Wal-Mart announced Thursday that it’s opening new “training academies” for store managers and department managers in an effort to boost customer service, the Dallas Morning News reports.
Wal-Mart also laid off a number of employees in its Information Systems Division, with the cuts representing some 1% to 3% of that unit.
The layoffs mostly targeted Wal-Mart’s Bentonville, AR headquarters and were not part of the tech restructuring reported earlier this year. They were also in a addition to a round of layoffs of 450 headquarters employees announced last year.
Wal-Mart seems determined to end its reputation for poor customer service by establishing new training academies for its store managers.
The retailer acknowledged to the Dallas Morning News that it has been inconsistent in its customer service training, leaving stores with a spotty record.
“Happy associates make happy customers,” Sonya Hostetler, Wal-Mart’s general manager for the Dallas region (where the academies will be held), told the Dallas Morning News. “We will end up with better customer service in our stores. Our associates will have a better understanding of the expectations we have as they serve customers and how far we want them to go to satisfy the customer.”
The move comes as the retailer is also spending $1 billion on boosting wages and training for workers. As Dallas Morning News retail reporter Maria Halkias notes, Wal-Mart's reputation for customer service has fared poorly compared to others in the industry and has been a notable concern for investors.
The new academies are part of an overall shift by the world’s largest retailer, including a significant number of job cuts, most recently announced last week in the tech division. When Wal-Mart last year announced layoffs at its corporate headquarters, CEO Doug McMillon explained that the move was designed to make the company “more agile,” according to an internal memo obtained then by Fortune magazine.
“Our customers are changing. Retail is changing and we must change," McMillon wrote then. "We need to become a more agile company that can easily adapt to shifting customer demand… This is an important time in our history—requiring all of us to think critically about our business and not be afraid to challenge the status quo.”
Wal-Mart subsequently announced yet another round of cuts, this time in its tech division, which it has largely moved to Silicon Valley, where it runs a significant e-commerce and tech research and development effort.
“We don’t take any decision involving our people lightly,” a company statement read. “We routinely evaluate the positions, skills and experience we need, like any technology business. This includes eliminating some positions while recruiting and hiring new ones.”