“Train the Trainer”: The Real Downfall of Brick and Mortar Retail

Feb 14, 2019 9:19:07 AM

Training & learning

This week's post is written by Michael Dahan.

Today’s retail landscape is fraught with perils and challenges. The competition from online stores is intensifying. Brick and mortar retailers are reacting to it with product differentiation, increased focus on customer experience, and the integration of online and physical store channels, amongst other things.

But these efforts are often impeded by a long time retail classic: the “train the trainer” approach.

In a retail chain with multiple locations spread over large areas or even different regions, it quickly becomes impossible to train and manage front-line teams directly. Companies are forced to adopt a layered management scheme, with regional managers overseeing district supervisors who are responsible for the training and management of the store manager. The store manager, in turn, usually trains their sales team and manages their performance.

The result is that the company's vision and message are often diluted, just like in a real-life game of telephone. And therein lies the danger: there are three or more levels of separation between the team who creates the message and the people who actually speak to customers.

It is easy to spot the consequences. For instance, when you walk into a store and are greeted by a “Can I help you?”, you can be assured that this is not the type of customer engagement that the company envisioned. It probably created training material, videos and organized sales technique seminars for the supervisors, and maybe even the store managers. In other words, it carefully crafted an approach that would increase sales and improve customer experience, sometimes at great expense. Still, you often hear this question, easily answered by a simple “no” or “I’m just browsing”. Instead of using the planned sales techniques, it is common for the sales force to revert to their instincts of being non-intrusive and basically delivering the lowest possible level of engagement. A retail kiss of death.

More generally, it is a seemingly insurmountable challenge to control the message and the training of those who are tasked with delivering it, and, by extension, offering a consistent product across the organization. The inefficient “train the trainer” approach is still the norm in retail today, and so is resistance to change.

In a previous article I described how we were able to adapt to decreasing traffic by increasing average ticket size. We were able to do it by setting up-sell targets for the sales associates (60% or more of their transactions with multiple items in a pay period would earn them a $50 bonus), and by providing them with daily personalized feedback in the form of what we called “Employee Stats”. The success of this program stemmed from our ability to bypass the layers of management and provide relevant incentive information directly to the sales associate. Our program was based around this “Employee Stats” report that printed at the cash register every time an associate would punch in for their shift.

Today, I work with YOOBIC, a company that provides an app that will do just that, but on each associate’s personal cell phone or on a personalized web portal. The company can now deliver training material (videos, etc...) directly to each sales associate. Employees can track their own performance and see what they need to do to reach their target and earn whatever incentive is in place. The app can automatically push more training based on performance, and vendors can provide product training through the app. This is a retailer’s dream come true!

Through such platforms, retailers can take back the delivery of their message to the customer by communicating directly with the front-line associates. No need for a leap of faith in a layered management approach - instead, they can now “train the trainee” and control their message in the same systematic way they do online.


And if you want to find out more about YOOBIC, why not request a free personalized demo?