7 essential training topics for retail organizations
Certain retail training topics are just obvious: customer service skills, product knowledge, cashier loss prevention. But if you want to ensure that your team remains a step above the competition and exceeds customer expectations, you want to cover a range of essential but perhaps less obvious training topics that go beyond the basics.
We’ve found the following retail training topics to be among the most essential for successful operations, and that’s why we’ve incorporated many of them into our own retail LMS content marketplace. This is by no means an exhaustive list of crucial training topics, but instead notable examples to get you thinking about what proficiencies your training program might be missing.
1. Upselling and cross-selling
When you’re coming up with customer service training ideas, upselling and cross-selling should be at the top of your list. These are essential skills for customer service reps who assist buyers on the sales floor. Not only do these practices boost revenue and increase total sale value, but they provide a more personalized customer experience and can increase customer satisfaction.
Upselling is all about communicating the value of purchasing a higher-end product than the one the customer is considering. Cross-selling is about recommending similar products that can enhance the customer’s buying experience. In the past, Amazon has attributed up to 35% of its sales to cross-selling. But the value isn’t limited to online sales. Brick-and-mortar retail employees should be trained in these essential practices.
2. Conflict de-escalation
Conflict de-escalation is an excellent durable skill to have in any role, but it’s becoming increasingly critical in retail. Conflict de-escalation techniques can be used internally (such as in workplace disputes) as well as in situations with irate customers.
This need became especially apparent during the pandemic, as situations like mask mandates, long lines and inventory shortages resulted in frequent confrontations in retail environments and continues to be an ongoing concern as instances of workplace violence continue to increase.
3. Shoplifter identification
While loss prevention is a common training topic in the retail industry, it’s arguably more important than ever as shoplifting rates reach record highs. In 2020 alone, U.S. retailers lost $49.6 billion in revenue due to theft and fraud.
Loss prevention training often focuses on how to address internal theft and what to do when a shoplifter is caught in the act, but effective training should address the types of behaviors, clothing and body language that can serve as red flags before the attempted theft even takes place.
4. Workplace safety
Workplace safety training is a priority in safety-sensitive industries, but it’s sometimes overlooked in retail training programs due to the misguided perception that safety is less of a problem. Certain safety training topics are absolutely essential in a retail environment, including ladder safety, equipment safety and workplace ergonomics.
If you have team members lifting heavy boxes (which is almost a guarantee in retail), you need to ensure safe lifting procedures.
5. Harassment prevention
Workplace harassment ties into workplace safety, but it warrants its own focus. The problem isn’t so much that retail organizations neglect harassment training; the problem is that some organizations aren’t doing it effectively.
It’s not enough to provide a list of rules and guidelines about what constitutes harassment and what the potential consequences are. If someone intends to harass a coworker, they’re not likely to be dissuaded by a training quiz about inappropriate behaviors. Rather, the training should empower the team as a whole to identify harassment in the workplace and take action when they see it. It should include bystander scenarios so that fellow employees become part of the solution.
6. High-tech fraud prevention
PIN pad security is becoming a bigger concern for the average retail business. Though fraudsters have long used skimmers to steal credit and debit card information at the gas pump, in recent years these identity theft tools have become more common on PIN pad terminals in retail stores.
Retail associates should know how to identify skimmers and what to do when they encounter one. They should also be trained in other fraud and identity-theft prevention measures. Spotting counterfeit cash has long been a convention of retail training, but today it’s not unusual to encounter fraudulent debit and credit cards. The training needs to evolve with the technologies.
7. Retail leadership
Don’t assume that leadership training is only for new managers and assistant managers. Everyone on your retail staff should be equipped with the tools of leadership. Retail turnover remains staggeringly high at around 60%, and part of the problem stems from a lack of opportunity and preparedness.
Leadership training can effectively address both of these issues: it sets the stage for upward mobility, and it equips associates with the skills and confidence necessary to address interpersonal workplace conflicts, customer conflicts, personal time management, how to meet performance expectations and more—all while delivering excellent customer service. Every employee should be a leader in their own right.
Go beyond the basics of retail training for exceptional customer service
Clearly it’s important to focus on the essentials of cash register usage, stocking merchandise and engaging with customers, but it’s important to go beyond traditional customer service scenarios and encourage training that prepares your team to be safer, more knowledgeable, better prepared and more successful than the competition.
Successful retail sales begin with a successful retail training program, so be sure to give your team every advantage.