Totem-Challenge 400x265How can L&D better support retail?

This is a question we get asked a lot.  You have to feel for the L&D team: Being asked to deliver behavioural change – “better customer service” or “more up-selling,” as though learning is a magic wand.

That’s not always the case of course – some businesses we work with are far more holistic about the change they want to see.  Even in those cases though, something is still missing.

Even if the learning programme sits alongside senior management messaging and performance management targets and bonuses – we still see a lot of businesses not getting the results they want.

How often do you hear people say on a workshop “this is common sense” or “yes I knew that already”?  Whilst we can add great insights on a workshop, it is very rare for us to be introducing many whacky ideas or unfamiliar behaviours.

All of us know it’s nice to walk up to a till and be greeted with a smile – and we all know we should be smiling and helpful and stay calm when a customer gets upset and so on.  But the fact remains that when we’re tired or faced with a really grumpy customer, remembering what we should do is not at the top of our list.

Jelly Bean Diversity

We have habits that have developed over time, to the point where we can often feel like we’re operating in autopilot.  In his highly practical and useful book, Charles Duhigg gives examples from customer service, safety, addictions and many more contexts on how we form – and can therefore change – our habits.

Check out this brilliant book on the subject!

The key learning point is that we need to know and plan out what we will do when the going gets tough.  Rather than talk in calm, friendly environments about being friendly and calm, we need to explore how we will be when the customers bring their challenges.

Again this is not about telling people what they should do, it’s about helping people come up with their own personal plans for what they actually want to do when that critical moment arrives.

So next time you’re running a workshop on customer service or wondering why your learning programmes are not working so well, check on the questions being used in the sessions.  Rather than “what should we do when…?” – shift the questions to things like:

Sometimes working here can be pretty tough – when has it been like that for you?

  • What was that like for you? / How did that feel?
  • How did you react?
  • What effect did that have on you?
  • What effect did that have on others in the team? The customer?

These questions are simple, but they are far more powerful than “what should you do?”

And the idea is that after considering this a few times, and being encouraged to reflect on the experience, these habits can take hold.

Of course that’s much easier if you have a manager or coach with you who observes, gives feedback, asks you to reflect and supports you with your progress.  If you would like support with the delivery of your behavioural change programmes, we’d love to chat with you…