Smeg as an appliance brand is vastly different to its competitors – its dedicated training team, and vast range of unique training methods exemplify this. Below is an overview of the wide range of mechanisms employed by the team, along with evidential success as a direct result of the training team’s work.
Dedicated training team
Smeg’s training team – headed up by Clare Edwards – stands out amongst the rest for several reasons. Its dedicated training team is divided into two camps – internal and field-based. The former delivers training at Smeg’s head office facility, which has just this year seen Smeg invest in an additional member of the team to allow more head-office based training courses to run. Meanwhile, the field-based team visits, trains and merchandises Smeg’s retailer network on a 4-6 week rotation.
By investing in its training team, Smeg can provide a fluid training experience. In doing so, Smeg reaches out to new retailer partners as soon as they join the industry, then follow this with in-depth head office training and providing a support network for its retailers on a daily basis.
Training is not a second commodity for Smeg, but an essential part of its retailer and customer support package. This ultimately allows retailers to maximise every sales opportunity. In a climate when (generally speaking), sales of domestic appliances are down, Smeg continues to put its training programme at the forefront. This is provided across its entire sales network, ensuring all national, housebuilder, commercial and medical retailers are supported via its training programme.
Smeg also works alongside its logistics partner to deliver the best training possible. All drivers are trained, not only to deliver a white glove service, but to add value to their visits. With this knowledge, customers are advised on how to use and look after their appliances, with a support card for customers created to support them further.
In fact, Smeg has one of the biggest, if not the biggest, training team in the industry. It works hard and smart to ensure it delivers the very best training possible, and works together to ensure its retailer partners can serve, deliver and support customers throughout their Smeg journey.
Smeg’s training team doesn’t believe in a ‘one size fits all’ model. Each retailer account and individual member of staff has specific needs, so Smeg adapts its training mechanism each and every time in the following ways:
- The training team has access to sales figures and information to ensure that any training delivered in store is relevant and appropriate. All sales figures are analysed at head office with individual store managers in order to best drive optimum sales and provide the most relevant training
- Use of language, delivery and style are adapted to each audience, making it applicable and memorable
- Training is delivered in bitesize chunks to enable the information to be digested and put into practice
- Relationships with delegates and in-store representatives are established to ensure full engagement and buy-in to the Smeg training mechanism
- Each training session, whether large or small, appeals to all learning styles – visual, audible & kinaesthetic
- Early morning, evening and weekend sessions are offered to ensure all retail staff are reached, as well as Skype training sessions
- A Training Toolbox is given to any retailer after a Smeg training session. This provides material to allow them to recap and refresh their memories of the day, but also to transfer the knowledge onto colleagues who were unable to make the session
- In-house staff training programme offers accurate and quality training sessions to empower and grow the knowledge of retail partners
Smeg is just as dedicated to its internal training as it is external. Particular highlights include:
- 15 minute update or refresher training sessions before the business opens – this occurs twice a month and ensures employees that both are and aren’t product focused are fully engaged with the company
- Expert Training programme for the sales team. This comprises small groups of five team members for new product, refresher and sales training sessions, and is offered quarterly
- Dedicated training for the warehouse staff – due to the nature of their location and shift work, the training team carries out on-site training for warehouse staff to ensure that those picking and loading Smeg’s lorry fleet are fully aware of each product, thus enhancing the accuracy of the stock leaving the warehouse
Hands-on method training
Smeg recently invested in a 14,000 square foot showroom facility at its Abingdon head office, where all appliances are electronically live. This allows trainees to get hands-on and interact with all appliances – the best way to truly understand how they work.
Smeg swears against a ‘Death by Powerpoint’ rule, allowing the retailer to get hands on with as many products as possible. The training facility operates as a ‘Living Kitchen’, allowing theory to become a reality. All group members will cook and prepare their own lunch to ensure that they have experience using the appliances, which they can then take back and put into practice. To aid learning, during these cooking sessions, a screen with rolling memory hooks plays in the background. Certificates are then provided for retailers to take away – many now display these in-store to promote the time they have invested in training and expanding their knowledge to customers. A fun, group quiz is also undertaken at the end of the session to allow retailers to appreciate what they have learnt, as well as a training feedback form, which identifies their level of knowledge prior to and after the training, as well as additional comments. These feedback forms have clearly demonstrated how retailers leave these sessions feeling far more confident than when they came in.
Meanwhile out in the field, small appliances are taken into store, with live training sessions executed. A roller banner is provided to professionalise the training delivered in store, while online feedback forms, filled out via the trainer’s iPad, are offered. The training team also provides in-store staff with folders packed full of information, including cheat sheets for reference and to help train others, support numbers and delivery information.
For independent retailers, Smeg offers multi-location showrooms. As well as its Abingdon facility, there is also the Regent Street St James’s store, offering a showroom for retailers to use in the heart of London. This allows access to retailers and customers alike from all over the UK, and includes a large experiential theatre for workshops, training days, talks, events etc. It can house up to 200 people in total, with 12-18 getting hands-on at any given time – be it a pasta masterclass, a how-to or in-depth appliance training. Both sites house meeting rooms and conference facilities, allowing the retailer to host their own sales meetings and conferences alongside these training courses.
For the independent channel, Smeg developed its Inspire training courses. Trainees can choose from a single or double day; the length is selected by the retailer to ensure that the training fits with its commercial needs. Bespoke training days are available for any specific requirements; by collaborating with the retailer, account manager and trainer, the course can be tailored to what is required, benefitting from a bespoke hands-on method.
And that’s not all; at supplier events and conferences, rather than purely providing the people and the product, Smeg provides a range of fun, interactive experiences for delegates, whether it be pizza and coffee workshops, a crystal maze or a snowball competition, to name but a few. This hands-on experience ensures the retailer leaves any Smeg training session with confidence and knowledge that can be passed on to colleagues and customers.
To complement the hands-on nature of its training, Smeg offers a variety of supporting material which can be provided to the trainee. These can be found below. All of these guides provide a ‘quick fire’ reference and presentable guide, that can be used with the consumer to aid with the learning of all key USP’s per appliance. They are all available on the Smeg website for customers to download:
Cheat sheets and appliance user guides www.smeguk.com/product-information-guides
- Videos http://www.smeguk.com/news/smeg-citrus-juicer-and-coffee-machine-videos/
- Buyers guides www.smeguk.com/news/range-cooker-buyers-guide-2017/
- Additional product support http://www.smeguk.com/news/become-a-coffee-connoisseur/
- Interactive online content that independent retailers can use on their websites https://purewell.co.uk/smeg-60cm-linea-series-maxi-oven-sil.html#product_tabs_spec_tab and creating videos that support the retailer with product training but installation of the Smeg appliances. www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGX1lDl4f-Q.
- ‘Smeg Collective’ online portal provides access to much support material including up to date training information and details of how to get in touch with their area trainer
Keeping it fresh
The constant creation of new material, such as media, games, handouts, memory hooks etc. keeps the training fresh and memorable. Training should be fun, and not a chore. Smeg as a brand is different to most of its competitors – and this is replicated in its training mechanisms.
Smeg GEMS employee training programme
The GEMS employee training programme consists of:
- New starter, ‘one-to-one’ sessions before being allowed on the phone or to have customer contact. All employees undertake this product training when they join the company, to ensure everybody understands the ‘bigger picture’, regardless of how junior or senior they may be in the company
- Refresher training, carried out in small groups, so not to impact the customer/retailer experience
- New product launch training – this takes place before a product is launched, ensuring all staff members can effectively communicate the changes to customers and retailers
- Team building cookery evenings – staff from all departments attend these. This allows employees to grow in confidence with the appliances, but also to interact with other departments, often solving/streamlining day-to-day processes and procedures
- Recap quizzes – these are sent to relevant departments regularly to monitor and assess knowledge, therefore any training needs
All training is delivered in Smeg’s showroom and live kitchen. Staff members use, and in some cases cook with the appliances, providing them with first-hand experience and confidence. This programme ensures that all staff understand the ‘bigger picture’, regardless of their role, and in turn enhances the support that Smeg offers to its retailers and end customers.
Customer training support
It is just as important to offer training to the retailers as it is to the customer. Smeg offers training throughout the customer journey. This consists of supporting customer shows, such as the Ideal Home exhibition, Grand Designs and 100% Design, allowing the training team to take the product to the customer. Here, the customer can make an informed choice about the right appliances for them and get expert advice from the training team.
In advance of these events, Smeg’s training team offers support for retailers prior to and at consumer exhibitions. This includes training on any new product launches being previewed at the show. Training and demonstrations at retailer locations are also offered in support of new showroom openings, special customer events etc.
For customers that require additional support, the training team will visit the customer in their home. This can include a cookery demonstration in their home, demonstrating which appliances are most appropriate to their individual needs, and assist with the use of the appliances once installed in the home.
Demonstrating Smeg’s success
The success of Smeg’s training programme can be demonstrated in a number of ways:
- Staff retention – due to excellent staff training and management, Smeg continues to maintain excellent staff retention and long service. This provides experience, continuity and quality to retailers and customers
- Improved service – the staff induction and training programme of the customer service team and sales admin team has resulted in the quicker processing of orders, fewer product exchanges and enhanced product
- Product development – due to the quality of Smeg’s training, Smeg’s HQ in Italy now invites the UK training team to be an integral part of new product development and testing. The launch of Smeg’s Victoria range cooker, compact steam oven and small appliance range came about – and was heavily influenced – by the UK training team. These are now some of Smeg’s best sellers!
- Expansion of training programme – the training structure and package offered in the UK is currently being rolled out across several other countries in Europe, South Africa, America and Australia
Finally, the proof is in the pudding – please find a selection of recent customer feedback outlined below:
“Both Clare and Alice were incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. They share a passion for the product, and their enthusiasm was infectious. I found myself, a rookie cook – actually excited about the ideas given and would consider displaying more in my kitchen studio. It was extremely well organised and the information given was very concise”
Adornas Kitchen Studio
“One of the best [courses] I’ve been on. Interaction and demonstration excellent’”
The Right Price – Rangecooker Showroom
“Fantastic course and insight into the Smeg brand”
“I found this training session really helpful and I am looking forward to the next one!”