Sales & Marketing

How prepared are your brand ambassadors for peak season?

5 min read

30 September 2015

Sarah Mandeville, recruitment manager at Gekko, provides insight on how you can get the most out of retail surge periods such as Black Friday and Christmas – emphasising the importance of proper training and instilling a sense of competition.

On Black Friday last year, despite chaos breaking out between desperate bargain hunters, retailers generated a ten per cent increase in footfall compared to previous years. 

With this year’s sales expected to reach new heights, retailers need to ensure all hands are on deck to keep in-store operations running smoothly. With brands often looking for an extra pair of hands to help with peak demand, the need to recruit and train staff to maximise in-store opportunities, as well as managing frustrated customers, should be top of the HR agenda.

In a competitive retail landscape, which is heightened during peak, a retailer will only get one chance with the consumer. With nearly three quarters (74.2 per cent) of shoppers benefiting from the touch, feel and physical comparison of products when making purchase decisions, the in-store experience remains vital for shoppers. 

Keeping a working team motivated and engaged should be high on any organisation’s list of priorities, regardless of whether they are full-time or temporary. It is crucial that employers understand the value of imparting the right training and knowledge on their brand ambassadors to ensure staff deliver a consistently high level of customer service, particularly during peak season.

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Allow time for training

During the initial recruitment stage, businesses tend to deliver quick training for temporary roles, ticking off the essential points. The problem with this approach is that once staff start the role, they’re left on their own to perform. With over half (56.8 per cent) of shoppers, for example, complaining that staff are too pushy about making a sale, perhaps training programmes need a revamp.

If employers provide staff with a comprehensive understanding of the business and its full product range, along with on-going staff-support such as development training and coaching, these complaints can be minimised. 

Although, due to the transient nature of staff, part-time hours and short-term contracts, finding the time to commit to ongoing training programmes can be a struggle. During peak season, businesses need to find a way to ensure that all front line staff are supported in their knowledge and skills as though they are all full-time staff.

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Keep training flexible

One of the biggest errors a business can make is creating a one-size fits all approach to training. Businesses need to consider employees’ needs and find a training solution that suits multiple learning styles. 

For this reason, all training should be part of a blended solution, from e-learning online and classroom activity, to on-the-job training and coaching. With students frequently taking on temporary staff positions, moving in-between home and university, e-learning and computer based solutions are particularly useful, granting employees access to courses at a time and location that suits them best.

Protect your staff

Ahead of Black Friday, the health and safety of employees raises another concern. Employers should be briefing on-floor teams ahead of this busy period to ensure they are well-prepped for any potential dramas that could unfold; from the odd difficult customer to a full on shopping riot. 

Working in a tense and chaotic environment can take its toll on staff, so it is important that store managers ensure employees are not being overworked. By frequently checking in with staff and encouraging them to properly utilise breaks, managers will ensure staff feel supported during hectic periods. 

Create a positive team environment

To keep spirits running high, creating friendly competition between staff teams using league boards and prizes can be a fun way to build a positive and motivated team environment; surprisingly more so than monetary incentives. Moreover, using social media or group-chat tools, like Facebook or Google hangouts, is another way to encourage positive team interaction, allowing staff to support each other with best practice ideas and praise during hectic periods.

Ultimately, if brands aim to deliver high quality customer service all year round they must ensure that all employees feel part of the team, whether they are full-time or part-time. Putting effort into training and making staff feel part of the larger team can be a motivating factor in itself, leading to maximised sales opportunities and happy customers. As the face of a brand, your staff must know more than just the product basics.

Sarah Mandeville is recruitment manager at Gekko.