As the role of brick-and-mortar stores evolves with the growth of online sales, much of retailers’ success will hinge on how well their employees create stand-out customer experiences. That’s a growing challenge as customers become more informed and exacting in what they expect from their retailers.
Robert Fort, BCBG Max Azria Group CIO, and Jessica Rosaria, district store manager, outlined this new reality in the closing session of ENGAGE! 2016. They described an environment in which customers expect more from employees than working registers and stocking shelves. Shoppers remember moments, not things. When a shopper has fun in a store, they will return. Everything about the store contributes to the brand's integrity, from its layout to its employees’ persona and performance.
Employees are usually a customer's first live experience with the brand. A guest will feed off an employee's positive attitude and the enthusiastic energy. Conversely, a guest will be repulsed by stressed-out employees who are bored with their jobs.
The manager’s coaching and direction is the first key element in creating the right employee spirit. The other is training – a new model of training that eschews manuals, DVDs, conventional computer-based training, or occasional live training sessions.
Training built around short, interactive video modules will appeal to the sensibilities and learning patterns of Internet age employees. Delivered through their personal smart devices, tablets, or in-store screen networks, short-form interactive training can also fit into their work days in a way conventional training doesn’t.
Interactive video opens up a new range of training options for retailers. Live role playing (virtual or in-person) allows employees to experience the problem and its resolution. Alternatively, retailers can create short video clips showing employees how they’re supposed to act in various situations. Employees can select options that show different responses and learn from their outcomes.
Interactive video training can also help the retail industry’s notoriously high employee turnover. Every manager knows that when an employee leaves, the store suffers lost productivity and the burden of training a replacement.
Money alone isn’t the answer. Store managers can’t buy employee commitment. It’s financially unsustainable and simply doesn’t work.
Team spirit, where individuals feel like a part of something big and positive, boosts employee retention. Internal digital media networks not only provide a medium for managers to publicly recognize their staff, but also a channel for employees to share best practices with each other. Employees often learn best from other employees. A personal connection encourages retention and motivates employees to give their best efforts, which in turn builds the brand.
The common element in retention and brand-building is a training model that recognizes the impact of interactive communication with employees. Simple, short, interactive instruction provided frequently over time is a proven path to above-and- beyond employee performance. It is a powerful and essential management tool for improving employee performance and transforming the customer's experience.