Marketing and Associate Training: The Yin and Yang of Customer Experience


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Marketing and associate training are inextricably linked. They’re the yin and yang of customer experience.

Or at least they should be.

When you make a brand promise, you’re communicating values and priorities. You’re creating an expectation about what a relationship with your brand will entail. Consumers expect you to deliver 110 percent; they want to know your brand promise will hold across every channel, location, and experience.

It’s up to your associates—the human face of your brand—to deliver on your brand promise. They make shoppers feel welcome (or not), help them make better and larger purchases (or not), and give them a reason to come back (or drive them into the arms of your competitors).

If your in-store teams aren’t fully on board with your branding and marketing campaigns, all the hard work you’re doing to bring shoppers in the door will be for naught.

Internal Marketing: Making the Brand Promise Real for Associates

No matter where your associate training program lies—whether it’s operations, HR, or on an island of its own—your marketing team must play a role in onboarding new trainees and introducing employees to new sales and service initiatives.

It’s not enough to chant slogans or provide a sneak preview of your new marketing campaign; your associates are a unique audience. To fulfill your brand promise, they need something more: a dedicated internal marketing campaign that’s part education, part inspiration.

Walmart, Starbucks, and other leading brands take meaningful steps to bring their employees up to speed, engage them emotionally, and motivate them to excel. These companies don’t just toss out a few clever platitudes; they create materials that resonate with employees and offer clear direction for meeting brand and customer expectations every day on the job.

5 Retail Training Mistakes That Undercut Marketing Campaigns

Getting your internal messaging right is half the battle. If your associate training programs aren’t executed well, your marketing campaign won’t hold up on the sales floor.

Here are four mistakes that can render your marketing message null and void.

1) Training is out of date.

Whether you’re introducing an incremental change or a complete overhaul of your sales approach or service model, the change must be reflected in your training. And it must be communicated effectively out to the field, so in-store teams are clear on corporate’s priorities for store-level management.

2) Training is too infrequent.

Even if your corporate or marketing strategy hasn’t changed, associate training should occur at regular intervals throughout the year—particularly in this fast-changing omnichannel environment. Associates must continually expand their knowledge and skills so they can become the seasoned brand experts your customers hope to encounter.

3) Training emphasizes talking, not listening.

Associates are naturally resistant to the idea of suggestive selling. Giving them scripts that detail exactly what they must say and do at every turn will only turn them off more (and turn customers off completely).

Instead, train your associates to ask customers questions based on their actions and to listen carefully to the answers. This give-and-take will lead to sensible suggestions, bigger purchases, and happier customers.

4) Training is uninspiring.

Policies and procedures are par for the course. But how do you build enthusiasm, instill the art of delighting customers, and make it fun?

It’s important to include experiential training (i.e., role playing and mentoring) and to empower employees with the knowledge and tools they need to own every customer engagement.

5) Training isn’t being measured for results.

Even if you’ve begun to execute your new training program, your work isn’t done. You must measure results in the field—in the first days and weeks, 3-6 months down the road, and beyond—so you’ll know what adjustments need to be made.

Mystery shopping offers an objective, detailed look at employee performance. Customer satisfaction surveys reveal the difference your training makes over time. Using these in combination affords a holistic view of the customer experience and improvements that are more precise.

How Do You Deliver on Your Brand Promise?

When it comes to associate training, what role does your marketing team play? How do you train your associates to meet customers’ expectations and to delight them in the process?

We’d love to hear your take on marketing, and training, and how they intersect. We’d also love your feedback on this post! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Kevin Leifer
Kevin and his team at StellaService help their clients build solutions that optimize front-line team performance and improve customer experiences across contact centers and stores.


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