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Finnish Bookstore Case Report

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Updated: Dec 8th, 2019

Summary

The Finnish Bookstore had employed a number of sales-training programs, these intended at improving the sales skills of the different employees, as the sales department plays an important role in the success of any venture. Particular attention was given to the customer care skills of the sales team, as deficiencies in customer attendance and care could cost the Bookstore greatly.

In cultivating the customer care proficiency of the sales team, the Bookstore employed a training program to improve different proficiency areas. These included approaching clients, taking orders and managing counterarguments as well as the closure of sale deals. The program also sought to enhance the areas of evaluating their prior experience in dealing with customers – from their previous practices and enhance team work among the different workers.

The simulation program was an effective training course, as it offered insights – both to the workers as well as the management, regarding the failure points of the different workers. This is evidenced form the working of the program, which can turn-down the responses made by the sales team; in the case they are ineffective as per the expected direction of argument.

In assessing the development needs of the staff, competitiveness and dynamics of the sales environment are given central importance – as these determine the aptitude of the workers. After identifying the development needs of the company, the intervention will take the levels of assessment, design, implementation, and evaluation – towards evaluating the job-based proficiency auditing.

Customer service will be evaluated on the basis of a current proficiency assessment model, while interpersonal skills will be evaluated using the proficiency resulting from real-work trends. In developing leadership skills, gap analysis evaluation will be used, while the evaluation of the interventions will involve a during-study and an after-study evaluation, so as to evaluate the skills improvement realized from the training exercise.

Background

The Finnish Bookstore under discussion wanted to improve the service skills of their sales force – as most of the employees had been taught, only generic sales skills, during a two-day training and another routine training. The employees of the Bookstore were also taken through classroom instruction sessions, especially the sales personnel – for a period of over ten years. With the help of a digital solutions expert, the store has created a simulation-based program, designed to engage the parties in solving real-life sales issues.

The program engaged a live coach and a group of peers, over an online platform – with the option of continuing the practice at own time. The model was designed to impart practical skills, and not information – as the previous programs did. The focus of the training was to develop skills of approaching customers, choosing satisfactory responses to their inquiries, and cultivating their need and positioning the commodity in question.

The second phase of the training was designed to improve the skills of managing counter arguments, taking orders, and closing sale deals. The program assisted participants evaluate their prior experiences, establish understanding – before discussing their experiences with their colleagues, and thus cultivate the development of these skills, even after the training program.

From the different training programs, the sales teams at the Bookstore have been exposed to enough insights – on the area of sales and marketing, thus, the best training or program to be used for them, would involve a follow-up and restructure of the ideas taught before (Buchan 2004, p. 6; Watad & Ospina 1999, p. 20-25).

Discussion

The simulation-based training program sought to try their skills in approaching customers, querying their needs, taking orders, managing the customers’ counterargument and closing sale deals. The training model at the Finnish introduced aspects of sales-based competency, as it sought to offer insights, on the skillfulness of the sales team in the areas of responding to customers, communicating with them and sealing sales deals.

The training program also, sought to offer information on competency clustering – which is evident from the group discussion aspects introduced into the program, where the trainees were supposed to discuss their experiences and learnt experiences with their colleagues. The program offered a gap analysis of the deficiency between the expected levels of customer service, as compared to what the workers are capable of offering.

This is evidenced from the case, where the program turns down the response of the trainees, in the cases they did not offer effective responses. The program also introduced the aspects of training program clustering, as it offered insights into the generation of a blended model (Burnett et al. 2013, p. 17-23).

In assessing the development needs of the staff at the Finnish Bookstore, the dynamics and competitive aspects of the business will be put into consideration – ensuring assessment of the areas of attitude and aptitude among the workers.

This area would be reflected through the indicators from the simulation program, particularly from the response system – where the responses expected from the personnel under training would be exposed to the need for variation – through subjecting them to different interactive questions – which they should respond to.

The ability of the sales team in responding to the needs of the customers in a prudent and fast manner would also be used as an indicator in indentifying the levels of training needs. In evaluating the responses made at the simulation training – the attitude and the aptitude of the sales personnel will be a major indicator in determining the level of training among the different trainees.

In evaluating the training needs of the workers – educational and professional qualifications will not act as a primary indicator. This is mainly because; sales representatives are required to act upon, and act using their hard and soft skills – when addressing the responsibilities presented by the business environment. Therefore, there is a need to closely evaluate the continuous improvement of these skills, with reference to contemporary business issues.

In evaluating the training needs of the sales personnel, the responses offered at the stage of making counterarguments with customers will serve as a guiding principle. This is the case, because; from the counterarguments made between the simulation program and the employees, the evaluation would detect the ability of the worker in dealing at the business environment.

The evaluation will also draw from the mission-critical function approach, where the focus of training is promoting customer service. As a result, the evaluation will check the responses made to the simulation program – with special regard on responding to customers, catching their needs, and how they address their issues in a case-per-case manner (Sparrow 2012, p. 2404-2427).

After identifying the development needs exhibited by the workers – the interventions models that would be most effective for the different groups of trainee classes are discussed next. For the introduction of new staff into the Bookstore, the intervention would take four levels, starting with the assessment, design, implementation, and then evaluation of the skills acquired towards the requirements of the job. These would be driven using a job-based proficiency auditing approach.

The phase of assessment will involve a close evaluation of the duties to be executed by the new employee, giving priority to the needs of the Bookstore. At the design phase, a model to communicate the job requirements to the new employees will be used, making special regard to introduce real-experience situations to be learnt.

At the implementation stage, the model should communicate – in an effective manner, the requirements of the position, as well as offer insights into the matching of the employee’s knowledge and skills, with that required for the post. At the evaluation phase, the model should offer a comparison of the initial and acquired skills, with regard to the progress registered in adjusting to the job requirements (Siddiqi, Newell & Robinson 2005, p. 447-453).

In the area of customer service, the program will take the same model of assessment, design, implementation, and then evaluation. The approach to be used will take a current proficiency evaluation approach, to offer insights and pointers on the following areas.

These areas include identifying performance shortages, evaluate whether the training program would eradicate or reduce shortages, and pointing out proficiencies possessed – including those not used currently. The model will also point out insights into ways of reducing recruitment, selection costs and training costs (Sheehan & Sparrow 2012, p. 2393-2403).

In cultivating interpersonal skills, the approach that may prove, most effective is that of proficiencies arising from real-experience strategies, as this model will point out the employee’s aptitude and attitudes when dealing with the needs and demands of the customers.

This model is likely to be more effective, mainly because the model will point out the response inclinations of different workers, in dealing with the customers of the enterprise at an interpersonal level (Rowe et al. 2005, p. 1026-35).

In the area of cultivating team skills, the approach will take the general phases of assessment, design, implementation, and then evaluation – based on the aptitude clustering or the training course clustering approaches.

This is with reference to the fact that the Bookstore has not carried out an evaluation in the past, and that it intends to hold a major training, thus the need for an intensive evaluation of the model and approach.

An example from the case of the Finnish Bookstore chain is the blending approach, where the members were allowed to initiate and continue discussions with fellow workers – so that they may develop inter-personal and team work skills.

Under this model, the approach will point out the teamwork deficiencies depicted from the case, estimating the deficiencies to be reduced or eliminated by the training, as well as identify the team-work skills and potentials possessed by the different workers, including those not utilized. From the information collected, the evaluation and training team will be able to determine the level and model of training required (Lavis &Posada 2004, p. 1615-21).

In the area of developing leadership skills – taking into account that this is the first assessment and that the Bookstore intends to hold a major training program – gap analysis approach. Under this model, an estimation of the gap between the ideal leadership roles and performance as compared to the leadership competencies depicted – by both the leaders and the ordinary employees will be carried out.

Particularly, the ability to adjust to the competencies and dynamics required in leading will be evaluated – as these wills serve as major indicators in determining the leadership capabilities of leaders (King et al. 2011, p. 1103-1118).

In evaluating these interventions, the process will involve two phases, one at the training activity itself – where the already established skills-base will be evaluated, and the improvement from the training determined. The second phase is that carried out at the HRD level of management, which is used as a complementary model for the first one. The rationale for the first phase of evaluation is that there is a need for estimating the flow of raining and the realization of the learning objectives (Chung, Bozkurt & Sparrow 2012, pp. 2333-2353).

Conclusion

In conclusion, the case of The Finnish Bookstore is a pursuit for increased efficiency among the sales team of the company, after the management realized that the generic sales skills as well as the long-term sales training had not worked well in improving their performance.

The model sales program implemented by the Bookstore was highly effective, mainly because; it sought to evaluate the skills assimilated by the trainees as well as the effectiveness earned from the training sessions.

Particularly, the training model sought to improve the skills of the employees in relating with the customers of the business, as well as improve the deal sealing skills – which are central to the success of the store. In assessing the development needs of the workers, competitiveness and the dynamics of their skills in response to the changes in the market were given major attention.

The intervention models would take four levels, these including, assessment, design, implementation, and evaluation. The approaches taken will include the job-based proficiency audit and real-experience evaluation of the skills base of the workers at the book store.

In the area of customer service, current proficiency evaluation will be used, towards pointing out, and addressing the skill-deficiencies depicted from the sales team. In cultivating team skills, the Bookstore will use aptitude clustering and program clustering, as it will help blend the positive abilities of the different workers.

References

Buchan, J 2004, ‘What difference does good HRM make?’ Human Resources for Health, 3 (4), pp. 2-6.

Burnett, S, Gatrell, C, Cooper, C & Sparrow, PR 2013, ‘Work-life Balance and Parenthood: A comparative review of definitions, equity and enrichment,’ International Journal of Management Reviews, 4(3), pp. 17-23.

Chung, C, Bozkurt, O & Sparrow, P 2012, ‘Managing the duality of IHRM: unraveling the strategy and perceptions of key actors in South Korean MNCs,’ International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23 (11), pp. 2333-2353.

King, E et al. 2011, ‘Why organizational and community diversity matter: The emergence of incivility and organizational performance,’ Academy of Management Journal, 54 (7), pp. 1103-1118.

Lavis, J & Posada, F 2004, ‘Use of research to inform public policymaking,’ Lancet, 364 (12), pp. 1615-21.

Rowe, AR, De Savigny, D, Lanata, CF & Victora, C 2005, ‘How can we achieve and maintain high quality performance of health workers in low-resource settings?’ Lancet, 366(4), pp. 1026-35.

Sheehan, M & Sparrow, P 2012, ‘Global human resource management and economic change: a multiple level of analysis research agenda,’ International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23 (12), pp. 2393-2403.

Siddiqi, K, Newell, J & Robinson, M 2005, ‘Getting evidence into practice: what works in developing countries?’ International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 17 (5), pp. 447-453.

Sparrow, P 2012, ‘Globalizing the international mobility function: the role of emerging markets, flexibility and strategic delivery models,’ International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23 (12), pp. 2404-2427.

Watad, M & Ospina, S 1999, ‘integrated managerial training: A program for strategic management development,’ Public Personnel Management, 34 (23), pp. 20-25.

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