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Retail Greatness Blog

Your Customers EXPECT You To Train Your Associates, and Value Trained Associates as Part of a Great Experience

So, you’ve invested in prime retail real estate, marketing, computer systems, and ____ (anything having to do with setting up your brand). Is that investment paying off?

Could a lack of good training be the reason your sales numbers aren’t higher?


If you’re going to invest in getting shoppers through your doors, you’ve GOT to invest in their in-store experience. Providing unexpected...or even expected...customer service is the way to make the difference between in-and-out trips and increased basket sizes. Did you know that 85% of people will abandon their purchase if they feel they can't get help? You know what? The way to influence shopping behavior in the direction of increasing sales is for sales associates to provide awesome “shopper support”.

Consumers still prefer the personal touch when it comes to retail. And according to GetApp research, one-third of shoppers rate sales associates as the most impressive “strategy” a retail brand can deploy. In many cases, associates who are helpful without being intrusive are more effective with shoppers than POS displays, interactive technologies, or kiosks!

Sales associates should be Service Oriented, Solution Focused, Merchandise Ambassadors in the store. So you’ve got to provide product knowledge and tools to empower them to act as an ambassador.

Train them to encourage shoppers to consider other merchandise while they are in the store. If they see a product in a customer’s basket or cart, they should suggest pairing that item with another product. If that product isn’t nearby, the associate should gladly escort the shopper to the right area.  

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Train them on the customer journey. Help associates understand how shoppers behavior prior to entering the store. Train them to continue that journey in store. Help them understand how “special treatment” after the purchase helps convert one-time shoppers to loyal customers.

Develop their communication skills. Training can help boost their ability to engage and guide your customers. These days, there are many complaints about a lack of good customer service. Part of that can be explained by the fractured nature of digital-only communications. Younger workers are well-accustomed to tapping out a message or sending an image. But they’re not as skilled at one-to-one conversations that are needed for successful floor sales. Make customer engagement training a priority!

  • How do they open the conversation?
  • How do they respond to “no thanks. I’m just looking.”?
  • How do they connect with a shopper’s needs?
  • How do they support the buying decision once it’s been made?
  • How do they add value by recommending additional merchandise?

Make sure they listen. According to customer service expert, Adam Toporek, "listening is crucial to customer experience. For frontline reps, listening is central to understanding the customer’s emotional state, establishing rapport, and de-escalating difficult situations.” You’ve got to train in them in how to listen for cues about a shopper’s preferences, wants, needs, or values.

Train them to convert. Again, you don’t want “pushy” sales associates. But you DO want them to be confident and persuasive. According to Monster.com, Harry Friedman of The Friedman Group says, “If you sold two out of the 10 people you talked to and you can bump that up to three of the 10 people you talked to, you've just increased your sales 50 percent.”

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He goes on to say, "There are two ways to increase [average sales per customer]...by selling them the $40 item instead of the $30 one.. and [selling] the customer the $30 [item] and also $10 in batteries to make it work."

(By the way, conversion rates can jump at least 10% higher by giving them a strong knowledge base on products.)

Get your management on the floor. A key factor in the success of your training is to have managers running the store from the floor. While responsibilities can take managers away from customer traffic, it’s important that they spend time observing and supporting sales associates.

By spending time on the floor, your managers can accomplish two objectives:

  • Support associates on the floor by guiding their activity and interactions with customers.
  • Ensure that employees are using their on-demand training in the field to improve their performance

Keep this in mind: An employee who is well trained is more likely to feel engaged on the floor and connected to your goals. Great training can produce loyal employees. Employee loyalty reduces turnover, which helps to reduce costs. Loyal employees take pride in their performance and in the products they’re selling. This can have a significant impact on a shopper’s experience at your store, and has positive effects on inventory shrink and other financial impacts.

Create a culture of accountability.

Build a “culture of accountability” that drives a better shopper experience through ongoing training. With a mobile training solution like ESP, you can train every employee with 3-5 minute chunks of cloud-based video training. You can also get complete oversight of all training, as well as all passing and failing scores for employees on every subject.

By dripping the training daily, you quickly create -- and maintain -- a new culture. You literally change the experiences, which change the beliefs, which change the actions, which drive better results.

Consistent and easily accessible training can raise the performance of your floor teams at every location. With quick access to learning, lower performing associates are more empowered to approach customers and make recommendations.

You’ve invested so much already...DON’T LEAVE MONEY ON THE TABLE. Look for a mobile training solution such as ESP that will help unify training across your stores and create awesome sales associates who provide exceptional customer in-store experiences.

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Topics: retail sales training retail greatness