Are We Game Ready?

Most cell phone stores I have visited over the years combine the worst elements of retail planning, customer service, and general operations.  The merger of poorly trained staff, mismanaged customer flow, and redundant and time-consuming processes create a loud and tiring environment.   Please understand, I truly enjoy new electronic toys, but I dread the hour or more it takes to upgrade or acquire a new device.

This week I visited a well-known retailer to look at options for upgrading my oldest daughter’s phone.  Like many teenagers, she uses her phone constantly.  By constantly, I mean it never leaves her hand for anything: she falls asleep by it, snuggles with it, and wakes up with fingers flying on it.  If she sits the phone down, she immediately asks, “Where is my phone?” No matter how close it is to her, she treats it like a lost loved one when it returns to her hand.   I use a phone for work all of the time, but she gives me something to aspire to from a personal integration standpoint.  Yet, I digress.

As I hesitantly entered the store, one staff member came forward and asked me how he could help.  After a few basic questions, he led me over to an area that teenage girls generally select phones from when they enter the store.  How did I know? The lights and the music gave it away.  I found the one my daughter wanted and asked if I could purchase it.  The salesperson immediately launched into why it was a good choice and spent more than ten minutes describing all of the features.  Although I reassured him he had the sale, he felt I needed to understand why the phone was superior to other alternatives for some reason. Once we made it to the register, a supervisor comes out from his office and takes me through the same overview of the phone.  I must admit the training on the features of the phone exceeded by estimation. However, the speech was identical.  My stomach stared to growl since I was running the errand during my lunch break, but there was not mercy for the hungry as he continued to show me music lists, videos, and games on the phone.

After completing a sufficient level of training on a phone I would never see again once my daughter had it, we started the transaction.  My message for today comes from this part of the interaction.  Apparently, the salesperson was new and the manager felt he needed to walk the employee through all of the steps of the transaction.  When the new employee faltered, the supervisor reminded him to “trust the training” with a smile.   After the first half hour, the supervisor became edgy.  I guess he was hungry too since he moved from foot to foot and the smile was now a frown.  As he pushed the employee to move more quickly, mistakes started to happen.  The biggest mistake being that I ended up with having all of the phones on my account cut off instead of a new one added.  By this point, I really just wanted to leave to get a sandwich and tell my daughter we bought her a gift card.

What impressed me about the end of the experience was what the supervisor said to the employee.  After over an hour and I prepared to find the nearest sub sandwich place, he turned to the employee and said, “you have the training and now all we need to do is get game ready.”  He went on to give a basketball analogy about the differences between “making shots” on your own while practicing at the court compared to during the real game when things are moving fast.

As leaders and talent professionals, we seek to give our employees the knowledge they need to be effective.  What we forget sometimes is that experience coupled with training provides the greatest value and makes us most “game ready.”  So, what can we learn from the cellphone store experience?

  • Training is a precursor to success, but needs to match the environment, employee, and desired outcome.
  • Training by itself provides little value without being part of a comprehensive development plan that links the knowledge with the real world.
  • Being “game ready” takes time and we should have reasonable expectations.
  •  When measuring value, it is critical we assess not only the training experience, but the impact of the knowledge on actual “readiness” after multiple months.



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