How Better Training Can Win Back Customer Loyalty

board-73496_640Chipotle has faced an onslaught of challenges over the last few months. The brand that has been praised for its simple, customizable menu and fresh ingredients is still mending wounds from the media and regulatory firestorm due to the E. coli, salmonella, and norovirus outbreaks that hit its various US locations.

Amid the chaos, the food giant experienced a 30% drop in sales, and a hefty number of lawsuits were filed against the food chain. In addition to the huge financial hit, the outbreaks also severely damaged the relationship and corporate image Chipotle built with customers.

To make a comeback from this crisis and prevent it from happening again, the company has been placing more emphasis on food safety protocol training for all front line employees. Chipotle shut down all of its U.S. locations in early February to hold a nationwide staff meeting to discuss new policies and proactive strategies to avoid similar situations.

Chipotle’s recovery plan was drastic and may help the brand bounce back, but it may not be enough to make a difference in the long run. Training needs to go beyond one day of presentations and become an ongoing activity, especially after a major consumer incident.

Considering employees are often consumers’ first touch point with a brand, it’s important they are able to address and anticipate customer needs, questions, and concerns.

Training employees to avoid and handle crises

Training programs within the service industry have become outdated and ineffective — they typically provide workers with hefty paper manuals or binders that make it challenging for workers to retain information. Organizations should follow these best practices to ensure front line associates are prepared to deliver an outstanding customer experience:

  • Build a channel for head office to communicate directly with hourly staff: While brands like Chipotle are constantly communicating with their customers via social media, it’s the frontline workers who serve as the direct channel to what’s happening at the individual store level. Whether there’s a problem with the store experience, products or specific employees, front line workers will be the first to hear about it. Unfortunately, larger organizations lack a direct, two-way communication platform between corporate headquarters and hourly workers.
  • Having a communication channel that directly connects corporate headquarters to front line workers allows organizations to effectively communicate important information. Employees will also see their employer values transparency and accountability, as well as how their work plays a role in the organization’s results.
  • Validate worker engagement and retention during training: Training isn’t useful or memorable if workers aren’t motivated to learn the material. Outdated training methods, like paper manuals and group presentations, make it challenging for employers to see if workers are actually engaging with and retaining the content.As tech-dependent Millennials begin to dominate the hourly workforce, employers should consider digitizing some of their training curriculum. Mobile and cloud-based apps allow employers to administer more engaging content, such as videos and interactive modules, which employees can easily access and use. With these types of platforms managers are able to track employees’ training progress and use game elements to motivate them to retain information, sharpen their skills and achieve the next level.
  • Ensure consistency across individual stores: Large-scale chains that have multiple locations with multiple managers often face communication breakdowns. Organizations have a tendency to deliver information verbally or through outdated printed materials, making it easy for important information to get lost in the mix. Going digital will help overcome this issue because employers are able to better track which locations and individuals have received the materials and what percentage of workers have completed new training. Not only are messages delivered in real-time, but they are also delivered clearly and consistently to each associate.

Service industry employers need to place more focus on how they are delivering and conducting training with employees, whether there’s a crisis or not. Updated company processes and new sets of instructions will only make a difference if workers can access, understand and retain the material. With the right training tools in place, organizations can create a more skilled and educated workforce that will better respond to its customers needs and expectations.

Joshua Ostrega

Joshua Ostrega
Joshua Ostrega is COO and co-founder of WorkJam.

Joshua Ostrega

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