Driving Retail Performance with Training
In order to help customers make good buying decisions, Best Buy Canada advisers need to be well trained on the products that they sell. In this Powered by Learning episode, Marjorie Van Roon, Senior Manager, Learning and Development at Best Buy Canada, talks to us about how the right training can drive retail performance.
Well trained people are at the heart of what makes a great shopping experience at Best Buy Canada. Marjorie Van Roon offers key takeaways including these points:
Best Buy Canada trains its advisers using customer personas so that they can assist buyers, no matter what their level of technical expertise and regardless of where they are in the buying journey.
In addition to company training, advisors receive training directly from the product vendors which increases their expertise and creates a sense of pride among team members.
Employees are motivated to complete a certification journey each year and are incentivized to take additional training to compete for prizes.
Best Buy Canada measure training impact with the Net Promoter Score and through customer feedback.
Susan Cort: This is Powered by Learning, a podcast designed for learning leaders to hear the latest approaches to creating learning experiences that engage learners and achieve improved performance for individuals and organizations.
Male Speaker: Powered by Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.
Susan: Hello, and welcome to Powered by Learning. I'm your host Susan Cort and today I'm joined by d’Vinci CEO Luke Kempski who is going to talk to our guests, Marjorie Van Roon, Senior Manager Learning and Development at Best Buy Canada about how training can drive retail performance. Welcome, Marjorie, it's so great to talk with you again.
Marjorie Van Roon: Great. Thanks, Susan, real pleasure to be here.
Luke Kempski: Thanks so much for joining us. We're really grateful to have you.
Susan: Marjorie, we last talked to you at TICE the Training Industry Conference and Expo a few years back, and we're so excited that you're a guest with us today on Powered by Learning. Let's start off by telling our listeners a little bit about your role at Best Buy Canada.
Marjorie: Sure, thank you. My team and I, we lead the learning and development function for 10,000 Best Buy employees across Canada in our stores, our head office, and our distribution centers. I'm really proud of some of the transformational work that we've been part of with helping our employees take a real "be amazing" approach with our customers, and helping our leaders understand the impact of leading with authenticity, with emotional intelligence, and really some of our groundbreaking work around diversity inclusion, mental wellness.
My greatest sense of achievement comes I think from knowing that we've all had a part in helping the company be successful in their goals and making Best Buy a place where employees feel like they can be their whole selves at work and our customers get the kind of service that makes them true fans of our amazing company.
Luke: That's so good and it's so nice to hear that. We all love Best Buy, to go in there and see all the exciting products that they have. When you come in there, sometimes it's a bit overwhelming because there's so much cool stuff, and with that said, it's a bit intimidating. Your employees, how do they approach those slightly intimidated customers to make sure that they know how to navigate the products and make good decisions?
Marjorie: Thanks for first of all for saying that. It really is a cool place to shop and I love going in there myself. We realize that for some of our customers, it can be a little bit intimidating, specifically with what's going on in the world today. We know that if the customer is making an effort to come into our stores, they really need our help. Our advisors, that's what we call our salespeople, they really need to be knowledgeable but on top of that, they need to be able to show empathy and be really ready to recommend the best products that fit our customer's needs. When we created our sales training, we actually talk about those types of customers that come into the stores and we give them personas.
One type of customer that we have, we call them the decided customer, that's the one that comes into the store, they know exactly what they want, they're going to pick it off the shelves and go right to the cash register, they don't really need any help from our advisors. Then, we have the ones that come into the store that are undecided so maybe they're choosing between two different laptops or something and they need some expertise from our advisors to recommend the right one for them.
Then, we have that third persona, the customer that is uninformed, so they come in and they don't know what type of product that they're looking for. They don't know what's the latest and greatest things happening in the tech world, or how they can get better performance out of some of the products that they're looking for. We know those customers are going to need a lot more time from our advisors to really get their expertise, and help them really choose that right tech for them.
Luke: I would imagine that with all the different products that you have that are constantly changing, that keeping your advisors so that they're learning about how these products are evolving, whether it's a smart TV or a tablet, or an audio system, even a phone, they're all constantly evolving. How do you keep them informed enough to be good advisors?
Marjorie: That is definitely something that we struggle with all the time is keeping on top of the tech. We've got a really great strategy around that though, and what I love with our specialists that we have is we partner really well with our buyers first of all, so our buyers are aware of the trends that are happening, the products that are going to be the next latest and greatest products. If we can get early enough in that process, we can help to deliver some great training on some of those products, but then we also partner really heavily with our vendors as well, and they provide us content that we can serve up in our LMS.
That could be anything from a video, a document, a full on e-learning, but we get a lot of the content directly from our vendors. As well as doing e-learning, we also provide a few times a year where our vendors partner with us and we call them business leadership summits. We have select people out of the stores attend a virtual summit with our vendors and a few other partners as well and we create a learning experience for them where they, again, get the chance to talk with our vendors about some of the products that they're doing.
Then we're branching into different ways to partner with our vendors as well. Lots of different things.
We have something called a brand expert program where our advisors, they may wear a Google shirt or a Sony shirt or a Jabra shirt for the shift that they're in and they're actually representing the vendor's products. A lot of stores will go to third-party vendors, but this one, we actually get to use our own advisors, pay them a little extra, and they get really deep learning in that vendor's products and can just give amazing experience to our customers then because they're like the experts in that product.
Luke: Oh, that's really great. It's really different. I hadn't experienced that yet. I'm sure I will at one of these days when I go into a Best Buy. That's good, and I know that the retail experience has changed a lot in the last couple years due to the pandemic and that you've had to adapt a lot to be able to service customers in different ways besides having them on the retail floor itself. Can you talk a little bit about what's changed and how that's impacted you from a learning and development standpoint?
Marjorie: Yes, so when the pandemic hit, we didn't know what to expect, and some of our systems had to change, some of our processes had to change based on how we could still help our customers in the best way. Our IT, and our tech, and our ecommerce teams all got together and have been able to create some amazing different processes and systems that have really helped that go a lot smoother. With every new system, with every new process, there's training involved with that as well.
Everything from having the health checks at the front of the store for employees as they come in, to being able to help customers with queuing software so that we can help the right number of customers come into the store at a time, doing online purchases, everything, there's been a lot that has shifted. With that came a lot of training as well.
Luke: That's great that you've been able to adapt. I know that one of your advisors, or almost any employee that you're trying to reach with a lot of training, it's sometimes hard to get them motivated to take that learning. What kinds of things do you do to motivate employees and advisors to take the training that's offered?
Marjorie: Yes. We do a pretty good job, I think with that. First of all, everyone at the stores is assigned a certification journey. It's e-learning, it's virtual training, everything all packaged together. It can range from 25 to 30 hours’ worth of total training that they need to do to get certified in their role. That is mandatory, so there's some basic courses that they take that are mandatory. Our store leaders do an amazing job of making sure that everybody completes all of that.
We run probably 90 to 95% completion for all of those certification journeys, which I know that that's a really amazing stat, but there's more training out there and we are always letting our employees know that, "Hey, just because you completed your certification journey, there's new stuff that's coming up all the time." With all of the content that we get from vendors, we do incentivize that. With any product knowledge courses, every time someone in the stores takes one of the product knowledge courses that we get from our vendors, they actually get entered into a draw and we pull for 25 $50 gift cards every month.
As long as they're up to date on their certification and they take any extra product knowledge courses, they're entered into a draw for that. We have some incentivizing done that way. Again, we also partner with the vendors that we work with as well. Sometimes if they've got a new big release or they've got some training that they want to make sure people are going through, they'll sponsor a contest as well, and the prizes can be even better than for the employees.
Susan: I would think one of the incentives too, might be just the pride in being the expert in a certain product, that when you give that associate a shirt, that advisor's shirt, they feel like an extension of that brand. That probably helps their confidence and makes them want to learn more since they're being looked at as the true expert. You're not just going to the vendors for that kind of training.
Marjorie: Absolutely. Our blue shirts are very proud of the training that they've done and the knowledge that they've got around some of the products. Yes, there's lots of different ways that they can feel proud about what they do.
Luke: Talk a little bit, Marjorie, about how your store employees engage in training. Are they taking the courses from home? Do they come off the sales floor to go into a training room? Are they looking at their phones and taking training? What are you doing and what have you found is working best?
Marjorie: Because of the pandemic and everything that happened about 18 months ago, we definitely had to move things around. Where it was okay to do training in the stores previously, now it wasn't because we just couldn't have people in a small room doing training together. We switched everything to virtual. Luckily, we had done a little bit of that already but then we just made it mandatory. [laughs] When somebody joins the company, one of our new hires, they actually stay home for their first three days, and they take all of their training online.
In those three days, they've got some virtual training that they do because we want them to be able to ask questions and speak to a live person and really get that sense that they're welcomed into the company and get that feeling of feeling included. It's great for them to see because we've got them all the way across the country joining some of these virtual trainings and they're all new and so they're all saying, "Oh, hey, hi from Vancouver, and hi from Etobicoke," and all of these other places. I think that's really exciting.
They do three days of training from home, a lot of it is around the safety training as well. That way, by the time they get into the store, they are prepared to serve our customers, they know our culture, and they're safe. They know exactly what to do to keep each other safe and our customers safe. That's what we do for our new employees. Then, once they're in the store, the training continues but it's done more one-on-one where they can be physically distanced from each other.
A leader would be training but we've set it up so that they can do that in the store apart from each other. We use things like customer cards, that we've got some laminated cards where they can practice different scenarios, and that kind of thing. Again, they can be wiped clean and ready for the next person. There's all these things that we're trying to do. Our business leadership summits were another thing that we do. Again, it's a few times a year, so they can meet that way. It's all virtual now. Our leadership programs are all virtual, something that we've had to shift as well, and so far, it's been going really, really well.
Luke: That's great. Are you able to measure the impact of the training that you do on the results of the store, on the results of the advisors?
Marjorie: This last 18 months has been really difficult because everything has changed. If you're trying to get metrics and measurements, it's like what do you benchmark that against? It's definitely challenging but there are some things that we look at regularly just to get sentiment on how it's going. We have NPS, Net Promoter Score, and we added a few questions in there as well. Now we know that our customers feel very safe and we know that the training helps to support that, that our customers are feeling safe. With our NPS, we also track how do our customers feel about the level of knowledge that they're getting from the employees, and that also tracks very high.
That hasn't really changed over the pandemic so that we know whatever we're doing is still working. Other things that we look at definitely as we partner with our vendors to provide us with training, they do their own metrics on the back end to see if they're getting a return on investment. We know because they're asking us for more and more and more that they are getting that return on investment and they love the opportunities to be able to get in front of our advisors. Then, we just launched a new employee engagement tool as well. Again, we're collecting sentiment from our employees and our leaders, and they're letting us know that, again, the training has been really great for them.
Luke: That's excellent. You can definitely see from the different perspectives that you're doing the measurement that you're having an impact for sure. I know that you mentioned in your introduction when you talked about your role you mentioned diversity and inclusion. What kinds of things are you doing to make sure that you're learning programs both support those initiatives and have that right feel for the diverse store employees that you have and all employees that you have?
Marjorie: There's a lot of things in what we're doing around diversity and inclusion I'm super proud of. At the same time, we're having to be extremely flexible as we find things are coming up from the stores and from our office and everywhere else, things that are becoming a challenge for employees, and have done over the last 18 months or so. We want to be able to build training that helps to support them feeling included. There was a lot of bad stuff that happened over the last year, so around Asian hate, Black Lives Matter, that kind of thing. Our employees needed to know that we supported them in those areas, and we have.
We've created training on how to deal with some of the things that they may have to face. I never thought that we'd have to create training on that. Again, that feels good that we're supporting our employees, at the same time as feeling like, "Wow, I wish we didn't have to." We're doing a lot around that. Then, even as we create training as well, we're making sure that our images, our scenarios, everything we use is around diversity and inclusion, and making people feel like they belong. We purposely pick images and scenarios and things that help people to go, "Hey, that represents me as well."
Luke: That's excellent. Good. When you think about some of the trends that are happening and some of the things that you're thinking about further ahead, if we were going to do a podcast in a couple of years, what do you think we would be talking about in terms of what's different at Best Buy from a training standpoint? What kinds of initiatives would you expect to be evolving over the next couple of years?
Marjorie: One thing about our company is we're really innovative and it's encouraged. We've definitely seen that again over the last 18 months with everybody chipping in ideas and us being able to be extremely flexible, as a company, we're getting better and better at using data to improve the business, and to improve our customer experience, and improve our employee experience. Because we have incredibly innovative people that are continually designing new and better systems and processes, our L&D teams are going to need to support those systems and processes as well. Then, we also get the opportunity to look at tech and see how can we use that to improve what we do in L&D.
I'm really proud of our team and the agility that we've shown over the last couple of years. We're in a really fortunate position where we are in really high demand from all areas of the business. We'd like to be able to support them all and support them better. In order to do that, we need to find some tools that can help us be better, faster, stronger, and be able to support everyone that needs our help.
Luke: That's really excellent. You think about it, retail is constantly changing, and then with technology constantly changing and all the products that you sell constantly changing, training will be always probably way more in demand than you're able to handle. [chuckles]
Susan: It sounds like the training you do, Marjorie, is just as innovative as the products you sell. I think that says a lot for Best Buy Canada, that you're able to be so responsive and so supportive. I'm sure that comes across to all the customers who come through your doors or come to your website, so great job.
Marjorie: Thank you. Thank you.
Luke: Yes, and thanks so much for joining us today.
Marjorie: Thank you.
Susan: Good to talk to you, Marjorie.
Marjorie: Great to talk to you as well. Bye-bye.
Susan: Luke, what a great conversation with Marjorie. Their commitment to training is certainly providing great results for their associates, and ultimately, their customers too.
Luke: Yes. They really are impressive. We have some good takeaways I think. First, we talked about how they trained their advisors in the stores, and trained them how to help customers, and how those advisors can use customer personas to adapt their approach. Of course, this requires training to be able to identify the persona. She talked about different personas like a decided customer who knows exactly what they want, a customer who's done their research and wants to be able to compare a few products and get a recommendation from the advisor. Then, there's the uninformed customer who will need a lot more guidance from the advisor in order to make a decision and make a purchase.
Then, we talked about how the advisors acquire the product knowledge they need. They take a lot of courses that are provided by the vendors who supply the products. Beyond those courses, they also have a business leadership summit, which is like a virtual trade show where the store advisors can learn from and interact with brand and product experts from Best Buy's vendor partners. Marjorie then talked about how they motivate employees to take the training. She said each associate has a defined certification journey that involves 25 to 30 hours of training and their store managers do a great job of making sure that each employee completes that journey.
They also have contests and prizes that help inspire and motivate employees to gauge in learning experiences that they offer even beyond the certification. She also talked about how they measure performance and training impact. They're using the net promoter score as well as really looking at customer feedback related to the product knowledge of their advisors and the experience their advisors provide. Of course, she spoke about the COVID-19 pandemic and how that's added new training for the systems and processes that they've had to implement. Also, how much more of their training is now being done virtual rather than gathering associates together in a training room in the store.
Lastly, we talked about how the changing worlds of retail, e-commerce, and technology are requiring Best Buy to change and how that will continue to impact learning and development and how she anticipates integrating more data and more technology into everything they do.
Susan: They're going to keep being innovative just like the products they sell. Definitely interesting to see all that they've done and all that they will do at Best Buy in Canada.
Luke: Sounds good.
Susan: Thanks, Luke. Many thanks to Marjorie Van Roon of Best Buy Canada for joining us today. If you have any questions about what we talked about, you could reach out to us on d'Vinci's social channels, through our website dvinci.com, or by emailing us at email@example.com.
Male Speaker: Powered By Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.
[00:22:01] [END OF AUDIO]
By Luke Kempski, CEO
d'Vinci Interactive is an award-winning comprehensive learning solutions provider for corporate, government, medical, non-profit, and K-12 target markets.