For all buying organisations and their supplier base, especially those working in the international sourcing industry, there is a removal from the customer experience and the supply chain. One of the classic examples on the consequences of this removal was in the sourcing of pizza cutters in China about 20 years ago. The local buying team and its vendor produced and supplied the circular knife as per dimensions and colour scheme – except it did not cut!! The team and the factory had no idea what a pizza cutter was! They did not understand the customer experience and probably did not know what a pizza was!
One of the ways to address this removal is to invest in and organise a Store Practice Training programme for co-workers and members of the supplier’s operational management team. The aim of these sessions are to understand, appreciate and help improve the following:
- The retail and distribution network
- The customer buying process – the mechanics of the store shelf
- Understand the customers – Mrs Jones, the kids and her husband!
- Product and Process Quality Improvements
- Return as brand ambassadors and customer champions to the office and factory.
- Start a local supplier development programme at the vendor factory.
My experience of these in-store training programmes was as a 3 days session, based at a retail unit near a distribution centre with opportunities for retail worker and customer interface. The profile of the participants was a mix of buyers, merchandisers, factory operators, supervisors and managers from various suppliers and locations.
The learning outcomes during these days were significant; understanding the product, the packaging requirements, how the stores operated as a sales machines and the application of Good Business Growth – price, availability, quality and business ethics.
Upon completion of the training programme when everybody returned to their factories or offices, the next important stage of the training was to secure success and a return on investment by implementing a follow up action plan:
- With presentation to co-workers back at the Office/factory shop floor and about their experience and what they learnt.
- Create a Customer Champion within their organisation, using the Store Practice training course material as the base for how the Champion and the factory work together.
- Create an atmosphere of pride, working for and supplying the brand – tied into the 4 Good Business Growth parameters.
Creating and participating in a Store Practice training is a considerable time and resources investment. The return on that investment can be considerable in:
- Improving product quality and development at the suppliers
- Align all parts in the supply chain to a core set of values and business idea.
- Open the channels for cost savings and improvement just by seeing what happens in the retail and distribution process.
- Create a’WE and not us and them..
A Store Practice training programme provides development and improvement opportunities for all participants including the retail co-workers. And finally it secures that pizzas can be cut by a knife that is sold, supplied and made by people who care about quality, price, ethics and is actually available for Mrs Jones and her family to buy.