Store of the Month: Trained to Please

In the run-up to the opening of the Superfresh store in the Northern Liberties community of Philadelphia, associates underwent a comprehensive training program to prepare them to deal with customers in the most effective way possible. Tom O’Boyle, EVP of merchandising, marketing and supply & logistics at Montvale, N.J.-based A&P, likens it to serving as “brand ambassadors” for the banner.

“In the beginning, before anybody started work, we had a four-hour orientation class,” recounts Store Manager Tom Haley. “They also had a four-four ‘Train the Trainer’ class, where the department manager actually went through facets of the particular departments they were working in. They also had a four-hour class on the overall store. We had stations set up around the store so they could see each of the other departments and learn” how to assist shoppers.

Customer service was further addressed through “some one-on-ones with role-playing as well,” notes Haley. “The thing is to get the associate to look at the store through the customer’s eyes. The whole interaction, having everybody on the same page, really meant a lot getting off the ground.”

Where great service is concerned, little things mean a lot, he believes. “‘Thank you’ doesn’t cost us anything,” says Haley. “I mean, that’s just simple things we can do here with customer service training.”

All told, employees completed 16 hours of classes before the store even opened, according to Haley, who remarks, “I’ve been with the company 16 years, and the training we had for this particular location was more intense than I’ve ever had” in that time. The results have been worth all of the effort, however. In addition to shopper acclaim, he says, “An internal shop -- we have an internal service that checks our customer service -- revealed that we’re in the upper 90 percent count.”

To read the November 2011 Store of the Month article, “Taking Liberties” by PG Managing Editor Bridget Goldschmidt, click here.

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