Pirate ships, and we all know a few, are an “everyman for themselves” environment. Cruise ships on the other hand, have well-established processes. - IMAGE: Getty

Pirate ships, and we all know a few, are an “everyman for themselves” environment. Cruise ships on the other hand, have well-established processes.

IMAGE: Getty

Training has always been about change and how to meet it — changes in the market, changes in customer behavior and changes in the purchasing processes. For the good, or the bad, change is inevitable, and training then becomes the mechanism to meet that change.

Today’s retail environment is the perfect example of the unpredictability of change. Faced with not only the uncertainty of a pandemic, retailers and consumers are battling the challenges of inventory shortages. The latter being a direct result of the former, the current chip shortage is creating a buying experience that can quickly highlight the difference between a well-trained staff and one that is not.

Let me share an example. A family friend recently went through the process of purchasing a new vehicle. The process started online, as most purchases do. Once they contacted the dealership about a specific vehicle, they were informed it was no longer available and the conversation ended. The sales consultant did nothing to highlight similar vehicles available or perform a needs analysis to help guide them to other options. Needless to say, the store lost the sale. 

As a learning and development professional, this highlights either a breakdown in a store’s process or the glaring lack of one. Today’s retail customer is better educated, better prepared, and better equipped to easily identify how well — or not — the dealership staff have been trained. I’m going to borrow a quote from a good friend, and automotive training veteran: Dealerships are either a pirate ship or a cruise ship. Through the training process, it is our goal to build cruise ships.

Pirate ships, and we all know a few, are an “everyman for themselves” environment. They have no process for communicating with clients, no system in building customer advocates, and no long-term vision for maintaining and growing their customer base. Cruise ships on the other hand, have all these and more. 

Cruise ships, from the top down, have well-established processes. They develop and empower their crew to provide great experiences — experiences that turn customers into advocates and single sales into multi-generational relationships. 

How Do We Build Cruise Ships?

In developing your sale and service staff, the process in which we train must also be a cruise ship. The best cruise ship experiences are engaging, catered to their customer, offer a variety of unique experiences, and, most importantly, are memorable. The same goes with training. We engage the learner with topical and applicable information that is immediately useable for their next customer. The learning is developed in a way that is dynamic and evolving to incorporate the feedback and input from the learners, ensuring we always train to the current state.

The variety, or modality, in which training is delivered is also carefully considered. This allows us to meet the learner where they are. Finally, you must make the learning memorable. This is about sustainment of information. Learning is an ongoing process, and not a singular event. Having a mechanism for sustainment ensures the learner maintains their knowledge base while encouraging application of said knowledge.

I feel confident that all retailers want to provide a cruise ship experience for both their staff and customers.  For the staff, it shows investment in their development and better ensures the retainment of top talent. For customers, it builds relationships and provides a great retail experience, both of which will help retain the customer through the entirety of their sales and service lifecycle. So, from this cruise director to you, let’s build cruise ships.    

Terry Staggs is the vice president of content development strategy at Quantum5, a training company that bridges the gap between traditional and digital retailing using five key relational skills.