Re­tail staff: The crit­i­cal link in shop­per ex­pe­ri­ence

Point of Purchase - - CONTENTS - N. Jay­alak­shmi

Store staff is the first step in a shop­per’s re­tail ex­pe­ri­ence. And this works both ways -- While a well trained store staff en­hances a con­sumer’s re­cep­tiv­ity to a store brand, a poorly trained staff with in­ad­e­quate knowl­edge of the prod­ucts or hav­ing poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills can put off shop­pers/con­sumers leav­ing a neg­a­tive emo­tional residue in their minds. Point Of Pur­chase speaks to some ex­perts and those in the re­tail busi­ness to get some per­spec­tives on the im­por­tance of staff train­ing in re­tail. Read on…

You walk into a store look­ing for a par­tic­u­lar brand of toy for your child and the sales clerk has no clue… At a con­sumer durable store your en­quiries about the var­i­ous pos­si­bil­i­ties of a new brand of TV draws a com­plete blank from the counter clerk… You are frisked away by the se­cu­rity staff at a ubiq­ui­tous mod­ern trade gro­cery store leav­ing you highly em­bar­rassed only be­cause of a ma­jor com­mu­ni­ca­tion gap with the counter sales staff re­gard­ing your bill… You are seated at a café ask­ing about a par­tic­u­lar f lavour of cof­fee when the f lus­tered f loor staff mem­ber tak­ing your or­der van­ishes to “find out” leav­ing you wait­ing for what seems like eter­nity… For most of us any or all of the above men­tioned must ring a bell of fa­mil­iar­ity. Af­ter all, re­tail is a part and par­cel of our life to­day and what we ex­pe­ri­ence at this space has a big bear­ing on our mind space. Lit­tle won­der then that re­tail staff train­ing comes un­der the spot­light when

we talk about shop­per ex­pe­ri­ence in store. In In­dia, ac­cord­ing to Ku­mar Ra­jagopal, CEO -- Re­tail­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia (RAI), re­tail­ers spend about 7% of their turnover on staff costs. Well, quite ob­vi­ously, the need to de­velop and train staff in a fo­cused man­ner is gain­ing newer ur­gency across re­tail groups in In­dia. Says G R Venkatesh, Head - Peo­ple Of­fice, Re­tail Busi­nesses -- Fu­ture Group, “A well trained staff is the most im­por­tant fac­tor in cre­at­ing a pleas­ant and mem­o­rable shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. A well trained staff re­duces the po­ten­tial mishaps within busi­ness and it sup­ports the em­ployee to give his her best shot at ever task. All or­ga­ni­za­tions have their own way of do­ing things or its own cul­ture; and in­duc­tion or ori­en­ta­tion to the or­ga­ni­za­tions’ way of life is vi­tal to let the em­ployee get con­nected to know how of the busi­ness and the way of life in the or­ga­ni­za­tion and how it func­tions.” Agrees Ashok G. Vice Pres­i­dent -- Hu­man Re­sources, Max Hyper­mar­ket In­dia Pvt. Ltd, “In these days of in­ter­net and so­cial net­work­ing, knowl­edge/ in­for­ma­tion is avail­able at fin­ger­tips -many of us as­pire to ex­pe­ri­ence , ex­plore and learn to ben­e­fit from it- af­ter few trails. As a shop­per I feel happy when I come home if my visit has been an ed­uca­tive shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence -be it knowl­edge of new prod­ucts in­tro­duced, lat­est of­fers and pro­mo­tions of the day or us­age of some of the prod­ucts which I see day in and day out and which we use less of­ten. A well trained staff in the floor makes it as a fruit­ful visit for a shop­per.” And it is pre­cisely be­cause of this that these re­tail chains now have a well for­mu­lated train­ing pro­grammes and mod­ules. For ex­am­ple, at the Fu­ture Group, train­ing is di­vided into dif­fer­ent key ar­eas fo­cused on tal­ent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and sus­tained de­vel­op­ment of the staff. Says Venkatesh, “As a group we give a lot of im­por­tance to staff train­ing. Our train­ings are re­lated around the ar­eas of Func­tional Knowl­edge and Skills, Lead­er­ship and Man­age­rial Skills, Soft Skills for Per­sonal Ef­fec­tive­ness. We have cre­ated a Time Bound Growth Plan for ev­ery role holder in the op­er­a­tions or­ga­ni­za­tion. This is an op­por­tu­nity to sys­tem­at­i­cally ac­quire knowl­edge and skills. This learn­ing in­ter­ven­tion is called Avatar; ev­ery role re­quires a new Avatar; or a dif­fer­ent set of skills, knowl­edge and be­hav­ior. This learn­ing in­ter­ven­tion in­volves cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and it is a gate­way to Tal­ent Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. This also en­sures that we de­velop our staff be­fore we as­sess them.” At the ubiq­ui­tous Café Cof­fee Day, which has 1,300 out­lets across the coun­try and a staff strength of 6,500, a lot of thought and fo­cus has gone into de­vel­op­ing a train­ing mod­ule given the na­ture of ex­pe­ri­ence that the chain aims at giv­ing its cus­tomers. Says Ur­vashi Malhotra, Gen­eral Man­ager, Learn­ing and De­vel­op­ment, Cof­fee Day “There are two things that are unique to the café ex­pe­ri­ence. One is of course the cof­fee it­self and the con­cept of cafe is very dif­fer­ent to our trainees from any­thing that they have ex­pe­ri­enced. The sec­ond very in­ter­est­ing thing is that in a Café, the chal­lenge lies in mak­ing the cof­fee it­self which is al­most like a wine ex­pe­ri­ence where all the in­gre­di­ents with all the sub­tle tex­tures, are tasted and felt. So that is the pas­sion for the prod­uct that we are able to in­spire in our trainees.” The train­ing con­tent for the staff has also been de­vel­oped in a vis­ually friendly man­ner. Says Ur­vashi, “We have di­vided the skill lev­els in such a way that the work re­lated skill comes first. So it’s all about learn­ing from do­ing -- from role play to real play. And we’ve had to in­tro­duce all this be­cause a lot has changed in the re­tail sce­nario. We re­al­ized that the reg­u­lar kind of train­ing is not work­ing-- our folks can’t read Ex­cel sheets, they don’t like to sit in a class room, we need to make it more ac­tiv­ity based, more visual, more tech en­abled since the great strength they have at their fin­ger tips is tech­nol­ogy.” She adds fur­ther mak­ing a very in­ter­est­ing point, “What we learnt are two things. One, while com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills may be low, ev­ery­body is a good

G R Venkatesh Head - Peo­ple Of­fice, Re­tail Busi­ness

Fu­ture Group

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