Circuit City, MARTA Pursue Online Sales Training Programs

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Circuit City and the MARTA Cooperative have separately announced plans to employ online learning programs for sales associates that are designed to boost sales volume and customer satisfaction while lowering the cost of training.

For Circuit City, the move represents a second, more sweeping expansion of a two-year-old partnership with DigitalThink, a San Francisco-based provider of e-learning business solutions. The new three-year pact encompasses DigitalThink's complete e-learning offering, including catalog and customer courseware, e-briefings and the company's E-Learning platform.

According to Jeffery Wells, senior VP human resources for Circuit City, "DigitalThink e-learning is a key part of our strategy to increase sales per sales counselor, decrease turnover and increase customer satisfaction. As we move rapidly to a learning culture, where learning equals earning, our employee satisfaction is also increasing."

Circuit City and DigitalThink have jointly developed more than 110 online courses since forging their partnership in February 2000.

In that time, some 90,000 Circuit City employees have collectively enrolled in more than 1.8 million individual classes, Wells said. The result, he added, is that the chain's employees are "better armed with knowledge and skills," albeit in about half the time and at a much lower cost than traditional classroom-based training.

"Our sales counselors find the e-learning extremely engaging," Wells noted. "Completion rates are very high, and in December alone our counselors hit DigitalThink's site more than six million times."

Meanwhile, the MARTA buying cooperative has just entered the online learning waters through an arrangement with Boston-based Beacon Learning, which has developed an interactive multimedia training program dubbed uTu.

The project, sponsored by Maytag, Frigidaire and, as of this spring, GE Appliances, consists of compact, customized, MARTA-only training modules that promote the features and benefits of the sponsors' premium appliances. The modules run between five and seven minutes in length, allowing sales associates to view them individually when traffic allows, thereby maximizing their time on the sales floor.

"We think the uTu product is a great way to increase sales through training that is customized to our associates, utilizing our core products and model numbers," said MARTA merchandise manager Bill Bursley.

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