If you’re anything like me, 2020 was not your strongest year for grooming. I wasn’t alone, either - across the world, lockdowns and restrictions in movement made it hard to visit the barber or the hairdresser. Soon enough, everyone with a beard was starting to look more and more like Tom Hanks in Castaway.
Fortunately, The Art of Shaving came to the rescue with remote in-home consultations and advice to help us stay halfway presentable. But how did they do it, exactly? What steps did they take to shift their focus from in-store experiences to virtual retail?
Recently, I chatted with Genevieve Bochanty, Director of Learning and Development at The Art of Shaving, about how the company used collaborative remote training to offer in-home grooming experiences - all from a distance.
We got started by discussing the significant challenges for the retail sector in 2020.
“Like a lot of retailers, our big challenge in 2020 has been traffic,” says Genevieve. “People were already transitioning to e-commerce before, and it has continued at pace. Now, more people are looking for ways to get everything done without leaving their homes.”
“We’re unique in the retail space, because we not only have a retail front where we sell grooming products for shaving, haircuts, and head-to-toe grooming, but we also feature experienced barbers,” she says. “We also have our e-commerce and our wholesale beyond that.”
As Genevieve explains, this focus has given rise to new challenges in 2020. “We train our people to be expert grooming consultants, and to give our customers the advice they need. But when people aren’t coming into our stores, our challenge becomes how we offer this unique value proposition of retail and in-store expertise to clients in their own homes from a distance.”
As L&D Director for The Art of Shaving, Genevieve played a key role in meeting this challenge and pivoting to remote delivery.
Related: How COVID-19 Fired Up the Transition to Collaborative Learning at Work
When people aren’t coming into our stores, our challenge becomes how we offer this unique value proposition of retail and in-store expertise to clients in their own homes.
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“One of the first things we did in response to COVID-19 was look at what we had to offer, and how we could deliver that to our clients at home,” says Genevieve. “To do that, we created two programs, which both required a mixture of new training and upskilling for our staff.”
“The Art of Shaving at Home, which was delivered mostly on social media, featured our barbers taking questions and offering guidance for people wanting to maintain their haircuts when they couldn’t get to their barbers,” says Genevieve. “People had specific questions, like how to shave with a straight razor. We worked with our barbers to answer these questions.”
For the barbers, this meant developing skills in new areas. “Our barbers are used to being behind the chair, not in front of the camera. We worked with them on how to present to an audience, and how to speak slowly. That was an exciting part of delivering the program.”
“Later, as we were able to open stores, we launched our remote one-on-one consultations,” says Genevieve. “Clients could call in and book a virtual session with either a grooming consultant or one of our barbers. Whatever help or advice people needed, we gave it to them.”
As she explains, pivoting to these remote sessions took some planning. “The main L&D challenge was how to take what our people know, which is how to speak with a customer face-to-face, and translate that into communicating over a tablet. We did a lot of tests to help people work through these difficulties, because there were definitely some technical issues.”
The constraints of remote delivery also forced Genevieve to get creative. “We had to invent some new solutions, such as having our barbers put on a black glove when lathering shaving cream so that customers could see it more easily. There were all of these tiny details we had to come up with to make sure our clients felt as if they were in-store.”
This creative approach was the result of great remote training by The Art of Shaving L&D team. For Genevieve, there was one factor that brought everything together: team collaboration.
We had to invent some new solutions, such as having our barbers put on a black glove when lathering shaving cream so that customers could see it more easily.
Pivoting from in-store to in-home experiences involved major adjustments for everyone involved. The Art of Shaving L&D team had to switch to delivering remote training, and their barbers and grooming consultants had to switch to offering remote consultations.
“Our remote training needed to be very collaborative, because while our barbers were in the store, the L&D team wasn’t there with them,” says Genevieve. “We had to get everyone on the same page, from the store managers, the L&D team, and the barbers themselves. We focused on what people needed, and how we could support them with the right tools and resources.”
As Genevieve explains, going remote was tough for some people. “Not everyone is super solid with technology, and we needed to come together as a team to offer the right help based on individual needs. It wasn’t just a question of how to engage with clients from a distance - we had to reorient our whole approach to delivering great retail experiences.”
Adopting this collaborative and supportive approach to remote training helped both the L&D team and the barbers to execute their tasks quickly and efficiently. By empowering subject-matter experts to share their knowledge and access the right tools and support, The Art of Shaving was able to delight their customers with great remote experiences.
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It wasn’t just a question of how to engage with clients from a distance - we had to reorient our whole approach to delivering great retail experiences.
To finish our discussion, Genevieve explained how the Art of Shaving L&D team is measuring the success of these two new programs.
The number one thing is to listen to our clients, and to our team members,” she says. “Their feedback is the key metric telling us whether we’re succeeding, and what we need to change.”
“After a client has booked a one-on-one session, or after they’ve engaged on social media, we reach out to them to ask about their experience. We want to know if they liked it, and whether it worked for them.”
“Once we get the feedback from our client, we link up with our team members to discuss what went well. We want to find out what the client was asking for, and whether our team members had all the information and advice they needed.”
According to Genevieve, the main focus is on clients experiencing new things. “We have KPIs focused on purchases, but we’re just as excited when clients learn new things about their grooming, like a useful new technique. That way, we can establish a long-term relationship.”
“We want our clients to walk away with a new tip, a new trick, or a new product, and to feel like they learned something exciting,” says Genevieve. “We want our team to have fun delivering these sessions too, and to feel the excitement of having a client in store.”
We want our clients to walk away with a new tip, a new trick, or a new product, and to feel like they learned something exciting. We want our team to have fun delivering these sessions too, and to feel the excitement of having a client in store.
Thanks again to Genevieve for taking the time to share her thoughts and inspiration with us!
While you’re here, check out my expert interviews with Lenn Moorhead-Rosenberg of WinCo Foods on how to support frontline staff in times of crisis, and with Felicia White of Church’s Chicken on how she achieved a 93% training completion rate during a pandemic using remote training methods.
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