The Walking Company Steps Up Customer Experience with Employee Gamification

With the convenience of e-commerce nipping at the heels of brick-and-mortar retailers, customer experience makes all the difference for in-store shoppers. But to offer customers truly memorable service, sales clerks need the right tools and training.

“Every leading customer-experience company has motivated employees who embody the customer and brand promise in their interactions with consumers, and are empowered to do the right thing,” says management consultancy McKinsey.

Headquartered in Westlake Village, California, The Walking Company has invested heavily in employee training. Barry Weinstein, vice president of Training and Business Development, created a gamification system that engages its workforce, keeping them loyal, inspired, and engaged in order to deliver great experience to clients.

“We think of our employee as our customer. They are the face of the brand and need to be intimate with our brand to keep people shopping with us. That’s underappreciated in retail,” he says. “Most companies are racing to the bottom in price but we’ve investing in the experience.”

The Walking Company sells some of the top names in comfort shoes and differentiates itself by offering something Weinstein characterizes as “experiential retail.” Sales clerks start by scanning customers’ feet to map pressure points and assess each person’s individual comfort needs. “We can fit shoes with orthotics that give your foot the perfect fit and support. We’re a leader in fit and our customization improves people’s lives,” he says.

But that kind of high-touch service requires well trained sales people. Weinstein explains that in the past, the company used manuals and memos, but that failed to keep people engaged. It then tried using video that quickly shrank from one hour to 20 minutes then to three minutes. Regardless of length, the videos failed to meet their objective. Even when employees watched them, retention rates were low.

“We had subject-matter experts but needed to develop training that incentivized employees to take that knowledge and create an experience for consumers that’s not just memorable, but changes their lives,” says Weinstein.

That’s why The Walking Company turned to gamification features offered by learning management software SAP Litmos, part of the SAP Customer Experience portfolio, for educating sales forces globally. Weinstein explains, “We needed to get sales teams to go through training and use that knowledge to provide great life-changing experiences for our customers.”

Utilizing a behavior-based training model, the company set up gamification programs that rewarded employees with points for engaging in learning activities and enacting new behaviors. For example, when a training module is deployed, employees receive points for reviewing the content. They can redeem points by participating in raffles for prizes or selecting gifts grouped by point value.

According to Weinstein, SAP Litmos has made a significant impact. “Prior to SAP, the behavior of associates was disenfranchised. They were told to do training for compliance reasons and did it because they had to. But nothing stuck,” he says. Now that the company can accommodate an individual’s timeline and learning styles, engagement rates have improved. Weinstein reports that people look forward to new trainings.

To keep things fresh and informative, his team updates educational material every month. With a training platform provided by SAP, Weinstein can change content quickly and easily: “SAP Litmos has given me a way to put my philosophy into action, which is to make training fun and engaging. Now people are knowledge-rich and empowered to make business decisions — and better sales.”

Moving forward, The Walking Company realizes that while the internet challenges brick-and-mortal stores, in-person retail will never go away. According to Weinstein, “The difference is the experience offered to customers. Whoever does it right, earns the customer. And that will determine who will be around longer.”