Will Walmart’s training academies improve the shopper experience?
At many big box retailers, customer service fails to match up with commercial images of associates beaming happily and helping dutifully. Walmart in particular has an image problem when it comes to employees, and its low customer service scores back up the anecdotes. The retailer is taking a new approach to the problem by opening 200 training academies inside or nearby stores.
Walmart intends to use the academies to train department and assistant store managers, according to a Dallas Morning News article. The academies will include live classroom instruction as well as on-the-floor training. This replaces Walmart’s earlier training method, which involved having an employee complete a computer-based learning module and then shadow a sponsor employee.
This is not Walmart’s first attempt at using enhanced training to address concerns about customer service quality. In 2014 the company opened a “talent center,” which featured a mock loading dock and a mock store. The company closed the facility, deciding that the simulation could not replicate learning in a real in-store environment, according to the Dallas Morning News article.
Some studies have shown that employee training correlates positively with customer satisfaction. In 2015, for instance, a Wharton School of Business study found that stores that rated high in customer satisfaction were those with knowledgeable associates, and that those knowledgeable associates boosted sales.
Walmart has long been criticized for policies and wages that leave employees unhappy. This could explain some of the store’s customer services woes, from poor staff demeanors to poorly stocked, messy shelves.
On the other hand, Walmart has been changing policies over the past few years to alter the perception that employees are undervalued and treated poorly. The Christian Science Monitor reported that in 2015 the company began to make concessions to employee gripes, such as allowing workers to wear denim and increasing the temperature of the stores. There have also been well-publicized wage increases for Walmart employees, though the United Food & Commercial Workers Union contested that the increases have not been meaningful, according to a recent CNN Money article.
- Wal-Mart picks D-FW for its first training academy designed to improve customer service – Dallas Morning News
- Study shows training boosts sales a lot – RetailWire
- Denim is OK. Why Wal-Mart wants to improve employee satisfaction – Christian Science Monitor
- Walmart increasing wages; union says it’s all show – CNN Money
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Walmart’s training academies address its poor customer service issues in a meaningful way? Should other retailers consider taking similar steps to address customer service concerns?