B&Q staff training puts customers at ease

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 July, 2008, 12:00am

Although Hong Kong people often prefer to leave their home decoration to interior designers and contractors, many are keen to show their creativity in the design of their dream homes by doing the decoration themselves.

Aiming to capitalise on this, British hardware giant B&Q has brought its DIY home improvement supplies retail concept to the city with the opening of its first store at MegaBox last year.

To inspire customer confidence, the company has developed a one-month core training programme for all new frontline staff.

'The objective is to equip them with essential knowledge about the products and store operations so that they can quickly offer customer service up to our standard,' said Johanna Cheung, human resources manager of B&Q Asia.

The training focuses on general product knowledge, store operational procedures and systems, customer relations and selling skills. Customer service and other soft skills are also emphasised.

Managers and supervisors are heavily involved in the training process. 'This reflects our strong emphasis on an open corporate structure,' Ms Cheung said.

Training starts with an induction session to help new recruits understand B&Q's core values, and to help them to quickly immerse themselves in its corporate culture.

'New recruits need to know what the company's expectations are regarding how they interact with their co-workers,' Ms Cheung said. New staff are also expected to be driven, put customers first, and be straightforward in their communication with customers and co-workers.

The company organises a guided tour through the 12 main departments of the store to help new employees gain a basic understanding of the major product categories and brands available. They then pick up in-depth knowledge about several major product categories through intensive on-the-job training with department managers. New recruits are rotated among a few departments.

The length of time needed to get in-depth product knowledge depends on the merchandise. Training in bathroom and basic building fixtures such as doors and windows, which involves more professional knowledge about matching materials and parts, installation and construction, can take from three to six months, while acquiring expertise in furniture can be less time-consuming.

Customer service training at B&Q is divided into three levels, and new recruits complete levels one and two during the core training period. At level one, new staff learn the standard practice of B&Q's shop attendants, including taking the initiative to greet customers first, and how to pass sales documents to customers with both hands.

Level two looks at why staff should employ the company's standard practice. 'We help them understand the expectations of customers,' explained Ms Cheung. 'At this level, there is much role playing and sharing of real-life examples.'

At level three training is run on an individual basis. 'It depends on peoples' progress and how well they know the products and operations,' Ms Cheung said.

Training in sales skills is also split into two levels. Initially the instructors teach new recruits generic selling techniques. Ms Cheung said experienced sales managers helped out at the higher level and used role play to demonstrate real-life examples to the new recruits. Together with relevant government departments, B&Q conducted sessions that enhanced new recruits' awareness of occupational health and safety. 'For instance, they will be taught how to lift heavy objects correctly,' she said.

On finishing the core training the department managers and new recruits complete a check list to ensure that the new recruits have received adequate training in all major areas and they are ready to serve customers. 'The check list is agreed upon and signed by both managers and new recruits,' Ms Cheung said. 'New recruits can also provide feedback regarding the training.'

Building blocks

All newly recruited frontline staff are required to attend a one-month core training programme

The course covers operational procedures, product knowledge, customer relations and selling skills

Managers and experienced staff are heavily involved in the training process to help new recruits immerse themselves in the operation quickly

Together with their supervisors, new recruits go through a core training check list to ensure that they have learnt all essential aspects of the business