Don't Ignore These 15 Critical Retail Training Issues

Retail Training Separates The Men From The Boys!

Have you ever been a customer somewhere and had someone take care of you with such care and interest that you just assumed they we're the owner? Isnt this the kind of person you really want taking care of your customers? You also want someone who actually cares for your customers and who will take ownership of a problem and make it their goal to take care of that customer as your personal representative. Its all about having people who want to deliver a memorable experience, as opposed to having people who are indifferent to customers and just want to put their time in.

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While I realize you have your own particular equipment or store specific training to do for the merchandise and the type of store you operate, I'm concerned here with some of the training that is too often ignored or not emphasized enough. Here then are a few guidelines for training new employees and getting things right from the very beginning. Before you begin training anyone, commit to these ideals:

Hire for personality, first and foremost. If they aren't personable, your customers won't like them or your store. If they don't care about people, they won't take care of your customers way your customers should be taken care of. Someone who cares can usually be trained. But I really doubt you want a really well trained person who doesn't care.

Think about what you'd like to see on your first day as a new employee somewhere. You may want to begin training your employee on a normal business day, starting an hour or two before the store opens. This might start with emphasizing to new employees what they CAN DO to make a difference and what you saw in them that made you want them in the first place. At a minimum, it's about stressing what's important to you and your store as opposed to rattling off a list of things they can't or shouldn't do.

One of the things I would want to see on my first day as a new employee somewhere, is the face of the person who hired me and interviewed me. So be there on a new employees first day. Make them feel important, valued and introduce them to your people and the store itself. No new hire is going to feel too valued if the first day they show up, the person that hired them is not even there and they don't know a sole when they walk in the door. Its like saying I have more important things to do today than get you started. Even if it's true, it's not making a very good statement and impression to the new employee. I've never understood an owner who takes off and leaves the store as a new hire begins the first very impressionable hours. Be involved!

This is your chance to begin emphasizing what is important and valued by you the boss. When you've got a new enthusiastic person with a new fresh outlook on their new job, try to encourage and stimulate their enthusiasm right away before bad habits or day-to-day problems affect their attitude. If you want new hires to develop the right attitude, take it upon yourself to convey the enthusiasm and purpose you originally brought to your business in the beginning. This is really your time to get across the mission of your business as you feel it and see it. This is the time as well to make your new hire feel they are a part of a business that is trying to do something special. Then let them know you want them to be free and empowered to do just that.

Before any training: Start with having a written job description as well as a company policy in writing. Make sure that the employee signs off on each stating they have read and understand both. You may have them read this before they even show up on their first day. Then have them sign and date each document. This can come in handy with discipline and potential lawsuits. Remember, it's better to have and not need, even with a small store!

Among many of your own important and unique training issues, training should include the following if you really want to raise the performance bar in your store:

1. Train your employees on the philosophy behind the company, the importance of service in your business. Train them heavily on handling a purchase transaction before ever turning them loose on a customer. Do NOT use customers as guinea pigs with your new hire.

2. Be certain when new employees are first being acclimated to the job they understand who they're working for, and that customers are NOT an interruption to their work. The customer is the purpose of their work and their paycheck.

3. Train your people to look straight into the eyes of your customers and sincerely talk to them and thank them. (If they can't convey warmth enthusiasm and confidence and helpfulness, you've already got the wrong person.) If they can't look you in the eye when you're interviewing them, pass on them.

4. Teach your people to begin learning and memorizing your customers names. Teach your employees to give their name and get the customers name upon serving any customer. Any sales class ever taught has always emphasized the importance of using the customers name often. Everyone likes to be recognized and everyone likes to hear his/her name. It makes people feel more secure . . . like they're among friends. Wouldnt you rather buy from friends?

5. If your people don't remember the customers name? They can at least let them know that their recognized and your glad to see them again. How about, Hi, nice to see you again. Again customers like to go to where they are recognized. So show that you recognize them and help ensure they keep coming back.

6. Once you get going with any employee, you should be holding regular sales/training meetings. Were not talking about some fancy formal training program, but we are talking about regular and frequent (one (1) per week, at a minimum). Its too easy and tempting to put them off or cancel them. All this does is to set the example to your people that maybe this isn't so important after all.

7. Use your meetings to discuss new products, changes in store policies, new merchandising strategies or other matters relating to the stores merchandise and services. Get input from employees to solve problems or issues in handling customers. The more involved your people feel in creating new policies or procedures, the more likely they are to enthusiastically participate, and the more likely they are to emphasize these same policies and procedures to new employees. There is nothing better than a company culture that has employees saying, Here, customer service is everything! or Here, we do it this way!

This is also a great time to show how to handle an unhappy customer, or even what over-the-top service is all about and why it's important. It may sound corny, but act out the customer-salesperson relationship between you and your people. Role-playing can help your people see and experience various situations from the customers point of view and more importantly, it can also help employees to quickly size up customers (learn about their needs) or recognize when a customers body language or words signal a problem in the making. Use your better salespeople to help with suggestions or tactics they've used before. Often, a good sales personality loves to boast about his little success stories. The bottom line is that there is no shortage of subjects to talk about, but you've got to do it regularly. If you do, you will be pleasantly surprised at how much your salespeople improve.

8. Train you employee on when and where to eat lunch. Make sure they understand that they should not be stuffing food in their mouth anywhere on the sales floor or within view of the sales floor. Make sure they understand that customers come before lunch regardless of what time it is or when they we're promised a lunch period.

9. Train your people what you want your people to concern themselves with during slow periods or down times. Things like cleaning, dusting, changing displays, sizing, ticketing etc.

10. Training on how to answer the phone and how to answer phone inquiries. . If you've ever called a store or business and had the person on the phone at the other end make you feel like you've interrupted them, you should understand why training on phone etiquette is also important to review and stress.

And while we're talking about the phone. . . teach your employees that customers in the store come first over those on the phone. The people in the store went to the trouble of driving to your place of business and they are the ones who can give you their money NOW. Do not make them wait on any kind of phone conversation.

If you get a call while you are waiting on a customer or ringing them up, excuse yourself to the customer who is in front of you and inform the customer that you will just put the caller on hold.

Answer the phone and tell the caller politely (without agitation or sounding like you've been rudely interrupted) to please hold while you finish taking care of a customer. Customers on the phone should be asked to hold for a moment only, while you answer a customers question in the store. If you feel it will take a few minutes, take the customers number and tell them you will call them back as soon as possible (within the next few minutes) and then do so.

Thank the customer in front of you for their patience and finish the transaction without rushing the customer, sincerely thank them for their business and ask them to return again.

Dont forget to go back to the caller as promised, who will most likely understand the situation.

Do not allow your store customer to feel as though they are interrupting any phone conversation. If your people are on any kind of a personal call at all in your store, (and they shouldn't be) the phone should be hung up period. . .not put on hold. You don't want customers to feel as though they must hurry and accommodate you and your customer on the phone.

Finally, your employees should never carry on a telephone conversation with the phone tucked under their chin while doing any transaction for another customer. This is a good way to lose a customer. Do not carry on a conversation with anyone in the store, while you are talking to a customer on the phone and do not lay the phone down without putting it on hold. The customer on the phone should not be listening to your banter or explanations while you make them wait. This is what why hold buttons we're invented.

11. Teach your people to present or show items to your customers in the absolute best way possible. This might include setting the item against a pretty or complimentary backdrop or fabric. This might include placing a necklace or pendant against a blouse or dress the customer is considering. It might include learning what accessories or items to suggest for any piece of merchandise sold. It may also mean knowing how the merchandise works before trying to figure out how to use it in front of the customer.

12. Train you people to pay close attention to their customers and listen well! Those that do will have a much better chance of creating a connection or memorable moment, as I discuss in my book. Its usually a result of listening intently to a customer and then seizing upon some opportunity. However this is not so likely if the employee has not been given some freedom or been empowered to go out of their way to take care of customers. Its also not very likely where customer service is not highly emphasized.

13. Your customers need to see your commitment to pleasing them through your employees. Train your retail employees how to resolve customer complaints on their own. Then train your employees to handle these issues NOW! Remember, the customer comes first. And then after that, the customer comes first. Do NOT leave customers in the waiting or limbo mode. Work to implement a policy to take returns or void transactions without calling on a manager? Make decisions to satisfy the customer up to a maximum level without running to you. Be sure to outline these capabilities in your employee training manual. You want your employees to be empowered to take care of the customer. This is important to your stores relationship with your customers. See Empowering Your Employees in my book, A Line Out The Door.

If you allow or teach your people in any way to say Sorry, that's company policy. . . or, If I do that for you, I'll have do to it for everyone, you've just given the go ahead to the mediocrity train and it's leaving the station soon with a number of your customers.

You need policies and training in place that make it very easy for employees to address any given situation or problem for a customer. Employees should not be running to you to find out how you want a particular customer handled in a customer satisfaction situation. The goal is to have such a clearly spelled out customer satisfaction policy that you avoid putting your people in the position of coming to you to and asking you what you want to do.

14. Last, but not least, even while you're going through the actions of trying to please the customer be sure you and your employees handle refunds, returns and exchanges graciously, positively and pleasantly. You really need to be pleasant and positive . The idea here is, your sorry the customer was disappointed, not that you're aggravated that you must let go of some cash. Customers should not walk out of your store with a negative feeling about your store because you or your people gave them a hard time about a return. Some store employees and owners develop an attitude and a cool tone with someone who wants a refund. This will not help your store no matter how unhappy you are with the return, so . . . suck it up. With some sincere help the customer can wind up not only exchanging everything for merchandise, but also purchasing additional items. There is nothing wrong with suggesting a different size, different style, different brand or completely different item altogether.

15. Train your people to understand that all orders must be filled promptly and delivered promptly, even if it is a hassle or an extra expense for you to do so. Inquiries, repairs, e-mails, complaints and callbacks need to be handled with a sense of urgency. Customers want their products to be fixed or their service problem to be resolved. They should not have to wait or wonder if your business will take care of them. Customers must be made to feel their problem will be addressed from your first encounter on. You as the owner must set the example. If you can't do this or insist on this, it won't happen!

Other Important Points

With regards to other jobs within your store, choose the perfect employee to team up with your new hire who really has a knack for teaching and mentoring. Give your employee a special typed or handwritten letter that tells them why you are choosing them to train the employee. This makes the employee feel honored as well as making them take the training responsibility a bit more seriously. Consider a checklist to go through for the new hire and their trainer.

Covering something once or twice or even three times, does not mean the training has been done. Training should practically never end. Just because you told someone something or showed an employee once, does not mean it's locked in and as dependable as the sun. Customer service language and habits especially, must be reinforced constantly. Also try hooking up new hires with the best most talented service oriented employee you have. Just remember, his does not mean you can divorce yourself from the training personally! Your job ultimately is to be certain that the training has taken and that it is being practiced day-in and day-out!


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Posted in Renovations Post Date 08/08/2020






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