At Wisetail, we regularly work with retail clients who say – and act – like their people are their number one resource, and we applaud that.
But we’ve come to find that while many of these companies are willing to prioritize training and development, they often aren’t doing it in the most effective way: they’re deploying outdated, traditional retail training methods that look good on end-of-year performance reviews, but don’t actually deliver results on a day-to-day basis.
In our recent article on retail training, we delved into the increasing demand for exceptional customer service experiences in the onsite shopping experience and the relationship between excellent customer service and excellent employee training. Today, we want to dig a little deeper into that relationship and look at why modern, interactive training experiences, in particular, are the best fit for empowering employees to deliver on the level of service and experience that will keep today’s retail shoppers in-stores and offline.
1. Retail Employees Don’t Have Time to Take Long Courses
If you tend to think that microlearning is a trend designed to pacify Millennials with short attention spans, think again. Major brands like Walmart are building retail training programs with sessions as short as 45 seconds because their training and development experts know that short, repetitive exposure to information is the best way to for employees to absorb training material – and that it’s expensive to keep retail employees off the floor and away from customers for long periods of time.
Think about it this way: traditional training and development programs are often built with knowledge workers in mind, employees who have the time in their schedule to spend a half a day or several hours per quarter working through seminars or hour-long eLearning modules. Microlearning, on the other hand, is a more natural fit for retail employees who must work their ongoing training into the short breaks of time they have between actively engaging customers on the floor. So much so that it’s been proven to provide a measurable ROI in information retention and specific business goals, such as how Pep Boys swapped traditional training for microlearning to the tune of a $20 million reduction in employee theft.
2. Exceptional Customer Service Requires Exceptional Retail Training Experiences
While it may seem like every other industry headline is talking about the death of the brick-and-mortar retail experience, eCommerce actually accounts for only 11.7% of total retail sales – leaving a healthy majority of shoppers (and a 70% majority of Millennials) preferring an in-store shopping experience.
But don’t let these statistics lull you into a false sense of security. Citing lower prices, more convenient shipping options, and a greater availability of product, retail shoppers are indeed moving their business online at a few percentage points per year, with experts estimating about 17% of retail sales will occur online by 2022. And the main thing keeping them heading back into stores – in addition to seeing and touching products in person – is exceptional customer service experiences. But if your staff isn’t trained to deliver such an experience – and can’t be supported in ongoing training and development support – you won’t create a strong pull that brings customers offline and in store.
The only way to make sure your team is consistently delivering exceptional customer experience is to make sure their training experiences are equally exceptional, featuring best practices like interactive learning (which taps into the employee’s interests and learning style with gamification and varied content formats) and microlearning (which breaks content into bite-sized segments) as a way to improve employee confidence and facilitate employee engagement to create a more exceptional customer experience.
3. Modern Retail Training Experiences Are More Cost Effective to Update
Keeping employees informed and up-to-date on changes in product inventory is one of the biggest challenges retail employers have in providing an excellent customer experience. After all, as many as 30,000 new retail products launch each year, leaving even a modestly-sized retail store scrambling to update product listings, availability, and information and making that information easily available to employees.
For companies that take a traditional approach to training and development, it can be costly to update product knowledge seminars or videos, especially if you only need to update a handful of products per segment. The result is that few companies do it regularly, instead opting to hang posters, share brochures, and post product updates on break room bulletin boards and hope employees educate themselves. Or worse – they leave it up to customers to inform themselves using product websites, a risky choice when as many as 50% of shoppers still want advice from an employee when they go into a brick-and-mortar store.
This is where modern LMS solutions really shine: they allow you to film, edit, and upload your own video content in as much time as it takes to plan your script, pop out your smartphone, and capture 3-5 minutes of product information – all in your company’s unique style and voice. Or, if you’re in a rush, you can easily upload branded videos or other content formats from manufacturers. Not only will more informed employees be able to provide a better customer service experience, but it will also improve the consistency between what your customers experience online and off – a key challenge for brands looking to encourage omnichannel growth.
If your retail organization still takes a traditional approach to employee training and development, your employees aren’t likely to reach their full potential. And in an environment in which employee performance has such a powerful impact on customer satisfaction and experience, it’s not a risk you should be taking. Consider how a modern LMS could help you provide the interactive, customizable learning experience retail employees need to deliver the kind of customer experience today’s shoppers demand.
BY SARAH GREESONBACH
Sarah is a writer for Wisetail. By analyzing and condensing cutting-edge research and data, she helps L&D professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and training. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.