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How ATD inspires growth and improved customer experience

Agile learning, next-gen talent management and technology integration drive frontline engagement and performance

With over 115 distribution centers, American Tire Distributors (ATD) is one of the largest tire, wheel and tool providers in the United States. Serving approximately 80,000 customers across the country, ATD offers not only an impressive breadth and depth of inventory but frequent deliveries and value-added services to tire and automotive service customers.

But getting Supply Chain and Customer Service teams of this size ready to perform involves planning and built-in agility—made possible thanks to a close partnership between the ATD Functional Leadership Teams and its broader People Organization who worked together with a clear strategic vision of what they want to achieve.

Their goal? In a rapidly-changing business environment, they wanted to reinvent how ATD onboarded associates in these crucial frontline roles.

Associate empowerment: the key to business success

The redesign of ATD’s frontline onboarding and training programs began with their workforce’s satisfaction and professional success in mind. The goal was not only to set up their associates with the tools and knowledge necessary to excel in their daily work but to provide opportunities for future professional success within the company.

Confident in their why—all that remained was the how. Enter: ATD’s ongoing strategic partnership with Axonify.

ATD introduced Spark, their microlearning platform powered by Axonify, in 2018 and has continued to enhance and reimagine the learning experience.

“We knew we needed a modern approach, fueled by technology and advanced analytics, to take our teams to the next level,” shared Rebecca Sinclair, Chief People & Corporate Affairs Officer. “Not only is this platform driving associate knowledge and role readiness, but it’s also helping to drive business outcomes.”

The numbers speak for themselves:


average monthly login frequency across all business units


average monthly participation across all business units


average knowledge growth across all business units

Rejuvenating the health of the supply chain

Like many other companies, ATD was challenged to keep pace with the hiring needs of the Supply Chain business, which was impacted by many economic factors. By the end of 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported job openings were at a record high of 11.4 million, with Warehousing and Transportation at the top of the affected industries.

To quickly address some of the internal factors within ATD’s supply chain, an updated approach to hiring, onboarding and how to sustain the health of ATD’s distribution centers was implemented. This involved close collaboration and partnership across various functions—and introducing a suite of L&D (Learning & Development) tools—to bring to life.

ATD created four resource communities, each tailored to a specific set of topics relevant to their supply chain roles. Training was delivered via one of two options: daily training in guided paths, which housed universal information and skills across all learners; and self-directed learning to provide leaders with the flexibility to certify learners on the most critical role-specific skills needed in their location or team. Through Axonify, learners were evaluated on their ability to complete the skills they learned in their daily training, and then warehouse leaders conducted formal observations monthly. The results of these observations fed into the refresher training so that learners were continually improving their skills, based on measurable outcomes.

The results? On Time Delivery in Full (OTIF) increased 13.75% and successful dispatch rates rose 9.4%.

To surface issues that distribution centers (DC) were facing, leaders were provided with weekly DC Score Cards. The added insights that emerged from these Score Cards helped leaders strategically implement newly updated learning modules and standard operating procedures (SOPs) to improve the overall performance of their DC. Leaders also performed regular facilities inspections using Axonify to ensure their DC is safe, operationally sound and compliant with regulations. Company-wide communications like Broadcast Messages and Team Messages were instrumental in connecting ATD’s workforce and enabling leaders to facilitate on-the-fly team huddles and share performance recognition rewards.

What’s on the horizon? Shifting from educational job requirements to a competency-based hiring approach, ATD intends to access a diverse pool of candidates and allow leadership to fill positions more efficiently. This includes making Learning and Career Guides available to all associate groups within the Axonify resource library alongside coaching that encourages associates to see a future for themselves across a wide range of opportunities within the company itself.

Cultivating next-level customer service

For a fully remote Customer Service operation supporting over 1.2 million contacts a year, getting the right information at the right time is critical. And ATD did just that for their associates. The L&D team released monthly topic guides, which outlined the new content that would be delivered in the learning path and topics that were made available through self-directed learning. Learners could choose to grow their skills in related areas that were outside of their current job scope. Over 20 new topics were developed and released to Customer Service learners, along with the “Making Tracks” monthly newsletter, all delivered via Broadcast Message in Axonify.

Adjustments to customer service call routing capabilities are another example of improved processes that combined the right tools with the right knowledge development. Incoming engagements were rerouted to match specific Customer Service Representatives whose identified skill sets were best suited to a customer’s specific needs. To train in these specific areas, ATD’s L&D Team enhanced the role readiness curriculum with a blended learning approach anchored around the most important call types by cue. Learning was paired with a consolidated knowledge base to provide in-the-moment performance support, helping associates more quickly handle customer inquiries. The result? First Call Resolution was up 12% and Customer Satisfaction grew by 4%.

“Across the organization, we placed a significant focus on designing for the application of skills post-training on the job. It’s been very rewarding to see our design efforts pay off, our associates realizing success in their roles, and most importantly, our customers benefiting through an improved experience.”
Andy Puckett, Vice President of Learning and Development

Looking ahead to a growth-focused future

With a holistic approach to their People Strategy, in tandem with Axonify’s partnership and tech, ATD’s well-earned success creates a path to continued and sustained growth for their associates, customers and organization.

A forklift driver moving tires in the ATD warehouse

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