Walmart Shares ‘Ask Sam’ Voice Assistant With All Employees
Walmart is giving employees access to a voice assistant to help them perform their duties. The Ask Sam mobile app, originally created just for Sam’s Club employees, will now be available to every employee at the more than 5,000 Walmarts in the United States.
The voice assistant provides answers to employees about product prices and locations, including maps, either for their own use or to answer customer questions, and gives them updates from higher-ups about policy changes and emergencies. Walmart headquarters can send the updates or local managers can broadcast alerts to their teams about anything from an employee’s birthday to an emergency snowstorm shut down or major sale. The release is also tied to the ongoing changes in store policy as the COVID-19 health crisis continues.
“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,” Walmart chief product officer Meng Chee explained in a blog post about the voice assistant. 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.
Customers don’t have access to the app, although the Walmart mobile app does have some of the same information. Expanding the voice assistant from Sam’s Club to the much larger number of Walmart stores and employees fits with the customer-facing strategy for the company, however. Walmart made it possible to order groceries using Apple’s Siri voice assistant for delivery or pick-up back in November. A few months before that, Walmart launched the same capability for Google Assistant and on Walmart’s website.
Ask Sam, being an enterprise service, will be be used by employees as a way of better coordinating within and between Walmart stores. The voice assistant is designed to learn and become more efficient as it gathers data. Algorithms and human reviewers will be continually updating the AI, Chee said. It’s a good example of the kind of specialization that comes with enterprise voice assistants, especially ones built in-house like Ask Sam.
“The app is built with machine learning capabilities, which allow it to become more sophisticated with higher levels of accuracy over time,” Chee said. “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.”