Sales Training and 360 Assessments at Jordan’s Furniture
Jordan's Furniture, a large New England furniture retailer with roots that hark back to the turn of the last century, has stores in Natick, Avon, and Reading, Massachusetts and Nashua, New Hampshire. Jordan’s is part of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Corporation and prides itself on offering great values, a high level of customer service, and in-store entertainment. In order to ensure high quality customer service as well as strong sales results, the company has established an extensive training program for its entire sales staff. The curriculum covers product knowledge as well as policies and procedures, especially as those affect customers.
Jordan’s delivers the training modules during workshops at the individual stores, usually before they open. Staged on a fairly regular basis, the workshops occur during three consecutive days and review a variety of things.
“The trainers could be reviewing the differences between solid and veneer wood construction or it could be on a new line from La-Z-Boy that has certain features, fabrics and so on,” said Jordan’s Director of Information Systems Peter Clark. “These workshops are held consistently, and there’s always something to talk about.”
The company also provides training to new hires and presents the majority of this orientation material to them at a central location.
The concern in any retail establishment is whether salespeople, focused primarily upon getting the sale, will remember what they learned during a training session. When the company first began training, it used paper-based tests that store managers handed out after the workshop to ensure that employees had absorbed the material. When the staff was small that presented few problems, but as the stores grew the written tests became unwieldy. Managers realized they needed a computer-aided assessment to automate the process.
After evaluating several products, Jordan’s selected Questionmark, preferring the program because of its ease of use administratively. They also found that using Questionmark was easier for the trainee to use. Clark said that Jordan’s IT department’s review found that Questionmark fit well with their operating system and is very flexible.
Jordan’s uses in-store computers to administer the tests. These PCs, normally used for order entry and product reference information, can be easily accessed throughout the day by salespeople during slower periods. Managers set a deadline for finishing the test and then review the results with each person.
“The training staff wanted the sales consultants to complete the tests and return them in a timely manner, it’s a challenge given the many different schedules over the course of a week,” Clark said. “Then they go through them, evaluate them, and find out where they were off and where they need some more help.”
When employees finish their assessment they also get an opportunity to evaluate the module they just completed. The feedback provides the Operations Team with a clearer picture of whether the training has hit the mark as well as what areas could use improvement. Since Questionmark provides results instantly, it’s a valuable vehicle for tweaking the in-store training sessions.
In a 360-degree assessment, companies collect feedback from supervisors, peers, subordinates and, occasionally, customers or vendors. The advantage of these assessments is that they provide employees with information about how supervisors, peers, and subordinates perceive them, with a goal of improving work performance. Having previously given these assessments on paper, managers at Jordan’s realized that it would be more efficient to administer them using Questionmark, a program they already were using for evaluations.
Questionmark makes the process remarkably simple and much faster. In its initial rollout, a company executive emailed a link to a group of nearly 40 managers from whom he wished to get input. They merely clicked on the link, filled out the 360-degree evaluation form, and submitted it. According to Clark, the manager was very pleased by the results and plans to expand the company’s use of Questionmark for these assessments.
Clark indicated that Jordan’s plans to expand its use of Questionmark...
“I think there are other areas of the company that conduct training that can certainly benefit from this, but it’s going to represent some work on their part,” he said. “We’ve got this tool out here. Expanding it and doing other things with it isn’t going to cost us anything. Managers have systems that work. If they take a long look at Questionmark, I think they will figure out that it’s a better and more efficient way.