27 November 2009

A suitable case for training?


If the magic bullet in an independent retailer's armoury is product knowledge, why is there so much reluctance to send staff to be trained?

In my day job recently I interviewed this chap. It's Gary Dart, the managing director of Duravit UK and if I am honest, I don't know why he looks so happy in this picture.

In 2007 Duravit surveyed a cross section of its customers about what they wanted in the way of support from the brand. Training was flagged up as a key requirement.

So Gary and Duravit put together a comprehensive 8-part training programme and built a brand new training centre at the company's UK headquarters in Milton Keynes.

Now you can say what you like about Milton Keynes (and many have), but thanks to the M1 and a fast rail link, it's a pretty easy place to get to.

But for some reason that remains a mystery, precious few of Duravit's customers have made the journey to the training facility.

After an initial burst, the training sessions dropped off from three per week, to one per month, to none in 2009.

One only has to skip around the Internet for a click or two and you will find shed loads of bathroom products that look very similar to the untrained eye.

Looks can be deceptive, so a degree of product knowledge is called for to help consumers make a decision they are not going to regret a year or two into the life of their new bathroom.

Obviously, if you are selling a basin, bath, and bog for £499 a sound product knowledge is probably not called for. All that is needed is the ability to point to the row of tills by the exit.

But if you are selling quality products that need a bit of explaining, you could start by explaining why you are not going on a free training course provided by one of your suppliers.

Feel free to use the reader response mechanism on this blog to do so.

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