Case Study: The Finnish Bookstore

A Finnish Bookstore wanted to improve the quality of their sales force’s customer service skills. Most employees had been taught generic sales skills in a two-day immersive sales training program. The existing classroom training, which the Finnish Bookstore ran from time to time for all sales personnel, was already ten years old, so there was need to develop a new kind of training program. With major help from external vendor specialized in digital solutions, the Finnish Bookstore developed a simulation-based online program that engaged participants in solving real-world sales situations. The training comprised one day working online with a live coach and a group of peers, then the possibility to continue working alone with the online program later over the intranet. The general goal of the training was to focus on building on practical skills rather than merely on delivering information.

A simulation-based program was designed based on dialogue between a salesperson and a customer who visits the store twice. At various points in the dialogue the learner, as salesperson in the dialogue, had to select one response among a series of responses offered by the program. The virtual customer was a difficult one, prone to walk out of the shop if the salesperson did not offer a response that satisfied her. The program was divided into two customer dialogues. The first dialogue provided the sales person the chance to try their hand at approaching the customer, probing for her needs and positioning the product. The second dialogue concentrated on practicing taking orders, managing counterarguments and closing the sale.

The online program was introduced with a live coach in all individual stores in the Finnish Bookstore chain. The coach assisted participants to engage with the online simulation, evaluate their own prior experiences and construct individual understandings before defending and discussing those understandings with their colleagues. This blended approach was intended to motivate the learners to initiate and continue the discussion with their colleagues during and after the one-day session.

Guide question and assumptions

  1. What do you think of the above training program at the Finnish Bookstore?
  2. Assume that this is the first time that the Finnish Bookstore has decided to assess development needs of the Finnish Bookstore staff.
  3. Further, assume that following the assessment, the Finnish Bookstore decides to launch a major training and development initiative to boost a variety of people and leadership skills.
  4. Assume also that the Finnish Bookstore decides to evaluate these training and development initiatives.