Regardless of how fine, fashionable or desirable a business’ jewellery is, if consumers are not provided with flawless information or do not receive premier service, the business will fall short of its full potential. This is a widely accepted notion in the jewellery sector and as such most retailers have steps in place to ensure staff receive excellent training. Jewellery brands in particular usually have a rigid system in place to deliver training to stores.
Manuals, e-learning, and training days are all resources employed to impart knowledge and customer service techniques. These can be introduced early on or regularly. Jewellery brand Chrysalis is one firm that kicks off each of its new collections with a host refresher session. The sessions, conducted by its agents, consist of a brand introduction for new retail partners and an update on its current marketing and PR activity.
Andy Maine, director at Chrysalis, explains: “Each store receives a comprehensive store manual clearly detailing how to display our products for maximum sales, the recommended percentage mix of new and existing collections, as well as key selling tools. The agents take the staff through the manual whilst demonstrating how to implement.”
Meanwhile, Clogau is a brand which looks to achieve best staff practice through a series of e-learning techniques incorporating incentives for staff. It looks to offer staff a firm foundation of training from which they can grow through its ‘Tree of Knowledge’ e-learning platform. Sonia Menezes, head of brand development, says the platform is important so that staff can understand and communicate Clogau’s heritage, which plays such a vital part in its USP.
Wholesale channel marketing manager, Beth Jones, expands: “The Tree of Knowledge is a valuable tool that houses all of the brand information and stories our staff need to sell Clogau jewellery. Our staff can work their way through from the roots to the branches and leaves to learn about our heritage, culture, brand and jewellery while also implementing our customer sales journey in to their daily routine.”
Jones continues: “Once the staff have made their way through the different sections of the tree and feel confident with the knowledge they have acquired they then complete their online, e-learning modules. When the staff have completed and passed the assessments they are rewarded with loyalty points to use to purchase Clogau jewellery; the points are tiered depending on the score and if the member of staff achieves a perfect score of 100% they can win a piece of Clogau jewellery.”
Striking a balance
Retailer Wongs Jewellers has a similar ‘training Bible’ it uses to educate staff on all elements of its business. ‘The Wongs Atlas of Excellence’ is designed to be a thorough and comprehensive manual that was developed to highlight factual information about the jewellery and watch industry and details all of Wongs’ policies and procedures. Team members work through the manual and sign off once they have completed each section. But further to its in-house manual, Wongs works externally with the National Association of Jewellers to ensure all of its team are at least JET 1 qualified and its managers are JET 2 qualified.
Managing director, Peter Wong, heavily promotes his staff’s JET qualifications as he feels it adds credibility to the business. “The JET courses are well respected and recognised qualifications inside and outside of the industry. These are the foundations of our product training and investing in the team with these courses helps to develop their knowledge and jewellery understanding,” he comments. Echoing this, Kate Madelin, director of education at the NAJ, insists its own research shows that students who have taken JET courses have a deeper knowledge of the products they sell and that this directly correlates with better sales figures for their employer. She says: “The reassurance knowledgeable staff gives to customers is measurably effective.”
On the other hand, retail and training manager of jewellery retailer Fabulous, Becky Bundy, firmly believes that recognised qualifications are not the most crucial part of staff training in her business: “We need staff to be bright, curious and able to retain a lot of detailed information, and sometimes qualifications can be a good indicator of this, but a friendly disposition and an interest in people are by far the most important qualities when we are recruiting,” she says. What then, are the retailer’s priorities when it comes to training?
“I always think that if a sales assistant is excited about the jewellery, then that has a far greater pull for the customer than a piece of information they have been spoon-fed from a training pack.”
Bundy explains how when it comes to staff training customer service is the ‘Holy Grail’: “Customer service and finding out the customer’s needs and story is of the upmost importance, and I would always start with this,” she says, adding: “Product knowledge will be brought into the training along the way but we only employ staff who love and ‘get’ jewellery and so the product is what attracted them to the role in the first place. I always think that if a sales assistant is excited about the jewellery, then that has a far greater pull for the customer than a piece of information they have been spoon-fed from a training pack.”
For Wong, striking a balance between customer service and product knowledge is vital: “We do feel that as a leading independent we set the standard in the market in both these areas but in some cases the individual may not know the answer immediately. By working as a team and sharing knowledge we can demonstrate comprehensive, thorough advice to all customers,” he shares.
A helping brand
Jewellery brands generally like to have a sizable say in how their brand is portrayed and sold in partner stores. As a result, most will seek to become involved in how staff at retail partners are taught about the brand. Thomas Sabo for example, will send area sales managers into partner stores to conduct training sessions. These sessions can range from a complete brand and product introduction or for an established partner, training on capsule elements such as new products, materials or new communication awareness, explains Nick Callegari, wholesale director.
Likewise, Clogau regularly sends area sales managers to carry out additional training to support partners. For all the stockists who hold the Clogau Compose collection, the brand will send out a dedicated trainer from the JHJC – a company founded by industry expert Jo Henderson, who specialises in training staff in the jewellery sector.
Some firms however, have only recently considered staff training initiatives. Carol Sinfield, area sales manager for Hockley Mint, comments on the jewellery manufacturer’s focus for 2017: “We are organising retailer open days at the Hockley Mint factory, where we will show retailers how jewellery is made and how everything we do is made onsite, not manufactured elsewhere. This will help to promote ‘Made in Great Britain’ and give valuable knowledge back to the stores who can then transfer it to the end consumer.” Hockley Mint also visits partners to train on Arctic Circle Diamonds and Fairtrade Gold.
Whilst going into partner stores is essential it can also be resource intensive for brands and at times disruptive for retailers and staff. Many jewellery brands therefore, put together workbooks for staff. In September Thomas Sabo launched its wholesale partner academy which enables all registered staff members to log on and view the world of Thomas Sabo from a brand and product point of view.
Callegari says: “This includes quizzes at the end of every session to monitor performance and progress. That information is then shared with store management teams as a way to inspire, motivate and grow staff knowledge about the brand.” Thomas Sabo also shares product information and brand stories through group and one on one sessions. This year it intends to ramp up its trade newsletters that it sends to partners to show success stories and motivate stockists. Similarly, Hockley Mint shares information digitally on social media and its website as well as visiting customers to show new collections. Hockley Mint’s training packs offer information about how its jewellery is produced and its Fairtrade story.
And in addition to resources like manuals and e-learning platforms brands often like to know each of their partners has a brand ambassador in the store to champion its jewellery and representation. De Beers’ diamond brand Forevermark is one firm which recognises the importance of sales ambassadors in delivering a premier in-store experience.
Lisa Levinson, country manager, comments: “Research has shown that customers seek expert advice and that the recommendation of the sales person is a key decision driver for their purchase. Forevermark provides training modules to help build the knowledge and skills required to create the ultimate Forevermark experience and help close the sale.” Levinson adds: “We love for all sales ambassadors to be proud to represent Forevermark. That pride comes from understanding the brand, feeling comfortable with the product, and finding an aspect of the brand that resonates within you. It’s about connecting your passion for the brand with the customer’s emotion through storytelling.”
Chrysalis is one of many companies that has seen employing brand ambassadors translates into strong sales. “We’ve found it very effective, especially with larger retailers, to have dedicated members of the team championing the brand as their passion and enthusiasm rubs off on customers as well as the rest of the staff,” says Maine, before continuing: “However, we feel it’s important all staff receive the same level of training to enable them to confidently sell Chrysalis to their customers.”
Similarly, Thomas Sabo prefers to nominate an in-store ambassador to act as the custodian of the brand and be responsible for sales, training and communicating the brand to other staff members. Callegari reveals: “We are continuing to look at enhancing and improving our training ambassador programme and to include staff at the very heart of everything Thomas Sabo does as it is essential in the storytelling process to the end customer.”
From appointing ambassadors to distributing workbooks, brands and retailers both know that investing resources in staff training is worthwhile. Which processes they adopt and how they go about delivering them will differ across the board, but brands and retailers can nevertheless complement each other and improve business for all parties involved. If retail partners are allowed the independence to serve the customers they know so well in their localities, whilst benefiting from the additional support brands can offer about their stories and collections, sales and repeat business can be substantially bumped up. The challenge is finding a balance between support and autonomy whilst at the same time maintaining a strong and lasting relationship. The brand-retailer partnerships that master this are the ones whose staff will shine brightest and sales will climb highest.