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“Are You Happy?”

“Are you happy now?” she asked.

“Yes, most definitely,” I replied.

“Are we good?”

“Absolutely!”

Image result for delta airlines logoIn the wake of all the stories about passengers being hassled by the airlines including the latest about a family getting booted from a JetBlue flight over a birthday cake, I wanted to share with you an incident that happened last week on my Delta flight home from Las Vegas.

As the drink cart worked its way down the aisle I removed my headphones, lowered my tray, and waited my turn. For reasons unknown, the flight attendant offered drinks to the A, B, C seats but skipped over us in D, E, and F. No problem. I’ll just hit the call button.

“What can I do for you?” asked the flight attendant.

“You missed our row for drinks,” I said.

“Oh, I’m very sorry. That wasn’t on purpose. What would you like to drink?”

“Diet Coke, please.”

As she handed down my Diet Coke and a Ginger Ale for the gentleman on my right, she asked, “Are we okay?”

“Yes we are.”

“Would you be happier with a bottle of rum for that Diet Coke?”

“Yes I would.”

The flight attendant returned a moment later with a bottle of rum and started the conversation at the beginning of this post. Apparently not satisfied with my answer, she stopped by three more times before we landed to check on my “happy” status. A fist bump finally convinced her I wasn’t going to slam her online.

This flight attendant knew she made a mistake. It was a tiny one in the grand scheme of things, a definite first-world problem of the utmost degree. But that wasn’t going to stop her from going over-the-top to make sure she made it right.

Here is the lesson … Over-the-Top

I would have been perfectly happy with a quick apology and a Diet Coke. That was my expectation. She went far above and beyond my expectations to my surprise and delight. An apology and a Diet Coke would not have garnered a blog post and the extra word-of-mouth. An unexpected bottle of rum and three more courtesy checks on my happiness have me telling you about the wonderful attitude of the flight attendants on Delta.

When you make a mistake, do what you have to do to fix it. Then do a little more. It pays off far more than it costs you.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Word-of-Mouth may be considered a form of Advertising, but in reality it is mostly a by-product of your Customer Service. Get that right and the only viral videos of your company will be positive ones. Two presentationsGet Your Customers to Talk About You and Raising the Bar to Go Viral – will change the way customers experience your business and what they say about you afterword. When you’re ready to start generating positive word-of-mouth, give me a call.

An Article Every Retailer Must Read

If you are a retailer, you need to read this article about Amazon’s new brick & mortar store in Chicago. It will be one of the scariest and most eye-opening articles you read this year. Go ahead. I will wait.

Image result for amazon brick and mortar store

Amazon, who is already cleaning our clocks online, is doing in their stores what some of us have only dreamed of doing and others haven’t even thought of doing. Amazon is bypassing the biggest headache most retailers face – getting your staff up to speed on product knowledge. How? By using signs.

Every single book in their store has a sign with reviews, ratings, and answers to the basic questions your customers would ask. Plus they have signs recommending similar titles, signs giving you data and information to help you make a purchase.

Rick Segal, famed retail consultant and speaker, once told me that signs increase sales of a product by 47%. He didn’t back that up with any proof, but it wasn’t a hard number to grasp. Just think about who would prefer a sign over a salesperson…

…every man and half the women.

Men like signs. We like signs because we speak vertically. Did what I say make you think higher of me or lower of me? Given the choice, most men would rather read a sign and figure things out on their own than ask questions and admit that they don’t know something. (Ladies, now you know why we don’t like to stop and ask for directions – just give us a map.)

Introverts like signs. Introverts aren’t shy. They just like their interactions with others to be meaningful and useful. Signs give them information to formulate the right questions before they have to interact with the salespeople.

Amazon is winning that game in their brick & mortar store.

You can, too.

No, you don’t have the data that Amazon has to create the kind of signage they create. But you can create signs that explain benefits. You can create signs that compare and contrast. You can create signs that answer frequently asked questions. You can create signs that show testimonials and staff picks (and why the staff picked them).

Online is where customers go when they know exactly what they want. Brick & Mortar is for people who want to browse or have someone help them find something when they aren’t sure what they need. Signs help you take care of those customers when your sales people are busy. Signs help you take care of customers when your customers would rather not interact with your salespeople. Signs help you take care of customers when your salespeople aren’t fully trained on product knowledge. Signs sell.

Get a computer and printer up front. Create a template. Start printing. Signs can even be hand-written if the penmanship is good. (Turn this project over to your staff and it will even help them with their product knowledge.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If you did the math, you are thinking right now that 75% of the population prefers signs over salespeople, so why have any salespeople at all? First, understand that not everyone goes shopping. Since extroverts gain energy from being around people, they are more likely to be in-store shoppers than introverts. And there are multiple theories explaining why women tend to shop more than men. Therefore, it is highly likely that your store has more extroverted women in shopping right now than their percentage of the population would dictate. Second, relationships matter. Some customers don’t know the right questions to ask and need the guidance. Some customers have questions your signs couldn’t anticipate. Some customers don’t want items of mass appeal. Your salespeople are critical. So are your signs. Amazon got that second part right. Very right. You can, too.

PPS Your sales staff likes signs, too. Signs give your team confidence because they don’t have to remember facts. They can’t focus more on feelings, the relational side of sales.

Not Just for Retailers

I was having a conversation this morning when the light bulb went on. I was asked by someone considering enrolling in the SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop this Wednesday (it is not too late to sign up) whether he would learn anything useful since he “wasn’t a retail store manager.”

The answer is a resounding YES!

In fact, most of what I teach has implications far beyond just the retail landscape. I have followers from all over the world in all types of industries.

If you are in any position where you have to hire people, you need to read my book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art.

If you are in any position where you write copy to persuade people to buy or use your products or services, you can learn from my articles on marketing (and my new book coming out later this spring). 

If you are in any position to teach and lead your staff you would benefit not only from the Spotlight class, but also from the Free Resources on Team Building and Staff Meetings Everyone Wants to Attend.

I know where the confusion began.

The SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop is being offered through the Jackson Retail Success Academy™. While JRSA™ is mostly geared for retailers, we have had many graduates from other industries. Other than the inventory management segment, most of what I teach there applies to all types of businesses. I run all local classes through JRSA™ because of my partnership with Spring Arbor University and their Hosmer Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. They provide a fantastic venue for hosting events like these and have been a wonderful partner.

You don’t have to be a retailer to take any of the classes or workshops I offer. You only have to be open-minded and ready to learn.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I am already working on a date for the next SPOTLIGHT workshop. This will be an advanced degree in Advertising and Marketing in four fast-paced hours for anyone who has a business to promote. Stay tuned for details.

Sign Up for the Spotlight on Managerial Success Workshop

If you’re still sitting on the fence about signing up for next Wednesday’s SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop, here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  1. Do you manage a team of three or more people?
  2. Do you feel that your team is not working up to their best potential?
  3. Do you believe you could improve your communication skills?
  4. Do you hate confrontational situations?
  5. Do you believe that team building can be fostered and led rather than just happening organically over time?
  6. Do you believe your new hires need a better, more consistent training program?
  7. Do you believe your current team would benefit from further training?

If you’re answering No then you can stop reading. You’re good to go.

If you’re answering Yes, then ask yourself these two questions…

  1. What will help your business more in the long run – you being there at your business all day Wednesday or you taking a day to learn new skills, techniques and tools to make everyone on your team more productive?
  2. Where else could you get hands-on training to teach you how to lead team building, teach you how to communicate better, and help you build training plans for your employees for only $50 and eight hours of your time?

If you’re still not convinced, let’s make this really simple… If you don’t find value in the program, I will refund your money. Period. (If you read my blog regularly, you know I’m serious about that. Customer first. Always.)

Sign up today!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Here’s a benefit I have yet to mention. Attend this Jackson Retail Success Academy™ event and you will become an alumni, eligible to attend future JRSA™ events at discounted prices!

 

Is Collaboration Really the Problem?

I read an article that caught my eye in Inc. Magazine with the title “Collaboration Creates Mediocrity, Not Excellence, According to Science”. You read that title and you will believe that grand studies have now been done to prove that collaboration is a bad thing. Then you read the article and find out there is no science. There really isn’t even a good definition of “collaboration”.

Image result for inc magazine

Here is how the article defines collaboration…

“1) plenty of ad-hoc meetings and 2) open-plan offices that increase the likelihood that that such meetings take place.”

Really? That’s what passes for collaboration in corporate America? Floor plans that are conducive to more meetings?

I read the article, especially the “science” part of it and instead of seeing a problem with collaboration I saw a serious lack of good management. Here is what the science part had to say…

The problem is that rather than seeing a top performer as a role models, mediocre employees tend to see them as threats, either to their own position in the company or to their own feelings of self-worth.

Rather than improving their own performance, mediocre employees socially isolate top performers, spread nasty rumors about them, and either sabotage, or attempt to steal credit for, the top performers’ work. As the study put it: “Cooperative contexts proved socially disadvantageous for high performers.”

A good manager would have nipped that in the bud a long time ago. A good manager would have found ways to keep top performers at their peak while raising the level of mediocre employees. A good manager would have found ways to utilize the individual strengths of everyone on the team so that everyone felt like a valued contributor. A good manager would have created a team where everyone was working toward the success of the collective rather than individual success (while celebrating the individual accomplishments along the way).

I read that article (and the subsequent link to the study that used hair salons?? as their subject material) and came to a different conclusion.

Open floor plans do not lead to great collaboration. Then again neither do closed floor plans. And collaboration by itself without strong management and solid team building doesn’t work either. None of those address the true issue.

Collaboration works incredibly well. But only when you have the right manager in place, someone trained to build teamwork and communication and trust. 

How do I know? I’ve worked for managers like that. I’ve led teams of high productivity and high levels of collaboration. It all comes down to the skills of the manager.

That’s why I’m offering the SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop next Wednesday, April 26th.  You’ll learn how to lead your team to their peak performance. You’ll learn how to create a culture that has everyone working on the same page for the same goals. You’ll learn how to motivate your team to do their best. You’ll learn how to set up training programs that turn everyone into top performers. You’ll learn all that in one incredibly fun day.

The class is limited to the first 18 people to sign up. Follow this link to sign up today.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Do you wish you could attend but can’t make the trip to Jackson? Contact me and we’ll figure out a plan to bring this workshop to you.

Who Would You Blame?

Overheard in a shoe store the other day…

Customer: “Ma’am, do you have this style shoe in a brown?”

Clerk: “I don’t know what we have or don’t have. I just work here.”

My first thought when I heard this was, “You won’t be working here for long with that attitude.” Then it dawned on me. Someone hired this person. Someone hired this clerk, “trained” her (I use the term loosely), and scheduled her to work on a busy Saturday. This clerk who shows no initiative to learn, shows no empathy or caring, shows no desire to serve, went through an application and interview process. This clerk got hired, filled out paperwork, and learned how to run a cash register.

Who is to blame?

My first reaction was to blame the clerk for her lack of desire to do her job. But then again, the clerk needed a job and did what she needed to do to get that job. The manager who hired her failed in finding the right person to fill that job. So maybe you could blame the manager.

But in the manager’s defense, you have to know… Was the manager ever trained on hiring skills? Was the manager ever trained on how to teach? Does the manager have a training program in place for new hires? Does the manager have training on how to motivate the staff to get the most productivity out of them? Does the manager have the authority to create her own programs for training and motivation if her higher-ups don’t have those for her?

I read articles on the retail industry every day. I read about CEO’s of major retail chains talking how they are implementing plans to increase customer service, focus more on the customer, become customer-centric, etc. But then I hear, “I don’t know. I just work here.” Where in the chain of command is the breakdown?

I want you to do a quick exercise right now. Write this down on a piece of paper. Don’t overthink it. Just write down the first number that pops into your head.

  • What percentage of your customers are “repeat customers”? What percentage of the people that come through your door today have been in your store before? Write it down.
  • What percentage of your customers are “referral customers”? This is their first visit, but they came to you because one of your repeat customers told them to visit you. Write it down.

That first number is a measure of how good your customer service truly is. If you have great customer service, if you meet your customers’ expectations at every turn, then you will have a high amount of repeat business.

That second number is a measure of how well you exceed your customers’ expectations. Remember that word-of-mouth comes when you go above and beyond what people expect to surprise and delight them.

Add those two numbers together. Subtract that from 100 and you have the percentage of your customers that are advertising-driven.

If you are like most indie retailers, the first two numbers are far greater than the last number. Yet, if you are like most retailers, you probably spend way more money on advertising than you do on training. You might want to rethink that.

Next Wednesday, April 26 I will be doing a one-day workshop in Jackson specifically for managers. This SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop will teach managers how to teach. It will teach managers how to better communicate. It will teach managers how to build a team. It will teach managers how to set up and implement training programs for new employees. It will teach managers how to set up and implement ongoing training to keep the staff at peak performance. Your store will only rise to the ability of your manager. Make your manager great!

Space is limited for this class. Sign up now.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I would fire the shoe store clerk. Although her lack of training probably isn’t her fault, she doesn’t have the right personality traits for the job. I would then spend a lot of time working with the manager who did the hiring to make sure she knows how to hire and how to train so that the above conversation never happens again.

The Power of the Smile Story

Every staff meeting started with “Smile Stories”, moments since the last meeting when we did what we set out to do and made the customer smile. Some of my staff wrote notes to themselves to remember all the stories. Others wrote notes to each other to remind them of their stories. At some meetings we spent three or four minutes sharing stories. At other meetings we spent ten or fifteen minutes. I never capped the time on this part of the meeting. It was too important.

Toy House Character Diamond and Core Values
The Toy House Character Diamond – our Core Values that drove our business.

The Smile Stories served multiple purposes.

First, they kicked off the meeting on a positive note. When you open a meeting with good news, it makes the people in attendance more open to listening and sharing. When you open with bad news you put people on defense and they clam up. So always start your meetings with something to celebrate.

Second, the Smile Stories got everyone into a sharing mood. If your meeting is simply for the purpose of telling people something, don’t meet. Send out a memo or an email. The reason you bring people together to meet is to allow for give and take, back and forth, engagement with your audience. Our Smile Stories got the staff engaged and talking early on, which always led to more engagement when we got into the training segment of the meeting.

Third, the Smile Stories reinforced our purpose. Our stated purpose for Toy House was, “We’re here to make you smile.” When we celebrated Smile Stories, it was clear to the staff why we were there and what we were supposed to do.

Fourth, the Smile Stories reinforced the training the staff had already received. When we shared stories of how we made customers smile, we were using concrete examples from which others could learn. Often the staff would even mention how a technique we discussed at a previous meeting worked well for them. Often within a story I would find a teachable moment that I could use to strengthen what we were already learning.

The first step for making your meetings with your team better is to figure out your “Smile Stories”. Find that and you will see your meetings, training, and productivity start to rise.

I’ll be covering this and a whole bunch of other tools for making your meetings something your staff looks forward to attending at the SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop on April 26th. Looking forward to seeing you there.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Stories are more memorable than facts and figures. My new book coming out later this spring cites numerous studies that show how we remember the feelings we get from stories as if we lived them ourselves. Stories are also better teachers. It is no surprise Jesus spoke in parables. We learn best by example. Stories are concrete examples of abstract principles and ideas. We’ll also be covering the power of the story in this workshop.

 

Retail Sales Training (or the Lack Thereof)

I took over the hiring of employees at Toy House in the fall of 1995. My dad never really liked the job. I quickly found out why. We would hire 10 or more seasonal employees every fall and try to train them up to our customers’ expectations in just a couple short weeks. Finding good quality people wasn’t as easy as it seemed. The first year I did it, I sucked. Out of ten seasonal employees, I had two good ones, six warm bodies, and two that would be better off if they just stayed home. Not a good record.

I don’t like to be bad at anything so I started reading books on hiring. The first one I read was the Harvard Business Essentials book you see here.

The title was exactly what I wanted. I read the book cover to cover. The most important point they kept coming back to in the book was this…

“The number one factor is experience.”

So I spent the next few years hiring for experience. I only hired people who had worked retail before. And for the next few years my results were exactly the same – two good ones, six warm bodies and two people who need to go home. Yes, it was the definition of insanity.

So how could Harvard Business Essentials and all the other books I read that said the same thing be so wrong? They were making the one HUGE assumption that constant training happened to everyone everywhere. Maybe that is true in many service jobs, but continual training is lacking in the retail sector. Heck, many large chains hardly do any new employee training. One of my former employees went to a large national chain and reported back that after learning how to use the time clock there was zero training other than criticism when you did something wrong.

Untrained employees who have to learn the job on their own will never rise above their personality traits. 

I did two things that changed my results each fall. First I started hiring for personality traits. Second, I implemented both a more thorough new-hire training program and a monthly training session for the current staff. The quality of my new hires went up dramatically. More importantly, so did the quality of my entire staff.

If your competitors were training their staff regularly and you weren’t, what kind of advantage would they have over you? Now switch that around. Most of your competitors are not offering the kind of sales training they should be. But you could. Most of the managers at your competitors don’t even know how to train their employees. But you could.

One of the best compliments I ever received was from a former employee who went to work for Disney. She came back and reported that the highly regarded Disney Institute for customer service reminded her of all the training she did at Toy House. She said, “They pretty much teach all the same stuff you do.”

The best way to learn what I teach and how I teach it is to sign up for the SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop happening April 26th.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The second best compliment I ever received happened the day we announced we were closing Toy House. I received more than one phone call from other businesses wondering what would happen to my employees and when they would be available because, “we know what kind of people you employ.” Believe me, I didn’t employ such great people by accident. I learned from my mistakes twenty years ago.

PPS Since none of the other books on Hiring talked about hiring for personality traits, I decided to write my own. It is called Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art. The book outlines what you should do. The workshop shows you how to do it.

What is Your Food Name?

My father is 100% Polish. My mother is mostly English. For about three straight years, however, I was Italian. Everyone called me Phil Pepperoni. No it wasn’t because of my fondness for a certain doughy, saucy, meaty culinary delight. No it wasn’t because I was extra cheesy (okay maybe a little). It was because of a game I played at the start of every group I ever worked with in a Team Building situation.

It was a simple name game. We stood in a circle and each person had to come up with a food that started with the first letter of their first name. I would always start by calling myself Phil Pepperoni. The trick here was the person to my left had to say my name and food and then his or her own name and food. The next person started with me, then the person to my left, and then their name and food so on and so forth until the person on my right had to try to remember every single name (and food) in the entire circle.

This game was a great ice breaker that worked to set the tone on many levels.

First, it helped me get to know all their names. If they didn’t know each other, it helped them get to know everyone’s names, too. Names are powerful. Calling someone by their name creates a stronger bond that helps people learn to trust each other.

Second, it forced people to be creative. Since we were going to be talking and thinking and being creative throughout the day, getting them talking and thinking and being creative right off the bat made it easier as the day went on. Some people really have to be creative in this game, especially if your name is Xavier or you are the fourth Kristen in the circle. (Think about it.)

Third, it gave people a chance to shed an old image and start a new persona. On an established team there are already roles and perceptions and labels that inhibit true teamwork. By giving yourself a new name, you get to shed the other labels and be seen in a different light. Instead of being Fred the Whipping Boy, you get to be Fred Filet Mignon.

Fourth, it taught lessons such as the power of repetition. No one forgot the food name of the person to my left because everyone in the circle had to say it. But the person on my right had to work hard to keep her food name on everyone’s minds.

Fifth, it taught the power of listening instead of just waiting to speak. Many times people would be so focused on what they were going to say that they forgot to listen to the person who went just before them.

Sixth, it got people to laugh. Strong emotions such as laughter help ideas become stickier in our brains. The moments we remember in our lives almost always are associated with strong emotions of Love, Laughter, Hope, Gratitude, Fear, or Anger. I have had people run into me years after doing a Team Building event and immediately say. “Hi Phil Pepperoni!” 

Seventh, it helped identify who were the leaders in the group who paid attention, remembered names, and helped others out. Plus it helped identify who needed to be coaxed into doing things, who had discomfort in group settings and discomfort in being in the spotlight and would need extra attention to make sure they didn’t get trampled throughout the day by more powerful personalities.

Eighth, it gave people a reinforcement of the team building lessons when everyone got back to the office. One manager told me people were still using their food names months later. Another told me that they finally had a great way to tell Michelle Maple Syrup apart from Michelle Mango apart from Michelle Mustard apart from Michelle Minestrone.

And you thought it was just a silly game to learn their names.

-Phil Pepperoni (Wrzesinski)
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We’ll be playing this game and whole bunch of other games, plus learning how to lead them and use them to build a stronger team at the SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop on Wednesday, April 26th. This is a Jackson Retail Success Academy™ event in association with Spring Arbor University for anyone who manages three or more people. There are still spaces available.

Talent, Practice, and Luck

One day I would love to go to The Masters in Augusta, GA. I have watched it on TV so many times that I know every green instantly before the announcers even tell me the hole. I love golf. Love to play it, love to watch it. Especially this tournament.

These guys are amazing!

Image result for the masters

I have played golf all my life. I know it takes three things to be successful at golf – Talent, Practice, and Luck. Then again, you can say that about pretty much everything.

Talent in business is the skills you hire.

Practice is the training and preparation you offer.

As the Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Unfortunately many businesses, especially retailers, think the only preparation they need to offer is training for new hires. That would be the equivalent of trying to play The Masters after six weeks of golf lessons. Not enough preparation for the opportunity.

That’s why part of the focus of the SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop I’m offering on April 26th includes creating an ongoing training program to help your staff be better prepared for the opportunities that arise. Talent alone won’t win the day. Experience alone won’t make you lucky.

If you manage three or more people, this workshop will bring you the kind of luck that wins major championships. Sign up today!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, I would take tickets to a future Masters golf tournament as barter for my services. I already know where I would stay and what I would do on the course.