Hardware Retailing

SEP 2016

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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HARDWARE RETAILING | September 2016 62 Employee Training Offering employees high-quality training experiences can be the difference in their ability to offer good customer service, or to offer great customer service. Again, mobile devices are powerful tools. Remember those scenarios we discussed earlier, and how one included some new employees working on modules on a training app? While employees can work at computer workstations as they do their training, another option is to allow them to access training from a smartphone or tablet. The advantage here is that they take a closer look at products on the shelves as they boost their product knowledge, or walk to different displays throughout the store as they learn about the importance of strong merchandising. Many customers get information online about products or projects before they come in to your store. It's a good idea to have information from some of your biggest brands and best-selling products at the ready. "Customers can watch YouTube videos and learn how to do something, but I think the customer expectation, when they come in to the store, is that the retailer should have even more information," says Koenig. "There may be opportunities to use training apps from manufacturers of the brands you sell in your store." "You can curate for your staff five or so training apps from manufacturers, and assign them the responsibility of going through them and familiarizing themselves with them," he says. "Then, when the customer has a question, it's easy for the employee to answer right away, or to find the answer in the app." Rather than see smartphones as a distraction, think of them as tools that help employees become better at their jobs and help customers find the products and knowledge they are looking for. If you don't want your employees to keep their phones on them during their shifts, you might consider purchasing some work-only tablets and have them available at the store to be used for training. By having that mobile technology, employees can open up their YouTube app and show a customer a how-to video, or visit a manufacturer's website to pull up product information, right there in the aisle as they look at the product with the customer. Retailer Tim Buchheit, along with a team of software developers, has spent the past several years developing a proprietary software program called Snapshot. Snapshot offers a way to organize all the data involved in running a business and has tools for both management and employees. It's a way for Buchheit to enhance communication and efficiency among his eight stores in Illinois and Missouri, and it covers training and operations management. One of the features with the widest use is an employee training function. Here are some of its highlights: Shorter, Mobile Training Sessions Snapshot is a vehicle through which Buchheit can organize his training, then offer it in small doses every day, rather than having employees tackle a large amount at once. "They are short and sweet segments employees can get on the floor throughout the week, so you don't always have to pull people off the floor to train," he says. Standard Operating Procedures Snapshot includes tasks that each position in the store is responsible for, as well as checklists about the details of these tasks. Many of the checklists even come with photos. Each task has a notes section where employees can communicate with each other via a type of community message board. This allows them to ask each other questions and share information. Community Input There's a lot of value in that information sharing, especially when it comes to training. Instead of repeating all of those conversations with the new employee, they can read them. "When a new person starts, we can hand them the past six months of conversations (about a particular task) and have them read that," says Buchheit. "They can then be that much further ahead." Collect Data to Save Time At its core, Snapshot is about collecting the diverse and vast amount of data that helps the company run smoothly. It saves time that might otherwise be needed for a supervisor to train an employee on a particular task. "If we have someone starting today, they can learn to do something that used to take several months to train them on," Buchheit says. "That's the idea behind Snapshot. This program takes a lot of data and makes it useful." Buchheit Develops Proprietary Training Software

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