Staff belief

It doesn’t really matter how great you offer is, how specific your location might be or what competitive advantage you believe you have, if staff don’t believe and communicate your message to customers, it’s home time.

Investing in staff competency for some sounds like an unusual concept, staff are hired to do a specific job, namely customer service – they should be able to do it, right? Wrong.

Allow me to give you a strange but true example of a person I used to know.

Peter made it his primary goal to become the best candidate at an interview. His skills were so finely tuned at interviewing, almost all jobs he applied for he managed to secure by saying all the right things and jumping all hurdles set up for him. He passed with flying colours.

The problem was, he couldn’t do the job. Be it out of laziness or incompetency he didn’t survive the three month barrier.

He made it his job to excel at interviews, but couldn’t care less about the physical role he was applying for.

He was a serial candidate. Peter is an extreme example, but there are plenty of Peters out there and most of them are on a mission to fatten up their resume.

Closer to home some existing employees demonstrate their impressive lack of knowledge when defining their USP. I’ve actually seen customers inform staff of their unique selling proposition when staff draw blanks – the internet is a great research tool in that way. This beg the question, who is responsible for staff incompetence? Is it the staff member themselves or the business that hired them?

There may well be an obligation on both sides – for business to communicate their USP to their staff and for staff to communicate it to the customer. One way or another it must be communicated to the customer.

This often comes down to communicating not how or what, but why you are special.

Why you do what you do. Having the right people on board and training them to a specific business language is an ongoing challenge that most organisations are starting to see the benefit of. In many cases I have seen organisations allocate portions of their advertising budget to directly fund staff training and development. What’s the point of advertising when greeted with poor service instore? Yet it is done everyday.

Before social media, we once believed word of mouth was the best tool any business could have to gain new potential customers. Nothing’s changed, in fact, the only difference is there’s a larger microphone.

Staff behavior influencing and informing customer buying decisions is a key fundamental attribute to the successful operation of any retail business.

Staff behavior must be at a level to not only encourage repeat behavior but also consistently bring customers to the primary tipping point of seizing a sale. For this to happen harmoniously, staff must know they are a valued part of the team and encouraged to grow in the company, followed very closely by ongoing competency development to make them better at what they do. This is not an additional cost to the business, it is part of doing business.

If staff believe what you believe, they won’t just work for your money, they’ll work for your beliefs.

Long live passionate retail

* Barry Nicolaou is principal of Barlan Consulting. He can be contacted here or


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