If you were going on a trip and you had the choice between a trained airplane pilot or a non-trained airplane pilot to fly you to your destination, which one would you choose? It's an obvious choice. Now, imagine a customer walks into an ice cream store and they have the choice between choosing a server who is pleasant, polite, clean and genuine or an employee who is miserable, rude, dirty and unattached. Which one do you think they will go to? Now, imagine you're the owner of an ice cream store and you employ that rude, unattached employee while your competitor employs a pleasant, helpful, polite and clean employee. Where do you think people in search of ice cream will go? Certainly not to your store.
That's why implementing a training program at your store and training employees is so important. One good or bad employee can make or break your store.
Training staff for Success
Training begins at the local store level, so you have to make sure you have the right culture at your store for your staff to succeed in the first place. So here are some questions to ask yourself about your store when it comes to culture.
- Do you have the type of atmosphere where people want to work?
- Is the culture positive, engaging and fun?
- Do you reward and recognize in public and/or chastise in private?
- Do you treat your customers like you want your staff to treat them?
Answering these questions will help you attract and develop the proper people to work at your store. If you do not have a culture or have the right culture implemented then it will be difficult to attract and keep top talent. That means you will be at the bottom of the hiring pool only left with lower end employees that are harder to train.
Once you're confident in the culture you've built your store around it's time to start implementing a hiring process. Don't have a hiring process? Then use our guideline below to hire the best talent in your community.
1. Hire for Personality. The first rule for hiring anyone to work in your ice cream or frozen dessert store is to hire for personality. Personality is something that cannot be taught but it is what's needed most for your staff to interact with your customers. A persons personality is defined by their characteristics, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. A person with a good personality will have a vibrant demeanor giving them the opportunity to form healthy rapport with any customer of any age bracket.
2. Social Skills. Today's youth have less social skills than generations past because they grew up on social media, emailing and text messaging rather than relying on actual conversation. Having a social skill set to engage with customers is key to them being able to succeed in your environment. You do not want an employee who's timid or afraid to interact socially with customers especially if your store culture revolves around providing a great atmosphere for the customer. This is not to say their skill set on mobile devices and social media is bad, it's certainly not. Their skill set in that area can be a huge plus for your store especially if it's something you don't quite yet grasp. However, their skills in liking, sharing, pinning, tweeting or whatever else they do should be secondary to their social demeanor.
3. Don't Hire Who You Can't Fire. As a business owner you'll probably have a lot of friends, family and friends of family that may approach you about a job for themselves or family member. It's understandable that you would like to help them out but it may not be the best course of action for your business. Remember, if you can't get rid of an employee without recourse, you shouldn't hire them.
4. Ask the Right Questions. Review your interview process to see if you're asking the right questions. A persons true personality may not come through on an interview so make sure your questions touch upon a persons characteristics, thought process and behaviors. What's more, while interviewing, you'll want to note the persons overall social demeanor to make sure they're a good fit. Pay attention to things like their ability to keep eye contact, their confidence and whether they carry a happy demeanor. You should never hesitate to ask for and check for references from former employers or associates. Treat it like a real job because it is a real job.
Now that you have your store set up and you've interviewed all your potential employees right...now what? This is when you need to implement your new employee training process. If you do not have an employee training process set up then you should contact us before the next season begins to implement one. Training employees around your store culture is an absolute must for customer service and retention. In case you don't have a process set up yet, here are some guidelines to get you started.
1. Training Period. There should be a grace period (we recommend two weeks) where they are trained before actually graduating or moving to a regular position. Depending on the size, scope and need of your store you may need to train them just in specific areas or in an all around broad sense. Whichever it is, this two week period gives you time to evaluate them and see if they are a good fit for your store. If they are a good fit you can move them to a regular position but if you realize they're not going to be a fit, move onto to investing your time and resources into someone else. Remember, you want people that want to work for you and not people that have to work for you.
2. The "Shadow". The shadow theory means this (not yet regular) employee should shadow you for the first week. This period allows for them to not only learn the processes but allows them to gain knowledge from the master (you). Nobody knows the operation better than you. As the owner, you're the one who dictates the culture and atmosphere of the shop, so who better for a person to learn the ropes from then the passionate leader of the business. Once that full week of shadowing is done for them, you need to return the favor and shadow them for the next week. Look for any flaws, gaps or areas of improvement that you see or would like to see and nurture them into the ideal employee for your shop.
3. Teach, Teach, Teach. From the get go, you should be teaching them your way of doing things. Show them the ropes both in product preparation and customer service. Don't be afraid to share your knowledge for the more they know, the more confident they grow.
4. Show Interest. To get the most out of an employee be genuine and nurturing. Remember, they can help you succeed so you should help them to succeed. This is a win-win for both parties. Take interest in their progress and check on them continuously, don't just leave them out to hang when they have questions or concerns. Have that "how you doing" conversation every week or two weeks to make sure all their issues and concerns are addressed.
During the training period it is helpful to give them something to aspire to and reward them after it's complete. Perhaps this means graduating from a training uniform to a normal (non-training) uniform. Imagine the excitement they'll feel as they shed the training uniform for a regular uniform and become a true member of your team. A simple reward like this can help them stay motivated during training and give them a goal to work towards.
Now that the training period is over, it's important to make sure the employees don't become lackadaisical with their new found knowledge. Here are some guidelines to implement to make sure all your training efforts were not in vain.
1. Hold All Employees Accountable. It's impossible to be everywhere all the time so you'll want to make sure duties are not only being performed but being performed right. Try to implement a system of checks and balances to make sure employees take ownership of their work. This may include things like having work charts and making employees sign them when they've been completed. Since there is always a lot to do especially in the opening and closing hours you may want to implement specific charts just for this purpose - have an opening and closing checklist duty chart that any employee can follow and sign their name to when complete.
2. Keep your staff motivated, happy and inspired. This all leads back to culture once again. You can implement fun into the everyday tasks at your shop by having contests between employees. Contest such as: who pours the best cone, best looking sundae, best customer service or best upseller of products. Keep it fun and they will keep it right. Small rewards can go a long way so remember to keep some gift cards or goofy gifts on hand to reward that employee who pours the perfect twist cone.
Our final and last tip to implement into your frozen dessert shop: Create an employee handbook that spells out expectations, procedures and duties. This not only helps solve any issues ahead of time but lays out clear guidelines for any employee to follow.