A view of the industry through the
eyes of independent and chain retailers.
Six Training Tips to Grow Your
Basic ways to make your employees
by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (January 19,
(Note: Professional speakers, authors, and consultants,
Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are nationally recognized experts
on customer diversity, marketing & promotion, and everything
that affects and interacts with consumers in the retail environment.
Each year Kizer & Bender speak to thousands through their
"Retail Adventures in the REAL World™" keynotes and
seminars. Their unique consumer insights are widely featured in the
media, including the ABC National News special report, "How
Stores Hook You." Their book, Champagne Strategies on a Beer
Budget!, has helped thousands of retailers improve their bottom
line, and their "Retail Adventures™" Blog is visited by
tens of thousands of readers each month. In 2004 they were named two
of the "Most Influential People in Retail Today," and
their popular magazine column, "Georganne & Rich on the
Road," won the American Society of Business Publication Editors
(ASBPE) Award of Excellence in 2004 and again in 2006.)
These days it's easy to get too involved working IN your
business, instead of ON your business. Yes, inventory is important,
daily store operations are important, planning events and promotions
is important, yet none of them matter if your people aren't up to
snuff. Consider a recent retail study that looked at why customers
leave a store and never return to shop there again:
Fifteen percent of customers leave because if price; 15 percent of
customers leave because of product; and 70 percent leave and never
return again because of the quality of the interaction with the
people who work there.
Pretty scary stuff.
The good news is that the 70 percent statistic is fully in your
control – you alone decide how customers will be treated in your
store. You may have a store full of wonderful people who are good at
what they do, but could be even better if they attended training
sessions on a regular basis.
On the other hand, you may have a few associates who are doing
your business no good at all, yet you allow them to stay. As
unpleasant and uncooperative as they are, it's easier to keep them
than it is to deal with letting them go and starting all over again
with a fresh face. Don't ever let this happen – it's a proven fact
that when four positive people work along side just one negative
person, sooner or later, all five will have a negative attitude.
We once met a retailer who had lost his number one associate. He
was stunned when he heard customers say, "Thank goodness that
guy's gone, he was such a jerk!" and "I heard so-and-so
left; I'm so excited that I can shop here again!" The retailer
hadn't a clue how negatively this particular associate was affecting
his business. Now, he has a strict set of customer service standards
and he has an on-going training program in place. You should, too.
How important is consistent training in your store? How much do
your people know about what's really involved in running your
business? Associates want to do a good job, and they want to be
involved, yet in focus groups 80% claim they have no idea what the
owner's or corporation's goals for the business are. They aren't
even sure what's really expected of them, so they make it up as they
go along. Mission statement? If they've seen one it's because it's
hanging on the wall in the lunch room or lobby, but that doesn't
mean they understand why it was written or what it stands for. Look
at it this way: If 80% of your people could make the same claims,
then eight out of ten people working in your store have no clear
idea of what you have in mind when you open for business each day.
Training Strategy # 1. Every Associate Needs to Feel
Comfortable from Day One
Start each new hire off on the right foot with a New Associate
Orientation Program. This lets your trainees feel comfortable and
productive from their very first day on the job. Assign the trainee
a simple task that he or she can do well, and turn them loose. Set
aside 10 minutes at the end of the shift to review how he or she did
on their first day. Let your trainee know that you appreciate
his/her hard work – a sincere "thank you" and a
"job well done" from the boss goes a long way in making a
new hire feel comfortable. Continue your ten-minute meeting each day
of your trainees first week.
It's also a good idea to implement a Buddy System where each
trainee is assigned a buddy – a partner the new associate can go
to ask the so-called "stupid" questions they may be too
embarrassed to ask you. The Buddy System not only takes pressure off
of the new hire, it elevates the Buddy to the new status of trainer,
so it's motivating to both associates.
Training Strategy # 2: Every Associate will Benefit from
Obviously, you will need training classes for your new hires that
include just about every aspect of working in your store, but don't
forget about your seasoned associates. It's easy to assume that
someone who has been with you for a number of years knows all there
is to know about a particular product or technique. Trust us, they
don't, and assuming that they do will only hurt your business.
Regardless of skill level, everyone in your store, yourself
included, will benefit from continuous training.
Each month devote one store meeting to associate training.
Provide books, DVDs, and CDs associates can study on their own is a
good idea as well. Some retailers allow their trainers and top
performers to attend classes offered at trade shows. (If yours can't
attend, then you buy the CDs while you're at the show.) Others have
set up an in-store university where associates are rewarded with
raises, and even promotions, each time they earn a new
"degree" in their in-store training. However you decide to
structure your training classes, these customer service topics need
to be at the top of the list:
1. How to "break the ice" with greeting techniques
that make customers feel at home. Focus on how to greet customers
without ever saying "May I help you?" – a greeting that
almost always invites a "No-thanks-I'm-just-looking"
response from the customer. (It's okay to ask that question only
when you sense the customer is in a hurry.) Instead discuss
questions that are sure to get the customer talking.
2. During the ice-breaking stage it's okay to talk about
anything but the store. Ask about the customer's kids, the weather,
or a current event. This schmooze time is important because it makes
the customer feel welcome. After a little schmoozing, you can move
onto why the customer came to the store.
3. Demonstrate how easy it is to offer your hand and
introduce yourself in a manner that encourages customers to
volunteer their names. Continue the role play with the proper way to
use the customer's name: If the associate says, "Hello, my name
is Mary." and the customer says, "I'm Mrs. Alice
Scott.", then she must be called Mrs. Scott until she tells you
that it's okay to use her first name. If the customers says,
"I'm Dr. Smith" or "Captain Smith," then that's
what he should be called that until he says otherwise. Encourage
associates to offer their hand and introduce themselves to at least
five customers a day.
4. Every customer should be acknowledged by every associate
each time the associate comes within seven feet of the customer. We
call that our "Seven-Tile Rule™". A simple smile or nod
is often enough; with proper ice breaking training; your associates
will know when more conversation is needed.
Training Strategy # 3: Every Associate Must Have a Working
Knowledge of Everything the Store Sells
Every person working in your store needs to have some knowledge
of everything that you sell so they can intelligently answer
customer questions. Some will need to be experts. We know that not
everyone can be an expert in every product or technique, but they do
need to know where, and who to go to, for help when they need it.
We've all experienced poor customer service due to lack of
product knowledge at one time or another. How many times have you
entered a store, with a specific purchase in mind, only to find that
you knew more about the product than the store associate? Don't let
this happen in your store.
1. Make product knowledge an important part of your monthly
training. Focus on new product, but don't forget about favorites and
basics. Choose a particular item or product line, and then discuss
what's important about the product.
2. Take your training out onto the sales floor and conduct
product training right in the aisle. Here you will be surrounded
with an entire product category, plus all the additional items the
associates can add-on to the sale. Hold up an item and ask what
could be added-on to increase the sale. Remember that add-ons are
not a cheap attempt to sell more; adding-on is a service to the
customer. Add-on selling saves a customer valuable time because they
don't have to run back to the store to pick up the things they need
to complete a project, but forgot to purchase on the first trip to
3. You don't have to do all of the training yourself. If an
associate knows a product line or excels at a particular technique,
let that associate teach the session. Likewise the associate who is
good at presentation and display, or store operations. Give yourself
a break and let them learn from their peers.
4. Splurge on fancy pastries and gourmet coffee and make one
session a quarter a "Brag Session" where associates get to
brag about cool things they did for a customer. This is also a good
time to share the notes and positive comments you receive from
customers. The first Brag Session might start out slow with
associates hesitant to brag about themselves, but soon your team
will begin to store up things to share at the next meeting.
5. In addition to your more formal monthly meetings, hold ten
minute "JOG" (Jog Your Memory) sessions every other
morning, and during slow times of the day. JOG sessions can be held
in plain view of customers right on the sales floor. Use them to
discuss one product or policy at a time. JOG sessions can also focus
on current and upcoming classes, crops, and special events and
what's involved in each one. There should never be a time when a
customer knows more about what's going on in the store before the
associates know, yet we see it happen all of the time.
6. Video tape your training sessions and make them a part of
your in-store university training library. They will be invaluable
for both new hire training and refresher courses.
Training Strategy # 4: Every Associate Must Feel a Part of
Your commitment to training will ensure that your associates are
all on the same page in the same book; still, it's important to
create ways for them to interact with one another. If your
associates are used to working independently, then team interaction
may be a big change, and people generally do not like change when it
is dictated to them. They will be far more accepting of change when
they are involved in its creation. Here are some team building ideas
for you to try:
1. State a goal, or name a situation that the store is
currently facing, then ask your favorite employees this question:
"What would you do if you owned this joint?" List all of
their answers on a flip chart and discuss the merits of each one.
Together, eliminate the ones that are not workable, then discuss how
you will implement the changes you've agreed upon. Divide your
associates into teams and charge each team with a unique set of
changes and goals to implement the changes.
2. Dub one team the "CDIB Team" – that's short
for "Customer Driven Idea Bank". This important team's
responsibility is to interact with customers to find out what they
would like to see happen in the store. Customers will share amazing
ideas when sincerely asked, and your CDIB team will work like mad to
implement their suggestions.
Training Strategy # 5: Every Associate Must be Up-to-Speed in
What it Takes to Run the Business
Set aside a few minutes each morning to make a "Pre-Opening
Checklist" that shows everything that's planned for the store
that day. This list should include the daily overall store goal,
departmental goals, item of the day, in-store specials, classes and
crops, up-coming sales, events, and promotions. In short, anything
and everything associates need to know. Make additional copies to
place at each checkout and service counter.
Training Strategy # 6: Every Associate Must Feel Valued
According to a Gallup Poll, "The number one reason most
Americans leave their job is because they don't feel appreciated.
65% of the people polled said they received no recognition for good
work last year." Associates who feel appreciated have been
proven to be more productive, stay longer and attract better
co-workers. Only you can praise your people to success.
1. Give every associate a stack of business cards printed
with his or her own name and title. Cool titles. Instead of
"Cashier" try "Customer Service Specialist." You
can buy five hundred business cards at most instant printers for
around $12.00 and VistaPrint.com will give them to you for free.
Your associates are worth the investment. Encourage them to pass out
their cards - each one is a mini-advertisement for your store.
2. Our C.I.T.A. Card is a great way to show your
appreciation. CITA could be the first four letters in the word
"citation" or it could stand for "Caught In The
Act", as in "You've been Caught In The Act of Delighting
Customers!" CITA Cards celebrate an associate's going above and
beyond the call of duty. Each card has a place inside for you to
list what the associate did for a customer, plus a place for you to
add a personal message.
Make a big deal when you present a C.I.T.A. Card. Do it on the
sales floor in front of everyone. You'll see grins from ear to ear,
and a renewed enthusiasm. Don't be surprised to find that even years
later, the associate still carries her C.I.T.A Card. Drop us an
e-mail and we'll send you our C.I.T.A. Card template.
Make training an important and on-going part of your business.
Don't be like the retailer said, "Why should I bother to train
my people? They're just going to leave anyway." Yeah? Well what
if you don't train them, and they decide to stay? The customers who
walk in your front door each day are counting on your associates to
be nice people who know the store and product inside and out. And
the competitor down the street, who wants to steal your business, is
counting on them to be just average or worse.
So, what's it going to be? How good your associates are is
completely up to you.
(Note: KIZER & BENDER are also well-known for their
unique and intensive consumer research. In addition to focus groups,
one-on-one interviews, and intensive in-store studies, KIZER &
BENDER scour the marketplace each year posing as every kind of
customer you can imagine. The result of their research is literally
"straight from the customers' mouth" – solid,
ground-level intelligence that you can use today to better capture
and serve your customers.
Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender. KIZER & BENDER Speaking!
103 N. 11th Ave., Ste. 206, St. Charles, Illinois 60174. Phone
888.215.1839 or 630.513.8020; Fax 630.513.8098; E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
; Website: http://www.kizerandbender.com ; Retail Adventures in the
REAL World™ Blog: http://www.kizerandbender.blogspot.com.)
They are conducting two seminars at the CHA Winter Show. 1. The
Inside Secrets of Fast Track Retailers: Real-life Strategies That
Create Success! (S119), Mon. Jan. 26, 12:00-1:00 pm. 2. How To Kill
Your Retail Business Without Even Trying: 10 Fatal Mistakes and How
To Avoid Them (S122), Mon., Jan. 26, 2:00-3:00 pm. For more
information and to register, visit www.chashow.org.
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