Nearly all retailers have wondered what sets some companies apart from their competition when selling the same products?
One differentiation is training employees well, so they're equipped to deliver quality experiences to customers. This step is crucial — Microsoft reports that 90% of Americans use service as a factor in deciding whether or not to do business with a company.
That means training your retail employees is the edge that can make customers choose your business over your competitor’s.
How you implement retail training and how extensively you train can directly impact your business' performance.
Why train retail employees?
Training employees can lead to a better customer experience, resulting in higher performance across the board.
- Increased revenue. Employees trained and skilled in product knowledge, sales and customer interaction perform better and feel more motivated to sell.
- Decreased turnover. Businesses retain employees longer due to feeling appreciated, and appreciation correlates with retention.
- Autonomy. Employees trained to work without supervision allow you to focus your time and energy elsewhere, like business development and strategizing, rather than dealing with day-to-day issues.
How to train retail employees
The method you choose for retail training depends on how many staff members you have and the best way to deliver training modules.
Businesses with physical locations can use in-person training or scaled tools like schedule lectures and orientations, simulations, and mentoring.
E-commerce sites with remote work staff rely on web-based retail sales training, simulations and virtual role-playing but can also take advantage of pre-recorded lectures.
3 foundational trainings for retail employees
Every retail business should focus on three foundational employee trainings: onboarding, product knowledge and customer service skills.
Onboarding and orientation
If hiring your first retail employee, you’ll need to create a training plan. It should include the topics you want to cover immediately and over time and how you can best provide that information.
Onboarding includes collecting their identifying information through procedures like setting them up with payroll and benefits programs you might offer. Then, give them access to the electronic accounts they need, like email, inventory programs and computer logins.
Next, provide quick training for practical tasks, such as retail math, POS training, equipment safety and finding reference information like price sheets.
Then, review company policies, such as how to handle returns, complaints and shipments. Train them on best practices and how to navigate situations that may escalate to needing supervisor intervention.
Once your employee has the basics down, move on to product knowledge. You must prepare your staff to answer specific questions about products, like where it was made, what other options are available or if you can ship to Hawaii.
You could reach out to your suppliers. Many provide product training modules, including details about each product's features and benefits. It helps to have staff sample or demo the product to get first-hand experience. For example, if you run a restaurant, have waitstaff try dishes so they can recommend menu items to diners.
Retail sales staff who understand product knowledge and how to use it can improve their interactions with your customers. Use role-playing and go through scenarios for your employee to practice sharing their knowledge and applying it in real situations that your business previously encountered.
Add SEO training to your product sessions if you’re an e-commerce business or have physical stores with an online presence. SEO know-how is especially important if your staff creates product descriptions or other information for your website.
Customer service employee training
Customer service training is much more than asking a customer, “Can I help you find something?” Instead, retail sales training includes sales communication, conflict resolution and interpersonal training.
- Learning what questions to ask
- Show what good and bad sales conversations look like
- Engaging and building rapport with the customer
- After-sale communication and follow up
- Overcoming objections
Including conflict resolution training also helps prepare your retail employee to keep a cool head if a customer is behaving erratically or hurling personal insults at them. It’s also useful for an employee to understand protected classes versus when they have the right to refuse service.
Checking training knowledge
You can test your retail employee's knowledge and training in several ways to ensure your training program is effective and the employee engages with your business.
- Online games and quizzes. Provide rewards like points or badges for acing a quiz. When other employees see their colleagues taking part and receiving awards, it encourages them to participate.
- Mystery shopper. Send a mystery shopper to your store or e-commerce website to interact with your employees using specific situations. When they report back, you can review which areas need improvement.
- Ask the employee to add to a knowledge base. For example, many businesses keep procedures, handbooks and product details in an online knowledge base. Allowing your employee to contribute content helps reinforce their knowledge, and you can check their information before publishing it to the group.
Better training leads to better employees
Some business owners might worry about turnover and hesitate to spend extra time training retail employees. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average turnover for retail was 64.6% in 2021.
However, providing excellent training helps your employees feel invested in your company and leads them to better job performance — two factors that contribute to employee longevity.
NEXT helps retail business owners succeed
Training retail employees provides a solid foundation for business success. You end up with knowledgeable staff you can trust, allowing you to focus your efforts on what matters — growing your business.
And growing businesses need the right mix of retail insurance to protect their hard work. NEXT can safeguard your company with custom business insurance.
You’ll get a complete package to fit your needs, whether you need a certificate of insurance to lease a commercial space, workers’ compensation for your employees or liability coverage to protect against damage and mishaps.