Consistency is an essential element for business success. Customers expect the same great service every time they do business with a particular organization, even if they visit different outlets or stores owned by the same company.

It is therefore imperative for businesses which operate multiple stores to make sure that customers receive the same high quality of service irrespective of whichever outlet they visit. VIP Parts, Tires & Service, an automotive parts and accessories chain, wanted to make sure that each of its 56 stores throughout Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts delivers the same, consistent experience. When the current owners acquired the 55-year-old company in 2000, they wanted to turn it from a discounter to a high-caliber company that differentiates itself by delivering great customer service.

A crucial element in achieving this change was to train staff members to use the hundreds of different parts that the company uses, a complicated and lengthy process. Aaron Hackett, director of operations and administration, notes that although the company employed a trainer in the past, VIP Parts, Tires & Service didn't fill the role after the last person's departure from the company, leaving employees with no official or structured training system. "You learned from the guy next to you, and hopefully he was doing things right," Hackett says.


Additionally, the 300 different parts vendors would occasionally provide onsite or online training to VIP's employees, which Hackett says was extremely time-consuming.

Although the company had developed an e-learning system, Hackett notes that this was cumbersome to use. "It was time-consuming to create content and hard to administer," he says.

This less-than-ideal situation was leading to high staff turnover, Hackett says. Staff members were regularly citing lack of training and low confidence in their ability to do the job as a reason for leaving. The company's business leaders decided to revitalize the training program and started looking at ways to improve the system.

Last year VIP partnered with Latitude Learning to develop a customized learning portal that would allow the organization to provide product and customer service training to team members across the 56 stores from Northern Maine to Boston. The system blends e-learning with traditional instructor-led training, through both live gatherings and virtual classroom sessions.


Hackett says the new system allows for better organization and planning in order to deliver training to employees. The one-stop-shop system allows VIP to post information sent by the multiple parts suppliers, allowing staff members to access the data when they have free time.

Further, the new system has simplified the process of organizing live sessions by allowing employees to sign in online, giving visibility into the popularity of different classes and making sure that the staff members who sign in for a particular session are eligible for the training depending on their expertise.

The new system has lowered training costs by a third and increased adoption rates. Hackett says that business leaders are able to easily track student process. Employee turnover has also gone down since staff members feel they have better growth potential, Hackett notes.

A major benefit of the new training system is that employees at different locations have access to the same knowledge, allowing them to deliver the same level of customer service. "We regularly speak with customers who go to a different store than the one they're used to but feel that they're getting the same experience and knowledge they normally get," Hackett says.

Lessons learned

Leverage e-learning: By allowing employees to get training online, companies can benefit from a higher take-up.

Develop a robust knowledgebase: Giving employees access to information will help them do their job and increase job satisfaction.

Create consistency: Organizations with more than one store need to make sure that customers get the same service and experience anytime they interact with the company.