Retail Customer Experience: Training for Unit-Level Success for Holiday 2009
By Bill Sherman, managing
a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of
a current article from Retail
Customer Experience, a daily
news portal devoted to helping retailers differentiate the shopping experience.
study published in the July 2009 edition of the Journal
of Applied Psychology linked
people processes, such as selection and training, with unit performance measures,
such as retention, customer service and profitability.
The study looked at
681 fast food franchises within the same parent system all of which sold
the same products. The stores that most effectively implemented their people
processes saw a 15 percent improvement in retention, an eight percent improvement
in customer service performance and an 11 percent improvement in profits
These findings become highly
significant for retailers who added seasonal retail salespeople to their
team. In many cases, retailers will not be able to provide seasonal salespeople
with the same the amount of training as permanent team members. However,
training must extend beyond how to use the POS system and also cover topics
which form the core of the customer experience:
and welcoming customers
the customer’s wants and needs
additional needs and selling opportunities
the deal and thanking the customer
Here are a few tips:
Leverage existing training programs: Training
programs create no benefits when they sit idly on shelves. If a retailer
offers sales training and customer service training programs, they should
not sit stagnant and unused. Even seasoned professionals can go through
a refresher of some of the best content.
Segment roles and training: Seasonal
help should not be expected to become experts within a few weeks. One smart
approach is to segment customer service roles. Key sales tasks can be identified
that newly hired individuals can perform successfully. Associates should
be coached on when to seek help from a more experienced team member.
war stories: Leverage the knowledge of seasoned sales professionals who
have worked through previous holiday seasons. This type of training is known
as error-exposure training. It may seem counter-intuitive to teach learners
by asking veteran salespeople to share mistakes.
However, interactions with customers can be complex and require people to adapt
at a moment’s notice. Research shows that when rookies learn through error-exposure
training, they become better at making situational judgments themselves.
people processes: Customer-centric training programs should align with
all of the people processes: how salespeople are selected, trained, motivated
and managed. If programs need a tune-up, the gap can be filled in several ways,
including purchasing from an established off-the-shelf vendor, or working with
professionals who can build custom training materials that fit a retailer’s
organizational values and selling style.
Discussion Questions: What are
some key strategies in training seasonal sales help? What are the expected
limits in training and motivating seasonal versus regular staff? What
do you think of the suggestions offered in the article?