One of RapL’s core tenets when we start engagement with a retail customer is the cornerstone of all successful retail operations – how do we help them deliver a consistent customer experience across the length and breadth of the country?
Let’s look at McDonald’s, a shining North Star for all things customer experience. For McDonald’s, the consistency pyramid’s base is to weave their thousands of franchises in the same value + culture fabric globally.
In an interview, Len Jillard, Chief People Officer for McDonald’s Canada, revealed quite a few approaches to their ways of working. This helped generate predictable consistency, with a 6 sigma result. Here are some excerpts from the interview
- “We don’t view the franchisee candidate as an investor, but as an owner/operator that has an important hands-on role.”
- “Our training for new operators is very rigorous. They go through all the same training and courses that our crew do in the restaurants, and then perform all the courses that our managers go through. They have to complete all that, all the way up to Hamburger University, before they’re an operator.”
- “We choose who’s going to be part of the team. We take that seriously in the same way we choose our staff, be it corporate or in the restaurant as well.”
- “We had a manager’s convention last week in Montréal and one of the things that I said in my presentation is that each manager creates the environment in their restaurant. I’m saying you create the culture within your restaurant. You are creating that culture that aligns with McDonald’s culture overall, or you’re defining a culture that isn’t in-line with McDonald’s overall. Sooner or later any sort of misalignment will catch up with you. You’re not going to enjoy the same kind of sales, guest count increase, or profitability at the end of the day. Restaurants that are enjoying the best results really do reflect the whole culture of who we are and what we’re about”
Employee to operator: Key philosophical differences
Before diving into how RapL turns employees into operators, it’s prudent to spend some time deliberating on the philosophical differences between an employee and an operator.
- Employees want to be rewarded for effort, operators want to be rewarded for results
Operators understand that if they don’t deliver topline AND bottom-line growth, the board will disregard all their effort, regardless of how sincere they were. Employees ignore this ultimate truth and want to be recognized for the effort that went into the results.
- Operators create stability, employees demand stability
Operators think principles first, and dissect the deepest WHYs behind success. Employees tend to superficially absorb concepts and axioms, so they are barely able to fit into the performance bell curve.
By thinking along first principles, operators build new business playbooks or exponentially optimize the efficiency of existing operations.
- Operators can communicate and scale best practices; employees can barely explain what-works-and-why
Since operators spend copious amounts of their mindshare dissecting core business processes for better efficiency, they can articulate exactly what makes a process click (or fail). Conversely, employees can only communicate in piecemeal, unsystematic ways. Their knowledge may not lead to higher order insights for the business. To put it simply, their communication is not transformational, neither for individuals nor for the business.
The road to transform employees into owners implies defeating Pareto (for the uninitiated, Pareto’s law states only 20% resources drive 80% output).
Traditional approaches to solve this problem (establishing a strategic capability development org) have honest intentions, but most interventions fail.
The 2 dominant reasons of failure are
- Learning at the wrong time: Today’s employees often learn uniform topics, on L&D’s schedule, and at a time when it bears limited immediate relevance to their role — and as a result, their learning suffers.
- Quickly forgetting the learning: Like first year college students who forget 60% of what they learned in high school, studying merely to get the CPE (Continuing Professional Education) credit suggests employees tend to quickly forget what they learn too. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus pioneered experimental studies of memory in the late 19th Century, culminating with his discovery of “The Forgetting Curve.” He found that if new information isn’t applied, about 75% of it will be forgotten just after six days.
Curve of Forgetting
Employees to operators, the RapL way
At RapL, we think about these problem statements differently. While ‘different’ is a broad, sweeping descriptor, we have a clearly earmarked approach to being different in our offering.
Draw into empirical research and identify patterns in how humans successfully apply new learnings in their personal and professional lives.
In our 3+ years of deployment at some of India’s largest retail companies, we have identified how employees turn into operators.
1. Consistency - New employees learn best practices to become operators
Before you swamp a new employee into a drudgery of classroom training and unsystematic documents, ask yourself this – do we have a set of laws / best practices that we can drip feed to our new employees every day for the next 30 days?
Here is the overarching principle – without any context and experience, a new employee needs to understand the laws of playing the game. One by one. Everyday.
By shoving them into classroom training, they will be overwhelmed by multiple disconnected concepts that they may not be able to thread together. This could lead to knowledge leakage, because they do not have a threaded foundation to work with.
Instead, serve them the best business practices. Best practices and policies are those that worked for other new employees, who turned operators. Without these anchors, new employees are lost in a sea of new information.
Mantra: best practices first, classroom training next.
Here is how one of our customers delivers these “rules of work” to new employees during their onboarding process. At the end of this exercise, the customer has ensured that every new employee knows the most important laws of the land before they can turn into operators. The baseline foundations for consistency, if you may.
Scenarios during onboarding
Detailed RapL reports drive visibility for leadership. They inform them of employees who have mastered these rules, and of employees who need an intervention before they get on the same page as others.
A RapL Report at a team level
2. The road to consistency is through 1% daily improvement
Popularly known as “marginal gains”, RapL specializes in continuous-improvement-as-a-service. Bought to mainstream attention by James Clear in the critically acclaimed “Atomic Habits”, the notion is simple – long-term wins are a result of 1% improvement every day. The British Cycling team won 5 Tour De France titles owing to 1% daily improvements.
What’s the relationship between marginal gains and consistent customer experiences?
Here’s how India’s most trusted retail brand drives marginal gains using RapL.
They have a customer facing program called “X’s way of life” (X = retailer’s name. Redacted owing to confidentiality clauses)
This way of life is nothing but a list of behaviors each customer facing representative is required to follow when customers visit any X store.
Simple things – walk the customer out after their visit and wave them goodbye with a “thank you” and a smile on your face.
This way of life comprises 10 such deeply practiced commandments, each of which is drip-fed to every new employee. These employees must pass a RapL quiz and certify themselves of being proficient with X’s way of life before they can go-live on the sales floor.
Before RapL, there was no way for the retailer to ensure that these commandments were followed to the T, across their 410 stores. Today, RapL is the core driver of their onboarding programs.
Customer greeting scenarios being drip fed by RapL
A leaderboard helps store managers quickly identify who is not embracing the commandments, which leads to timely interventions.
Beyond onboarding, the 1% improvement ethos is at play throughout the year. Capability development teams at the retailer drip feed employees with upsell and cross-sell business scenarios. These scenarios educate employees on products that could be bundled along with the primary product.
Up-selling and cross-selling business scenarios
The content of these scenarios is light weight, rich in media and bite-sized. The idea is to educate while keeping it light, and ensure that no information gets lost in an already busy day at work.
Which leads us to our last point
3. Consistency respects the limitations of human attention span
Earlier, we spoke about marginal gains. What exactly are the mechanics that make marginal gains possible?
Bite-sized content. It is a proven fact that human attention is more fickle than a goldfish, yet we chose to sink billions of $ in wasted training content lost on employees, days after administering them.
At RapL, we specialize in delivering bite-sized content. Our microlearning authoring suite enables capability development teams to create extremely crunchy lessons that could be packed in under 60 seconds if you choose to go the “Reels / Shorts” way.
Many of our customers are now opting to ditch 10 slide PowerPoint presentations in favor of 2 minute videos. This approach warrants capability development teams to break and convert each micro-concept into a video, quiz or scenario.
Such “reels” are distributed daily, with just one concept taught everyday.
This approach serves three purposes
- Respects an employee’s attention span
- Does not overwhelm them with multiple disconnected concepts
- Empower employees to learn anywhere and at any time easily
Macrolearning vs Microlearning
The benefits of such an approach are reflected in the evidence that RapL has collected over hundreds and thousands of users in the retail space.
- 80%+ activation and engagement rates
- 90%+ mastery in core customer facing scenarios
- 40% increase in CSAT scores
- A range of 10%-20% increase in Revenue Per Employee
RapL is the chosen partner for India Retail Inc. to impede competitive forces by channeling consistent customer experiences at every touch point on offer. We’d love to learn more about your people productivity strategy for the next FY and exchange notes on our learnings, having deployed RapL across more than 200,000 users over the past 36 months.
Reach us at email@example.com and we’ll get in touch soon.
Mr. Murali Krishnan
CPO of RapL Inc
Murali Krishnan is the co-founder and Chief Product Officer (CPO) of RapL Inc. Murali is passionate about using technology to accelerate human skills development at scale. In the past two decades, he has led global software teams at Microsoft Corp., Starbucks Coffee Company, and start-ups across the consumer and enterprise sectors.
As VP of the Starbucks Digital Platform, Murali enabled millions of mobile orders and over $10 billion in payments from customers of the world’s largest coffeehouse chain. At Microsoft, Murali was a Director, leading the development of e-commerce platforms, app stores, subscriptions, payments, big data, AI, and anti-fraud systems.
Murali holds an MS in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, USA. He has a BE in Computer Science & Engineering from College of Engineering, Chennai, India. He is passionate about running marathons and is currently preparing for a Grand Canyon hike.