"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
You may have heard this quote before (we'll get to who said it in a moment). But probably not during a retail training session. As you'll see below, that's a huge oversight.
And it's not the only one. When it comes to employee training, retail staff often get short-changed. Retail training is rarely as well thought-out and planned as training in other areas.
That's bad for everyone.
Poorly trained retail staff may still meet their sales goals. But they'll miss out on opportunities for upselling, cross-selling, and relationship-building.
With proper training, retail employees can be a credit to your company.
When you're training retail staff, keep these eight points in mind. Both your retail staff and your customers will thank you.
1. Focus on a Service Attitude
Here's where we come to the quote from above. Maya Angelou may have been talking about authorship, or art, but the idea holds in the retail industry.
Many discussions of retail training leave this concept out—even though it's one of the central concepts of good sales. Providing great customer service helps differentiate your brand. That's true if you're selling Gucci or grapefruit.
Do you want lifelong repeat customers?
Then your retail employees need to make your patrons feel appreciated, valued, and important.
Cultivating a service attitude among retail employees begins before training, though. It should be one of the most important things you look for in your hiring process.
Attitude is difficult to teach. Hirees that already have the attitude you're looking for makes the process easier.
SurveyMonkey lists eight requisite characteristics for great customer service:
- clear communication
- work ethic
- thick skin
Each step of your retail training should link to one of these concepts.
During retail trainings, regardless of your method or focus, be sure that customer service comes first.
2. Have a Plan to Maximize Effectiveness
This is especially important for smaller retailers. Even if you have plenty of retail training ideas, it's easy to walk into a session with only a vague idea of what you're going to cover. That minimizes the effectiveness of your training. Instead, have a concrete plan of what you're going to teach.
For example, you might show a video of a great customer interaction, then have trainees roleplay to put those principles into action. After that, you might tell a story and have them roleplay again. Finally, each new employee could shadow an experienced retail staff member to see how they deal with daily issues.
This is a full day of training, and you may only have an hour. But you get the idea. No matter the format of your training, break it down into discrete sections that focus on one point.
Of course, not every company has the luxury of dedicating days or weeks to retail training. Sometimes salespeople get thrown in the deep end because there's no other choice. This doesn't mean you can't have a plan. On-the-job training can benefit from planning, too.
It might take some creative thinking communicate the concepts to the trainee in a beneficial way. But if you have a specific set of goals, you can ensure that your training meets them.
3. Use Training Modules to Save Time
Large corporations have time to sufficiently train their salespeople. Smaller organizations will probably have to send them out to do their jobs before the full training is complete.
Modular training can be a big help in this endeavor. Set up training modules using your preferred learning management solution, and make it clear in which order they need to be completed in.
For example, you might start with product knowledge, then move to a module on good communication practices, then selling, then display creation. Your new staff member could start working after completing the first module. But they should make it a priority to complete the others as soon as they can, and in the preferred order.
The modules that you use should be tailored to your business. A bike shop might need a training module on bike fitting, for example. An art store could have a module on types of paint. An office supplier may have a module on upselling office equipment.
Another advantage of training modules is that shorter sessions of training result in better retention. It's difficult to pay attention and learn for hours on end. Keep sessions short and simple.
4. Choose the Right Platform
There are lots of different ways you can deliver your training—and different methods that will suit your particular situation.
For example, retail workers are often on the move. And we find that they appreciate our mobile-friendly platform because they exclusively get training from their tablets. With a less mobile solution, their completion rates would be much lower.
Video is a great platform for training because it boosts retention. It creates emotional connections with viewers and shares more information. It also lends itself to the creation of modules and easy distribution.
However, while most people learn well from videos, it's a good idea to provide text to supplement it.
And no matter what kind of training materials you use, actually putting the training into practice is the best way to help people remember it. Roleplaying with trainers and trainees helps solidify the concepts that you first share in video, lecture, or text.
Vary the methods you use throughout your training to maximize engagement and retention. If you've used several videos, try giving employees a quiz. Or assigning a reading. If you've been roleplaying, have employees take part in a company webinar.
The more variety you can provide, the better your employees will learn.