Training Is A Process; Not An Event

Here are valuable tips and tools to get your associates to thrill your customers to come back all season.

Whenever a customer walks in it’s SHOW TIME! You have one chance to make a first impression. What do you want that first impression to be? Your customer’s first visit, first interaction with an associate, first experience of your service will either encourage your customers to come back frequently and become a part of your “family” or it can turn them away for good. Your associates are a reflection of you! (And do I have to tell you how fragile customer relationships are these days?)

Here is what you can do to empower your associates to make the most of that customer experience.

  1. Before training, we have to start at Square 1. Hire the right people – ESPECIALLY for the big season.
    True story. I walked into a gorgeous garden center in North Carolina and a young female cashier was sitting on the counter sipping her Starbuck’s when I approached to make my purchase. She rang me up. No greeting, no eye contact, head down and no thank you. Within minutes I told the owner, (my client) about the experience and he said, “Oh, that’s my daughter.” Yikes!!! Guess what? Family sometimes sabotages our profit. It is incredibly important to define who would be “right” for your business, for your customers and for your long-range growth and success. It is critical to screen out or eliminate unwilling, uncooperative, incompetent and disruptive people from every part of your business. (My advice – DO NOT hire family whenever possible. They are not “cheap labor.” They will notbe like YOU and you can’t let them go without heartache.) Get out there and actively recruit and find outgoing people who have networks. Make sure they genuinely like people first – horticulture second. Hire only those who will delight every customer to come back!
  2. Train your team before they interface with customers.
    Why would anyone’s strategy be “Ready, Fire – then AIM?” What a waste of energy! (And profit.) Here are the choices you have to make. You either provide a formal orientation and a structured on-the-job training system or you let everyone wing it and hope for the best.

 

Here are some insights regarding training and adult learning:

  • Training requires so much more than “Show & Tell, shadowing or covering topics.” That is not how people learn. We ONLY learn and retain by doing new things on our own. We must use our own brain to think things through or nothing will stick. That’s why we recommend our self-teaching Training Cards so everyone individually reads the skill, practices it throughout the shift (with nobody watching) and then confidently demonstrates their new skill to a Mentor for sign-off. It is a flawless system and you can get it at the discounted Group rate.
  • What is the cost to a company that does not provide effective training? In garden centers, if you don’t do a great job of training, you are literally throwing the “lambs to the lions” every spring. And since your front line creates your bottom line this is not a very profitable strategy.
  • Without effective training, new hires are often terrified which can send them into hiding. If they don’t know what “good looks like” they run the risk of being “wrong” and if that is implied they might not come back after lunch. (It’s like the pounding on the head arcade game “Whack-a-Mole” It’s, “No, (bam) don’t do this and (bam) don’t do that.”) This can create a hole on your team.
  • One more thing. During spring your core team suddenly switches their role of “loyal worker” to Manager or Supervisor. Untrained or unskilled Managers often become glorified “baby-sitters.” To them, effective training takes time; toomuch time. They do not dare delegate tasks to anyone who may do it “wrong” or whom they think “doesn’t have a sense of urgency”. Since they feel accountable for the outcomes they overcompensate for the unskilled employees by doing all of the work themselves. This is why by the end of your busy season many Managers are on the verge of burnout.

Define your expectations in behaviors and actions. We can speed up this process considerably with our Training Card templates.

  1. Create crystal clear expectations in behaviors so they cannot be misinterpreted. Behaviors are what you can see or hear. They are physical. Most written procedures that companies send me are vague and unclear. For example, your policy may be to “greet the customers.” Excuse me, how many ways can “greet” be interpreted? What are the specific behaviors that will deliver the desired results every time? (Here’s the specific behavior for “greeting.” Make eye contact, smile and say “Welcome” within 5 seconds or 5 feet anywhere in your area.) When it is specific your Managers and Mentors can reinforce the behavior. So, we recommend that you create crystal clear standards and behaviors for the key areas of your business – cashiers, sales associates, customer support, loss prevention, safety, loaders, delivery, merchandising, etc.
  2. Have them read the steps for each skill at the beginning of their shift, have them practice all day and before they leave have a Mentor check them out to see that they have met the standard. The next shift they learn the next skill, etc. Keep the responsibility on the learner; not the Managers.

What Are The Best Training Solutions?

Consider training is direct communication of your expectations and standards. Since training is your communication – off-the-shelf programs don’t work unless they absolutely fit your business, your environment and your policies. If there is a conflict, your employees will know and it discredits the program so it fizzles.

  1. Customize your training. Mold it to fit your culture, your systems and your operation. Provide a formal orientation especially for seasonal hires. The first day is “imprint day” where their brainliterally records their experiences directly.
  2. Create a structured on-the-job training system.
  3. Break your tasks and skills into simple actions and steps.
  4. Commit your expectations and standards to writing.
  5. Have your associates read the skill, practice it and prepare to demonstrate it by the end of the shift.
  6. Celebrate their efforts and reward their successful learning each day.

What Are The Benefits?

Bottom line – when you have a comprehensive, customized and structured training process you have the stepping stones to consistently having great results.

  • New hires are productive immediately.
  • Your team confidently contributes their skills and talents.
  • They are accountable for company policies and procedures.
  • Well-trained employees are more confident and competent to provide great customer service.
  • Your team will be aligned toward your direction and goals.
  • Productive employees create a great energy that your customers will love!

Kathryn Dager, MA
Profitivity Inc.
Office:  (310) 477-8333
Fax:  (310) 478-7072
E-mail:  Profitivity@earthlink.net
Website:  www.ProfitivityInc.com