Recent research found that over 90 percent of senior executives cite improving customer experience as a “top strategic priority,” but only 27 percent of consumers say that “name-brand retailers … are trying to provide exceptional service.” Making sure employees on the frontline of the customer experience are knowledgeable and engaged is key to improving service. However, classroom or traditional e-learning are often not efficient ways for those employees to learn. Mobile learning may be a better option.

Nudge Rewards estimates that 80 percent of the global workforce are field employees without access to work email accounts. Jordan Ekers, co-founder and chief customer officer, says, “Within retail and food service, mobile solutions catered toward frontline associates and staff has been limited to date.” The company’s mobile platform facilitates communication, training and engagement for those employees. Investors are seeing the need; last month, Nudge announced a $5 million Series A funding to expand its business in the North American retail and food service industries.

The company calls it the “last mile challenge” – improving the customer experience by engaging frontline workers – and believes communication is the key. Using techniques like microlearning and gamification, which are known to help increase learner engagement, Ekers says that Nudge’s customers “drive actual behavior change on the frontline.”

For example, Compass Group, a food and support service company, obtained a seven-percent increase in average check size when it used Nudge Rewards “to drive a culture of selling,” Ekers says. “Through delivering interactive messages about sales objectives, including tips for upselling or promoting the special of the day, Compass Group was able to help associates feel involved and excited about the task at hand.” Other Nudge customers have reduced turnover, increased employee knowledge and implemented new brand values using the platform.

Iain Scholnick, founder and CEO of Braidio, says that his customers have also improved results using mobile learning. Braidio’s mobile social learning platform supports collaboration and knowledge-sharing among employees. The goal, Scholnick says, is “to create a more automated process around informal learning, cycle informal learning back into the company and collaborate.” By circulating informal learning and knowledge through the company, organizations can capture employee knowledge and make content accessible at employees’ point of need.

For example, BBVA Compass deployed Braidio to about 15,000 bank employees across the country, delivering mobile training at, Scholnick estimates, about one-third or half the cost of its traditional training. He says using a platform like Braidio can also increase employee retention, because, due to the collaboration and knowledge-sharing capabilities of the platform, employees feel invested in the company and their teammates.

Successfully Implementing Mobile Initiatives

“The bottom line,” Ekers says, “is employees want to be communicated with in their preferred way. That means using up-to-date technology, keeping messages concise, and [making] content both interactive and engaging.”

First, help frontline managers and employees understand why you’re implementing the new program. Make sure managers are on board as “program champions,” and use rewards and recognition to encourage long-term engagement. Finally, provide a way for employees to provide feedback and make suggestions for training, communication and technology. “If employees are empowered to help shape the program,” Ekers says, “engagement initiatives will run much more smoothly.” Measure employee adoption of the platform, response rate to communication, and new knowledge and behavior change after training. Then, use that new data to understand the impact of the program and make decisions going forward.

Regarding content, Ekers recommends using three types of content to drive engagement, motivation and behavior change. Ideological content communicates the brand and cultural values. Strategic content helps employees understand organizational goals. Finally, tactical content, which includes training, promotions, health and safety content, and other information, is aimed at specific actions or outcomes. By combining these three types of content and delivering them strategically using mobile devices, Ekers says, retail and food service companies can increase employee engagement and, therefore, improve the customer experience.

Looking Toward 2018

Scholnick predicts that next year, the learning, customer and employee experiences will blend as content, training and support are blended. He also says the “revenue part of the company” will be more closely aligned with “the training and problem-solving part of the company.”

Earlier this year, Axonify CEO Carol Leaman wrote that the deskless worker was “the next big opportunity in corporate learning.” She pointed out that simply putting traditional LMS content on a mobile device isn’t enough; instead, she said, learning leaders must “think about how to use modern technology and concepts to meet deskless workers where they are.”

At the risk of seeming hyperbolic, her words seem almost prophetic in light of the deals that have occurred in the online and mobile training space for deskless workers this year. From Alchemy Systems’ acquisition of Wisetail and Branch Messenger’s $10 million funding round this summer to Nudge Rewards’ funding last month, mobile learning and communication are making a big impact in the life of the frontline worker. Next year, watch for the impact they make on the customer experience, as well.