Magazines Archives - 2009 February

HR Training & Service Excellence in Retail
Key areas for retail training identified
Story 4 - Focus

When the nation makes training of retail staff mandatory either through a levy or through specific
regulations, the only question retailers have to mull over is the kind of training required.
Eu Hooi Khaw finds out what retail personnel in Malaysia need in these challenging times.

In Malaysia, all department stores and hypermarkets contribute to the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) under the Ministry of Human Resource.

Exempting speciality stores such as jewellery and accessories shops, the fund receives 1% of the gross salary of retailers’ staff, including temporary ones. Hence, it makes sense that regardless of the economic situation, employers draw from the fund to train their staff.

“In a tight economic situation, training usually takes the back seat. However, owing to the mandatory
HRDF contribution, companies who are contributing to the HRDF will continue the training,” says Dr Christine Chow, a freelance training consultant.

“If you don’t use the money, the ministry will use it for skills learning courses for new graduates.” Dr Chow believes retailers will go back to basics when training their people. That is, going back to the basics of customer service, selective merchandisingbuying and control of margins, and especially loss prevention which affects the bottom line.

And while she believes that companies that do not contribute to the fund are likely to cut spending on human resource (HR) development, she also notes that shopping complexes are mandated to organise basic training for small outlets under their roof, at least once a year.

“They appoint consultants and send the staff of these outlets to be trained. It’s a requirement by the ministry. Even parking attendants have to attend these training sessions.”

HR Training & Service Excellence in Retail Dr Chow maintains that training is important, particularly as retail staff turnover in Malaysia is quite high. Dr Chow’s retail staff training programmes
cover a wide range. They include customer service excellence, handling customer complaints and dealing with difficult customers, as well as managing customer care.

She also conducts training on merchandising planning and pricing, ordering and receiving of goods, stock control, retail cost control, cash-point operations and visual merchandising.

Also part of the programmes are security and its role in retail operations; handling retail sales promotions and advertising; handling perishables; and butchering. Managerial skills, problem
solving, corporate image and social etiquette, inter-personal relations skills, and even basic spoken English are also integrated into these training programmes.

All employees of the company, including floor staff, attend programmes related to their areas of work.
Generic programmes such as customer service are usually held three times a month, and skills programmes such as loss prevention and visual merchandising, once every three months.

The programmes are designed to help employees in their work. Security staff are given training in customer service, apart from security and loss prevention while personnel who have subordinates will undergo the soft skills training. All retail staff must also know how to handle the cashiering job and
are given on-the-job training through a ‘buddy system’ whereby a staff will partner an experienced cashier to carry out the cashiering functions. When a stock take is pending, everyone involved will have to undergo stock-take training.

Refresher courses are held to enhance understanding of the programme, and to further encourage motivation and learning. Preparing for the crest Samantha Chin, principal consultant and partner in Anggun, which specialises in soft skills training in areas of customer service, and grooming and resentation skills, feels that retail staff training should not be cut back in these trying times.

“It’s all very customer-focused now. It’s about retaining customers and turning new ones into loyal customers. It’s word-of-mouth advertising. When a customer is happy, he or she will bring a
lot of customers to you. “During an economic downturn, most retailers are engaging in price wars
and customers are spoilt for choice. An excellent customer service will give you the edge.”

While some companies are cutting down on training, “some are focusing on training for the
entire 2009 to improve staff service and image so as to be prepared for the upturn when it
comes. After all, retail is a very fastpaced industry”.

“We learn a lot from retail staff, their challenges and what motivates them in a very people-[oriented] business. We also teach them how to identify the customer’s personality in order to talk effectively to

Dr Chin’s programmes emphasise the necessity for companies to create a brand personality. “For instance, in the beauty industry, you need to have very polite staff with experience. In the
engineering business, you need more assertive staff,” explains Dr Chin, who has trained employees of Naza Motor Sdn Bhd, automobile manaufacturer Perodua, Kotra Pharma (producer/ distributor of pharmaceutical products), underwear maker Audrey International, Impiana KLCC, Bank Simpanan Nasional, IT company Edaran Bhd, and Berjaya Times Square Hotel, among others.

Her company has also trained 100 retail personnel of baby products retailer Anakku throughout Malaysia, taking in 25 employees per session. The training is to boost their confidence when handling
customers, as well as to improve their spoken English. “Some sales staff feel inferior ... when dealing with customers. We identify their areas of need,” Dr Chin says.

“All industries are about sales and retail, customer retention, creating loyalty and viral marketing, where
customers spread positive news about your products,” she explains. Anggun also puts a lot of emphasis on grooming and etiquette for retail front-liners, even those working in offices. “Grooming is about respecting your clients and colleagues and projecting a professional image. Customers are emotional buyers”, so retail staff with neat and tidy make-up, who dress professionally and have a
pleasant personality will score with customers, Dr Chin maintains.

Business and social etiquette, such as how to introduce a product and present name card, body language, deportment, skin care and make-up, are also tackled. “In the F&B industry, if you have bad skin, you may not be considered for the job.” In addition, Dr Chin teaches trainees how to give a firm
handshake and make eye contact, wearing a smile always.

Anggun also conducts one-day workshops on Exceptional Customer Service for front-line executives and managers; front office, customer service and business centres personnel; secretaries; and HR executives.

One very interesting module teaches retail personnel how to profile their customers; identify individual
characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of each personality type; and communicate effectively based on the findings.


To view other stories, get a copy of Retail Asia. To subscribe, please download the subscription form from 


2009 February Stories:

Retailing in recession Part 2: Some key do’s and don’ts for Asian retailers

US imposes tighter limits on lead content in products for children

What’s hot @ NRA Show: Asian cuisine - Show offers new profit-building solutions

Bigger HOFEX more attractions

HR Training & Service Excellence in Retail - Key areas for retail training identified

HR Training & Service Excellence in Retail - Going beyond training into service excellence

HR Training & Service Excellence in Retail - Retailers won’t scrimp on training

Global downturn dictating consumer choices

Tampines 1 launch will coincide with Uniqlo’s debut in Singapore

YCH, Frasers ink pact to develop hub in Chengdu

Process payments on the go

Alliance lets OFWs shop for their families back home

US$25.95m initiative aims to boost grain supply in South Asia

> Back To 2009 Archives
Site Map
Powered By