In my post last week, I looked at the successful way Corner Bakery Cafe opened their new Bozeman, MT, location recently. Their noteworthy efforts resulted in a superbly trained staff that provides exceptional customer service. So how can that process be replicated in other business and industries?
I’ve had the opportunity to plan and open multiple locations for several employers in my career. It’s an exciting, crazy, stressful, trying, rewarding time. Months of planning turn into days of frantic activity, getting new staff ready for customers and making sure everything looks just right. Then the big day comes. The trainers get a great payoff as the first customer comes through the doors and the new staff jumps to help.
To the new customer, it may appear the company simply set-up shelves with product, turned on the lights, and opened the doors. Or if it’s a service company, that they just set-up an office, activated the phones and email accounts, and started working. But it’s far more than that.
To successfully open a new location, you need to have multiple training steps in place:
- Training on culture – New employees need a deep understanding of the company’s culture. What are the mission statement and values of the company? What is the company’s history? What drives success or failure? This established the base upon which all additional training will rest.
- Training on key people – Once new employees understand the culture, it’s important that they know and recognize key people. In small organizations, that is likely the owner and key managers. In large organizations, that might be the CEO, Vice Presidents, and then Regional Managers. The goal here is familiarity with key people so the new employee correctly recognizes the importance of messages or information from these folks.
- Training on customer services standards – Does the phone have to be answered in three rings or less? How should employees answer the phone? How often should customers be greeted? How are conflicts with customers handled? How far can an employee go to make things right for a customer before management approval is required? These and many more questions should be addressed with new staff (and regularly reminded to existing staff too!)
- Training on operations procedures – What are the location’s safety plans? How do employees operate the company software? What are the procedures for re-stocking the shelves with product? What are the hours of operation? And just in case a customer asks, what IS the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? This step of training deals with how to do the job.
- Training on product knowledge – Depending on the industry, there may be no way to train all the product knowledge needed before the doors open. For the purposes of opening a new location, this category deals with the minimum knowledge needed to operate. For a restaurant, it might be understanding the menu but not all the ingredients in each recipe. For a hardware store, it might be the location of all major product categories and major brands carried. For a service organization,it might be basic services offered, their scope, and their costs. Whatever that basic knowledge is, train to it and verify it’s absolutely known before opening (which means you need to build in enough time for testing and potential re-training.)
- Support after opening to reinforce training – This is the step most often missed, and the one Corner Bakery Cafe did so well. It’s never enough to rely on the experienced management team that is running the new location. They are too busy and cannot properly support the new staff. Provide some additional help for the first few weeks to get the new staff confidence and experience. Ideally, a trainer in each major category on staff would be ideal. At a retail store, it might have trainers in accounting, receiving, with the cashiers, and possibly several for floor sales.
Follow these steps for a successful opening with an exceptional staff. The key is allowing enough time-operations will always want to drive timelines shorter, but it’s worth slowing down to ensure a better start for the new staff. This will also help retain them as well!
Have questions? Shoot me an email.