Grooming Your Retail Staff - Decoded by Navin Sadarangani

Grooming Your Retail Staff - Decoded by Navin Sadarangani

Your staff is usually the only direct point-of-contact with customers. The experience your customers have with them should be such that makes them at ease and confident in your product. The first impression is all-important. You need to ensure that your staff is groomed to make the best possible impression. “Grooming” involves many fine aspects of physical appearance as well as demeanour.

Navin Sadarangani is probably one of India’s only end-to-end Jewellery Retail Service Providers. His company NYUZ undertakes Coaching, Consultancy, Creative Retail Services, Concepts & Creation.  Navin told GemAtlas that “grooming” forms a part of many of his training modules.

Here’s what Navin had to say to GemAtlas in an exclusive interview:

GA: What does grooming of retail staff entail?

NS: “One aspect is basic hygiene. That’s probably the most important. Staff need to know it’s an absolute no-no to not deal with issues like body-odour. They can’t have food in their teeth, or turmeric stains on their fingers, wear sweaty uniforms, or wet ones on a rainy day. The company needs to get staff in early, and have them change in the store.

Beyond hygiene is personal appearance. Hair and clothes needs to be in place. Staff should not look shabby. Only then will they feel confident and be able to exude a positive body-language.

Behaviour and mannerisms is also very important. Body language says a lot before the sales person even says anything. Staff should be told they cannot be resting walls, etc! Mobile phone usage should be limited. Addiction to messaging and social media is a real problem. It distracts from duties. Once a salesperson looks at that missed call, message, etc, while with customers, the process of killing the transaction in some way begins, even if he/she doesn’t respond. It messes up the flow – in the very least, the attendant may not show enough jewellery, may not accompany the person to the cashier, gate, etc.

Another way that NYUZ differs from other sales training companies is we focus on product knowledge-based selling. If you are not product-oriented in this industry, it’s very difficult to sell. Beyond theory, how to use knowledge is as important. Training in this helps jewellery sales tremendously. Without this aspect, a person cannot be considered fully groomed for the job.”

GA: Why is grooming important? How does it help the bottom line?

NS: “Grooming is not the be-all and end-all, but it is the starting point and it definitely helps a lot. If a customer is not pleased with the way a person looks or doesn’t connect with the person, he / she will not walk up to the person at all. Personal appearance is the first puller. All the knowledge in the world would be useless if no one comes to you, and you don’t get a chance to use it. What we call “PACE” (Personal Appearance and Confidence Enhancement) is an integral part of a lot of our programmes.

But having said that, a person needs to be good at content, knowledge of the product and selling skills, otherwise, it won’t work. Let’s use the analogy of a book. I will pick up a book only if I like its cover. If the cover isn’t attractive, even if what’s inside is, it will not help. At the same time, if the cover is attractive and there’s no substance once I start reading, I will put the book down very soon! In the case of a customer in a jewellery store, he/she will ask for a manager, or worse – walk away.”

GA: Do you recommend that companies have a grooming policy?

NS: “Yes, definitely – It’s absolutely mandatory to lay down grooming policies, so staff know what to expect. I find that owners and managers need to be educated about grooming as much too. For example, often, management thinks that grooming is just about providing uniforms. Although I do advocate uniforms because they provide standardisation and branding to an extent, even within the gamut of uniforms – What about other aspects like giving enough sets of uniforms? What about maintenance? You need to hand-out at least three uniforms to allow for washing and the possibility of a rip at the last minute.

Then there has to be “uniformity in the uniforms” – that’s an important issue, because it’s the very raison d’etre for the uniform. There has to be consistency on how the uniforms are worn. One wearing the scarf tied and the other loose will not serve the purpose.

Policies need to be laid down clearly, so everyone understands the standards that are to be adhered to.”

GA: How do you suggest that your clients handle staff who do not adhere to grooming standards set by them?

NS: “If policies are laid down from the beginning, and it is conveyed that it’s required as part of the job profile, then it will be treated as a responsibility, and there won’t be many lapses.”

GA: As part of your coaching of Frontline Sales Personnel in the Jewellery Retail sector, what aspects do you cover?

NS: “We largely do programmes for frontline retail sales people, exclusively for the jewellery industry. Besides personality and grooming we have store management programmes in which we cover jewellery store operations, merchandising, visual merchandising, marketing, accounts, security management, HR, etc. Then we have workshops for specific skills like diamond handling, window display, etc.

We also have what we call “JET Programme” (Jewellery Executive Training) for senior level people –owners’ wives, family getting into the business, etc. It covers everything from advertising to budgeting, etc. Basically jet-launching a person into the Boardroom!

Then I have a module called ‘Understanding Your Job Profile’ – We tell new recruits “If you choose to be in this industry, you’ll have to work 12 hours a day”, or whatever is required. Usually staff is needed an hour before opening and an hour after closing for back-end work. Then they have to factor in travel time. Appearance is put forward as a responsibility – If it’s a non-uniform workplace, then the required parameters have to be explained. Knowledge about the trade is put forward. Responsibilities with regard to accountability for security lapses, vigilance in stock-handling also have to be conveyed. You can’t tell a person months down the line when there is a theft that the cost of the piece will be deducted from his/her salary – You have to tell the person at the time of recruitment.”

Having written grooming policies makes employees more amenable to being corrected for grooming lapses. As a general rule-of-thumb, companies ask their lady-staff to wear hair neatly tied back, use sober hair-streaks and dye-colours, use light make-up, light colours of nail-varnish with the same shade on their fingers and toenails. Nail polish should not be chipped. If the company does not have uniforms, they generally outline guidelines for colours and styles of outfits and shoes. Clothes should be free of stains and creases. Jewellery and watches should be conservative and minimalistic. This should be communicated with employees during the recruitment interview itself.

Male staff look best clean-shaven, although beards and moustaches are usually allowed and freely accepted by customers mainly on account of religious customs. Men should ideally not wear flashy jewellery. Hair should be neatly combed. Clothes should be formal styles and of sober colours. Shoes should be in a good condition, either black or dark-brown and always well polished.

Hair should always be free of oil. Issues with bad-breath and body-odour should be dealt with as best possible.

As explained by Navin Sadarangani, grooming does not end with physical appearance. Staff must be taught to put customers at ease with their body-language. There’s nothing more powerful than eye-contact, warm gestures, a soft smile, attention to tastes and dislikes, and a bit of gentle humour, when it comes to pushing sales. After all, it’s how things go at the point of purchase that will ultimately determine whether a sale is closed or lost.