In a competitive retail landscape, which is heightened during peak, a retailer will only get one chance with the consumer.

Despite the occasional scuffle breaking out between shoppers, last year’s Black Friday generated a 10 percent increase in footfall compared to the same day in previous years.[1] With this year’s sales expected to reach new heights, the need to recruit and train brand ambassadors 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%) of shoppers benefiting from the touch, feel and physical comparison of products when making purchase decisions, the in-store experience remains vital for shoppers.[2] Without support from passionate retail staff, retailers will struggle to make a positive impression, and therefore, to maximise sales opportunities. It is crucial that employers ensure that staff, regardless of whether they are full-time or temporary, are provided with the right training and skills to deliver high quality customer service, particularly during peak season.

Taking the time to train

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%) of shoppers, for example, complaining that staff are too pushy about making a sale, perhaps training programmes need a revamp.[3] 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.

Finding the right training blend

One of the biggest errors a business can make is creating a one-size fits all approach to training. Businesses need to consider their 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.

Protecting staff in-store

Ahead of Black Friday, the health and safety of employees raises another concern. Employers should be briefing their on-floor team 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.

Motivation and positive energy

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.

[1] Springboard Christmas retail footfall review 2014

[2] Gekko research report 2015

[3] Gekko research report 2015





Sarah Mandeville is recruitment manager at Gekko and has been with the company since 2010. Sarah has managed large scale field marketing recruitment campaigns for leading technology brands. Having experience in both in-house and agency recruitment Sarah has recruited at all levels for SMEs and global organisations.