5 Employee Training Methods for Slow Times

May 16, 2018

where are customers?Looking for ideas to keep employees busy?

Let's face it, working in retail can be stressful. Most of each workday is spent dealing with customers, keeping a store clean, and managing inventory. But what about the downtimes?

Even in the fast-paced retail world, store traffic isn't constant. Your employees will inevitably have a bit of downtime on occasion, and there's only so much cleaning they can do.

But why not use those downtimes to train your employees?

Most customers are fairly easy to serve; they come in, choose their items, and finalize the purchase. Other customers require a bit more care, and some customers are downright difficult. When an employee has proper sales training, even the difficult interactions can be a piece of cake.

Unfortunately, sometimes there just isn't enough time in the day to train your staff as much as you'd like. But that's when slow times can be helpful. During the morning or afternoon lull, take advantage of the spare time by staging customer interactions with your employees.

Here are a few methods you can use to train your employees during the slow times, which will ensure they sell your merchandise better during peak periods.

Role-Playing Customer Interactions

Teach your employees to deal with even the toughest of customers by role-playing individual interactions repeatedly until the proper response becomes second nature to your staff. Remember to make it fun and break each situation down into bite-size chunks so the steps are easy to learn and remember.

Scavenger Hunts

Every employee should know the store's layout like the back of their hand. During peak times, it is especially crucial that your staff members are able to locate items as quickly as possible. To help train your employees and improve their memory skills, incorporate scavenger hunts during slow periods. As an example, an apparel store might choose five items and reward the employee who finds them the quickest. You could also put a spin on the game, telling the employees that a shopper has those five items in the dressing room. It is up to the employee to choose 3 to 5 other items to suggest to the shopper, explaining why each one is a good pick.

Mystery Shopping

Mystery shoppers are hired to act as a typical customer, while they're actually evaluating the store and its employees. During slow times, your employees can act as mystery shopper too. Let your employees take turns mystery shopping a competitor. Afterwards, they can report back to you with ideas of what the competitor did correctly and incorrectly. You might even find some new ideas. The employees can share their thoughts at the weekly team meeting.

10 in 10

10 in 10 is a simple exercise that doesn't require much effort. During the next 10 minute downtime, ask your employees to use their smartphones  to find something you carry in your own store. Find other stores who carry the same item, then spend 10 minutes researching their product descriptions, photos, and price-points. Finally, compare the results to your own website and in-store signage. Note any changes you can make that might make your marketing more impressive or memorable.

Reach Out

Downtimes are the best times to reach out to prior customers. You might simply call them and thank them for being a customer. You could also share information or a photo of new items they might like. For smaller shops, handwritten cards add a nice touch. The goal here isn't to simply fill time, but to actively stay in contact with your customers as well as to encourage them to come back and shop with you – without being too pushy, of course.

See also, 50 Things Retail Employees Should Never Do

Final Thoughts

Training in retail should never stop and can easily be accomplished if you utilize the slow times in your store to your advantage. By training sales staff, you are ensuring that your employees are ready for any situation that comes their way, reducing their stress levels and lifting their confidence in the process.

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