How the right training and communications keeps retail moving

If there’s one word that best describes 2020, it’s “change”. This year has brought a whole host of adjustments for everyone across the globe. New shopping behaviors. New roles (both at home and in the workplace). New ways to socialize. And a new-found appreciation for our frontline workers.

Essential may have not been a word used to describe retail and grocery staff five months ago, but they’ve proven they’re deserving of the title now. Being an associate today is more challenging than ever. Health and safety regulations change regularly. Updates to standard operating procedures are made continually. And fears of a highly contagious virus remain constant. Supporting these frontline heroes through uncertain times is hard. But having the right training and communications practices in place can make things a whole lot easier for everyone involved.

We recently sat down with Gianna Venturi, Chief People Officer at Eyemart Express, and Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor, to see what life is like on the frontlines of retail today. They shared just how important effective training and communications are to retail success right now. Here are the top 4 things they talked about.

1. The right training and communications build loyalty

Training is really what creates loyalty, and unless you create loyalty with your employees, they’re not going to create loyalty with your customers.” —Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor | Listen to the full 1:20 clip

Your employees and customers are understandably shaken right now. Plagued by fears of job security, economic instability and catching a deadly virus, venturing out of the house is no longer carefree. Establishing trust and loyalty is critical to easing these fears. But before you can build this with your customers, you must build it with your employees.

Properly training and communicating with your employees lets them know that you care. If your employees feel you’re putting their best interests and wellbeing at the top of your priority list, they’ll feel confident putting your customers at ease too, and begin re-establishing their loyalty with your brand.

2. The right training and communications let you keep pace with change

“The world’s moving too fast. We need to be a lot quicker. We need something that meets people where they are, and literally, that could be on the retail floor.” —Gianna Venturi, Chief People Officer at Eyemart Express | Listen to the full 0:53 clip

Gone are the days of break room devices and bulletin boards keeping your frontline in the know. Now, not only are these modes of communication a health and safety risk, they don’t reach your frontline consistently or fast enough. With things changing on a dime, establishing a direct line of communication with your frontline staff is crucial.

An effective communication strategy should keep everyone—from your regional directors to your store staff—on the same page, in near real-time.

3. The right training and communications boost your customer experience

The store is the hub… We provide something that online doesn’t, which is to give people a feeling, and that feeling is that they matter.” —Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor | Listen to the full 1:39 clip

90% of people who walk into brick-and-mortar stores are interested in discovery, not fulfillment. And you need to establish trust to help your customers feel comfortable enough to explore in store.

Building rapport today is more challenging than ever before, especially if your customers and employees are communicating through masks. You have to effectively train employees on how to greet customers and establish relationships with them, while keeping their product knowledge high. This will help ease your customers into browsing, and give them the kind of experiences they rave about to friends and family.

4. The right training and communications keep you connected with them, wherever they are

Before the pandemic hit… we had a 90% participation [in Axonify]. And during the pandemic, while people were on furlough, they did the same… We were using that as a way for our CEO to talk to them.” —Gianna Venturi, Chief People Officer at Eyemart Express | Listen to the full 0:45 clip

Reaching your frontline staff has always been hard. But when the pandemic forced stores to board up, it became nearly impossible. Especially for those without an effective communications strategy in place.

Establishing a direct line of communication with your frontline is a must. And it’s important to make sure they can access your messages wherever they are. Whether they’re clocked in for their shift or furloughed at home, keeping everyone in the know of what’s going on in your business will not only ease your employees’ fears, but keep your business agile in the face of so much change.

Sure, 2020 has been full of adjustments. But effective training and communications are keeping retailers like Eyemart Express agile and ready for whatever comes next. When you can reach your frontline in near-real time, with messages direct from headquarters and train them on the information that matters most, you’ll stay well ahead of your nearest competitor. For more on getting your frontline ready for what comes next, check out our Building a resilient frontline for the retail revival action plan.

Caily is our resident retail whiz with a passion for CX. She’s spent more than a decade partnering with industry leaders to ensure success in strategic planning and omnichannel execution of national programs—so she knows the deal when it comes to the retail industry.

Looking for more information? We’d love to talk.