Failing to train your staff will sabotage your business

August 28, 2008 by: admin

What should you spend your money on when you open a business? If you are a retailer you might think that the more stock you have the better.

But what if you haven’t trained your staff to deal with, and specifically, sell to your customers? Your stock range is likely to stay just as wide as it was when you opened the store!

I live very near the Lakeside Mica and have always found that the staff give excellent service. When not loading shelves, etc, the staff wait near the front of the aisles. They talk among themselves but they also greet all customers as they walk into the store. So you can be sure that if you need assistance you will get it.

They are always helpful and seem to avoid the trap of talking down to customers, as you find at many DIY stores. (I’m no DIY expert, so it’s easy to talk down to me in this area.)

The last few years must have been a worrying time for the franchise holder at the Lakeside Mica. First a large Builders Warehouse store was built about two kilometres away, and then a large Mica Superstore was built a further two kilometres away.

I noticed this week that the Mica Superstore has closed after only a year of operation.

It was a purpose-built building, fully stocked with a wide range of DIY and hardware appliances and materials. There was plenty of free parking and the shop was clearly visible from the main road — so what went wrong?

I don’t have any insight into the financials of the business, but I do know about the customer service, or lack of it. The skills portal office was close to this store, so I visited it on a number of occasions, simply because it was convenient.

It soon became clear that I wasn’t going to get the level of customer service I had come to expect from my neighbourhood Mica.

It was always hard to find assistance and I had to ask, no one approached me. On one occasion I walked a full circuit of the store, slowly, trying to look like I needed assistance. I left the store without anyone asking me if they could assist me.

I’m not surprised that the store has closed down — and my local Mica is still going strong.

You can spend all the money you like on building a great shop, stock it with all the right products, but this does not guarantee success.

What was clearly missing was staff training. Product-specific training is necessary and maybe they had that. But what is crucially important is customer service and sales training.

There is a way to handle customers and encourage them to make a purchase. While this might come naturally to some, most people need to be taught. The message also needs to be constantly re-enforced. Management of a retail business needs to happen on the shop floor, leading from the front.

There are a limited number of people who are enthusiastic about everything they do and thrive on interacting with others — but that isn’t most of us. Most of us need to be encouraged and reminded to sell to customers.

To many managers and business owners customer service training for staff might seem like a “nice to have” that you get round to when you have time. It might also not be fully budgeted for.

Well, I know one Mica superstore which would have done better to spend less on stock and more on staff training.

If you are looking for sales or customer service training for your staff you’ll find many training companies listed on the Skills Portal Training Directory.

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