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My response to “Why is service so poor, in spite of training?

I was having lunch with a friend who is rapidly expanding stores across India.  “Why is service so poor in store, in spite of training the team?”, he asked.  Like many growing brands, they have most things in place: mystery shopping audits, a training manager, a learning management system with content.  I take a deep breath and answer carefully, as my answer could and has offended some senior management over the years.


1.     Where do you stand on employee empathy?


I start with “So first let’s talk about the culture of the organization. Would you say employees feel appreciated and understood?”  I usually get baffled glances, and so I set context. “You see typically if your organization is high on employee empathy, employees are more likely to pay it forward to the customers. To delivery good customer service, the customer service representative needs to be empathetic, and a simple of way of cultivating empathy in the front line is ensuring the are at the receiving end of it.

2.     How well do you utilize mystery shopping audits?

Now coming to my second point, does the mystery shopping audit serve to monitor and punish or is it positioned as a motivating tool to develop and reward your customer facing employees?   In my experience most frontline employees dread mystery shopping and feel demotivated by it, and it has a lot to do with how the organization uses the tool.  Mystery shopping results should be linked to individual coaching plans, and individual progress should be measured and celebrated.


3.     Is your trainer set up to fail?

And that leads to the third point, do you have the right span of control in your training team? Behavioral change requires frequent coaching. A trainer should be able to spend at least 30 mins a week with each member of his sales force.  Most organizations have a poor trainer to sales team ratio, pretty much setting up the trainer for failure. If you can’t hire more trainers/field coaches, equip your managers with coaching skills.


4.     Is the training good enough?

My fourth and final point is about the quality of the training itself.  Does the trainer understand adult learning techniques or is the trainer someone who got promoted from marketing or sales?  Investing in training the trainer is a good way to make sure training methodology is adequate. In addition, today’s sales force has shorter attention spans and needs to believe in what they do. Training needs to be meted out in micro lessons and well empasize on they “why”, so the team feel inspired versus forced to act.

I could go on, but I think I answered my friend’s question. Changing culture, hiring the right trainer, hiring enough trainers, changing the way content is delivered and utilizing mystery audits to truly grow the teams capabilities may seem like uphill tasks for most brands. Retail churn is high on the sales floor and training budgets are usually the first to be cut. But having worked with a variety of businesses, I can say with confidence these efforts will provide unimaginable payoffs.

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