How in store associates (yes humans) can save your business

product knowledge, sales success, sales

Published: 8th January 2018

How many of us felt smug this holiday season, ordering our shopping from the comfort of our sofas? Pitying our friends and colleagues who came back with battle wounds from a trip to Dubai mall.

However well you plan, you always forget someone. Panic sets in, as you realise you have to make a last minute dash to the shops (that smug smile soon disappears!). As a consumer, you have to make a choice- which store to tackle? Which mall will be the least formidable? The stores that are winning are those focused on customer experience, and building the knowledge and expertise of their front line staff.

When surveyed, 89% of consumers said they had switched to a competitor because they had a bad customer experience. By 2020, customer experience is expected to be a key brand differentiator. What does that mean? The stores that are customer centric, who arm their associates with customer preferences, product knowledge and invest in customer service training are the stores that are going to win this battle. This is already happening. The choices consumers make today are based on the experiences they know they’re going to receive in store.

Not prioritising your customers and their experience will leave you (best case scenario) undifferentiated from your competitors (worst case scenario) nonexistent. The quickest way to achieving that competitive advantage? Employee knowledge.

Employee knowledge is the weapon that retailers, and bricks and mortar stores have that the online retailers don’t. 

So how do you equip your associates with the knowledge they need to succeed?

  1. Pick the right people – you need associates who are engaged in your company and products, and who want to take the opportunities to learn about your vision and your industry
  2. Gamify learning. According to a recent Tulip report 83% of shoppers believe they are more knowledgeable than store associates. Not acceptable. So make learning fun for your employees. Run competitions, keep live leaderboards, give out rewards so your team are motivated to keep learning.
  3. Make learning manageable. Adopt micro learning methodologies. Break down topics into 3-5 minute bursts per day so no-one feels intimidated or overwhelmed.
  4. Give your employees the tools they need to succeed. Build a database they can use to locate information at the speed of Google and respond to customer inquiries instantly
  5. Let your employees know how they’re doing. Show them the results that their increase in knowledge is having on the business. What’s more motivating than seeing your own contribution to business results?

One company who put these steps into action – At Home. They experienced rapid growth from a small pottery company to retail giant in just 2 years. That presented them with a problem – 3000 brand new employees, with a knowledge level of zero who were going to be out advising customers on purchases.

At Home experimented with a new way of tackling this challenge. Instead of mass workshops or sitting in a classroom for a week, every shift, the sales associates were tasked with undertaking 3-5 minutes of training (on their lunch hours, or coffee breaks). They did this individually, using Axonify (a cloud based training solution). Using this method and platform, At Home employees got up to speed fast, and were able to respond to a variety of situations in an organic way.

The results?

  • Employees that showed highest knowledge levels sold the most
  • Warehouse staff experienced 36% drop in safety incidents
  • The company as a whole has reduced onboarding time from six months to just four weeks.

So, let’s go back to the start. Consumers have told us that in-store experience is crucial them. 72% of customers actually claim that when sales staff use a mobile device to search for product information, this improves their overall experience, and 50% of customers say that an employee who can suggest products based on their history would turn them into a repeat customer. Leverage a mobile based solution like Axonify, and you too could transform your customer experience and your sales revenue.



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