Organizations in nearly every industry are competing in large part on the customer experience. And yet we all have stories of abhorrent experiences as formerly loyal customers of some of our favorite brands. So as leaders, we might ask ourselves how these organizations missed the mark, and how we can avoid a similar fate.
What is important to realize is that the common thread in most of these stories is not the quality of the product or service we were buying, but the response from the people representing the brand that we contacted to set things right. In other words, you can invest millions to make a quality, reliable, and innovative product, but if you don’t invest equally in the people interacting with your customers, the customer experience – and ultimately your bottom line – suffers.
Brick and mortar retail spaces are one of the few remaining places where customers can interact in-person with a brand. This also makes it one of the most valuable places for retailers to invest to improve the customer experience. The training built in corporate headquarters and distributed to stores is well-established and has an important place. But retail employees could also benefit greatly from the insights of their peers.
When teammates can learn, share and leverage available knowledge from one another for the purpose of continuous improvement, retailers can see significant improvements in the customer experience. While this can happen organically – especially in highly motivated environments – providing the tools and modeling the process increases adoption and the positive effects of collaboration.
As this Wainhouse Research Bulletin post by Alan Greenberg suggests, the idea of flipping learning with workers training one other by leveraging different models outside of traditional learning and development (L&D) could easily become a game changer. Flipping the classroom, according to Wainhouse, involves having learners engage with the material, often recorded, prior to class time, and using the class time for discussion, breakout groups, and hands-on activities.
Consider, for example, enabling retail floor representatives with to easy access to video conferencing to engage with peers in like positions at other locations to discuss sales, marketing or customer service strategies that have worked within their environments. This could prove instrumental as corporate rolls out new offerings where differing selling approaches are necessary to effectively inform customers of features and benefits.
Marketing, product development, design, and even the IT teams that select POS technology can join in on these flipped learning sessions (or watch recordings to keep the candor among participants) to gain invaluable insights that inform their strategies.
As an ancillary benefit, these kind of flipped learning sessions are likely to bring recognition to the people who are creating the most positive customer experiences. This not only improves retention of those top performers but also increase the likelihood that those customer-dazzling experiences are replicated by peers.
According to Wainhouse’s Greenberg, “the practice we see emerging is that organizations are looking to link the learner to the subject matter expert (SME), by creating learning paths based on actual experience (perhaps based on the SME’s experience as much as on curated content or other mechanisms, by the way). This could lead to nothing less than the disintermediation of the trainer, removing L&D from its traditional role of collecting, synthesizing and presenting material and challenging L&D to find new purpose.”
While the importance of customer experience is no longer up for debate, the way to achieve those competitively-differentiating customer experiences still is. For retailers, there are big opportunities in the brick and mortar stores in the form of continued learning and development.
But instead of relying exclusively on the traditional headquarter-produced and distributed content, innovative retailers will consider flipping the learning and allowing employees to learn from each other. By providing the tools to make it possible, allowing your top performers to model and describe their in-store successes, and then getting out of the way, you can build a learning program that forges loyalty-creating customer experiences.