wal-Mart’s slogan was that the company offers products at the lowest price compared to other companies. Naturally, such an approach did not need the involvement of customers in the operational process since customers were just supposed to get the final product at the lower price. However, in recent years, the company has started to change its strategy and started to tend to customer-as-participant type of service operations since Wal-Mart rejected its traditional approach to customers “one size fits all”¯ and, instead started to use a more diverse approaching taking into consideration specific needs of major demographic groups of customers.
Basically, such a change was partially determined by the effective use of the inventory management of Wal-Mart, due to which the company has managed to forecast the changes in customers’ preferences and the necessity to modify its approach to service operations and customers at large.