Ensuring Optimal Customer Experience with Dynamic Associate Training

The ever-changing nature of the retail industry can be challenging. Most recently, we have seen retailers clamoring to keep pace with the increasing demands of millennial shoppers and omnichannel retailing. Today’s customer expects to be able to shop via a number of purchasing channels, also known as “omnis,” ranging from traditional brick-and-mortar stores to online outlets. These new omnis are adding obstacles to ensuring optimal, consistent customer experiences – escalating the need for well-trained and informed retail associates.
Whether making a sale, answering a customer inquiry or helping to solve a problem, success in retail starts with associate-customer interactions. An unsatisfactory experience can negatively affect revenue and reputation. In fact, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, a dissatisfied customer will tell between nine to 15 people about his or her experience – factor in the power of amplification via social media and bad news can travel even faster.
With top-of-the-line customer service being key to customer satisfaction and increased brand loyalty, your retail associates require comprehensive training programs to provide a positive shopping experience.
Below are four training best practices to keep in mind to ensure retail associates delight customers, increasing the opportunity to maximize revenue and increase brand loyalty:
1. Start training on day one. Far too often, retailers overestimate an employee’s understanding of the company culture, technology and customer service best practices. Similarly, they underestimate the power of training. When training starts during the onboarding process and is maintained throughout associates’ careers, they will have the tools to be successful.

2. Keep it consistent. With expanding purchasing channels and types of customer interactions (e.g., online chat, in person), it is imperative to keep retail associates’ training consistent. This ensures brand consistency.

3. Don’t underestimate the power of engagement. It can be tempting to just pull the required documents together and make sure that all of your associates have access to the tools they need – but studies show that people learn best through interaction and execution. Think about how best to engage your associates based on their interests, demographics, where and how they will be learning. You may find that a mix of mobile customer interaction simulations and games may prove to be more effective than a standard managers’ meeting.

4. Investment in training equals an investment in your strategy. Investing in corporate learning strategies that underline customer service, product knowledge and brand best practices, helps retailers turn each customer interaction into a positive experience and a potential loyal customer. It’s also important to invest in the strategy of your training program, ensuring that your training methods align with your employees’ preferred learning styles – from eLearning to instructor-led training sessions.
The continued growth of omnichannel in retail is certain. In fact, according to the Commerce Department, U.S. annual e-retail sales surpassed $300 billion for the first time this year. To capitalize on these spending trends, it’s imperative that associates are consistently trained, ensuring the best customer experience no matter the location, purchase or situation.

-Doug Stephen, senior vice president, Learning Division, CGS
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