Retail Store Employees Aren’t Stupid, Just Untrained

By Bob Phibbs

retail sales trainingFrom the retail store employee who hates his manager and quits on Facebook, to the frustrated customer who can’t find anyone to help her in store, there seems to be a lot of contempt for anyone working in retail these days.

I attended a Saturday workshop of hotel managers learning how to increase their sales. The trainer, pretending to be an event organizer, had been calling local properties. To each front desk agent, he became a different customer. He asked about features of the area, corporate discounts and even hosting events.

It was obvious he was trying to trip the associates up with exceptional circumstances and requests. We listened over a speakerphone to the ineffective responses by whoever had the misfortune to be working that Saturday morning.

He enjoyed showing how his questions flummoxed them. Before picking up the phone yet again, he stated that such bad employees would lead to lower sales. His point was that these managers had hired stupid employees.

I don’t think that was what was really happening; instead, I think he was asking questions that these employees were obviously not trained to answer.

It was not their fault; no one wants to look like a jerk.

All of those workers were doing their best even though they lacked the training of how to assist this customer. Not one was not rude or indifferent. They were just untrained.

The fault lies with their managers, not with them.

The role of a manager is to support and train their crew. When you do, you get great customer service stories like this one.

My Point

As a retail manager, you need to give your people all the knowledge you can when training them. You can't assume everyone thinks the way you do. Not everyone comes to the job with innate customer service skills.

Certainly, if they can’t learn, let them go. But train the ones you keep to be prepared for anything, from how you want your store to look, to how you want them to create an exceptional experience for every customer, to how you want them to handle unusual inquiries.

Otherwise they’ll show their lack of knowledge to your customers, you’ll lose their business and suffer the word-of-mouth consequences.

The next time you think your employees are stupid, whatever business you are in, look in the mirror - that's the one responsible.

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