July 29, 2020
By Meng Chee, Executive Vice President & Chief Product Officer, Walmart
Every day, we serve millions of customers online and in stores, whether it’s helping customers pick fresh food to make meals for their families or enabling them to pre-order snacks online and pick them up curbside on their way to a drive-in movie.
Our goal as a product organization is to create products, services and platform capabilities that make our associates’ and customers’ lives easier. In the back half of last year, we introduced a voice assistant app called “Ask Sam.” The app, originally developed by our colleagues at Sam’s Club, was designed as an additional way to help associates find the answers they need to do their jobs more effectively and better serve customers.
With Ask Sam, associates can speak or type questions and access helpful features including:
- Store Maps
- Price Look-up
- Product Locator
- Check Email
- Store Sales Information
- Birthdays / Anniversaries
Over the past few months, associates have also used Ask Sam for information related to COVID-19, including the latest guidelines and guidance along with helpful videos. In addition to guidance from their managers, having access to the answers and information they need at their fingertips gives associates confidence as well as more time on the floor with customers.
The app is built with machine learning capabilities, which allow it to become more sophisticated with higher levels of accuracy over time. Additionally, the team conducts a manual review of the questions asked, looking for patterns and trends – such as recurring questions or top-searched items – to continuously update the app and adjust operations in the store.
Ask Sam for Help with Emergencies
While all associates go through emergency training, we wanted to provide managers with an additional way to quickly and effectively alert associates to emergency situations. We created an emergency feature in Ask Sam – the Emergency Alert Button – empowering managers to make quick decisions during high-stress situations. With the push of a button, clear and instructive emergency alerts are sent to all associates on and off the clock through multiple associate applications. Alerts include:
- Stay inside the facility alert. This alert is utilized when an emergency is near the associate’s store, and advises associates to use lockdown procedures, moving associates and customers to a secure area.
- Exit facility alert. This alert is utilized when there is an emergency in an associate’s store, and instructs associates to implement evacuation procedures, getting associates and customers out of harm’s way.
- All clear. This alert is utilized when an associate’s store is safe and ready for normal operation and informs associates that they can resume activities in the store and report to shifts as normal.
We are constantly engaging associates for feedback – in fact, it’s where some of our best ideas and innovations have come from. Maintaining a customer-centric mindset and willingness to experiment will allow us to continuously improve and innovate the products, services and solutions we offer associates, and in turn, the value we provide for customers.
We are proud of the hard work and dedication associates display in their jobs every day, and happy the Ask Sam app can play a role in helping them succeed and stay safe.