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Learning to handle fast-changing trends
Published on Friday, 11 Mar 2011

With new concept stores operating in Hong Kong, TSL Jewellery (HK) has introduced features to enhance the shopping experience. These include free in-store Wi-fi and a jewellery magazine for the iPad, featuring information on all the latest trends and designs. Such changes, plus the need for high levels of customer service, make investment in training essential.

Importance

Training is very important for any company in the service industry. For us, it's not just classroom teaching that is crucial. More significant is the chance to incorporate a distinctive service culture.

We make continuous investment in soft and hard skills to ensure all members of staff are equipped to exceed customer expectations. In doing this, it's not a matter of setting black and white guidelines. We want genuine buy-in from colleagues who represent the organisation's vision, mission and values.

Programme

Our training programme has six modules and new hires take the first four when they join. Over three months, they cover subjects like service etiquette, selling techniques and complaints handling. All the outlets then have two other training schemes - one based on an internal mystery customer survey and the other for total service management (TSM).

The latter divides the "stream of service" into different parts. Each senior frontline person receives one-on-one training in a particular area, such as personal grooming, greeting or sales skills. They then instruct colleagues in their store about those skills. We want everyone to have an area of expertise and to coach others.

The human resources department also organises a monthly "sharing" meeting to encourage feedback about any problems and the free expression of opinions. It is a very good platform to clear up misunderstandings, raise suggestions and get everyone collaborating in positive ways. I make a point of attending every time because I prefer face-to-face communication, and our chairman and chief operating officer take part in regular breakfast meetings with colleagues to show support and appreciation.

We also encourage employees to take the initiative to learn outside the classroom and recognise changing customer needs.

Feedback and results

When we launched the TSM scheme in 2009, some staff said they were not used to such close supervision. It took time for them to understand its benefits. We explained the main aim was to help them serve customers the best way possible; improvements would be rewarded, but there would be no penalties if performance was below standard.

Today, we see a huge improvement in services. We have built more long-term relationships with customers and won the Service Retailer of the Year award and the gold award for Service and Courtesy - Best Team Performance from the Hong Kong Retail Management Association.

It is the best kind of recognition for what we have been doing.