Magazine Article | May 17, 2007

CBT Increases Speed Of Hardware/Software Deployment

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

A sporting goods retailer uses interactive CBT (computer-based training) tools to prepare new employees for POS, rental station, and store management tasks.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, June 2007

Implementing new technology or updating software in different geographic locations can be challenging for retailers. Not only is this difficult to maneuver, but it's time-consuming to train employees on the new software and systems. This is especially difficult in retail environments, where competition is soaring and customer service is often a differentiating factor. Retailers have various training options available, such as CBT and job aids. Using training tools can significantly reduce time and travel expenses necessary to ensure employees are prepared for new systems. Tools also help to assure customer service levels following deployment. This is what Sport Chalet, Inc. did when it upgraded its POS system.

Sport Chalet, a specialty sporting goods store in the Western United States, has been in business for 48 years, employs nearly 4,300, and has 47 retail locations. Not only does this retailer sell sporting goods merchandise, it offers more than 50 services (e.g. bicycle tune-ups, golf club fitting, backpacking, ski rentals, SCUBA certification, kayaking instruction) for sports enthusiasts. When Sport Chalet upgraded its POS hardware and software, it sought training tools to prepare employees for the upgrade. Knowing it took several months to train personnel during the initial implementation of the RetailStore Suite by Epicor|CRS just a few years ago, Epicor|CRS proposed training alternatives to Renée Hansen, manager of store systems, and Cyndi Nagel, training and recruitment supervisor at Sport Chalet.

Nagel was involved in the initial installation of the CRS RetailStore Suite, so the implementation was somewhat fresh in her mind. "The last time we rolled out new systems, we brought select employees from each store to our corporate offices to train them," says Nagel. "It was costly, cumbersome, and required a lot of follow-up because only a handful of employees received hands-on training." At that point, Sport Chalet trainers and IT personnel spent weeks after the initial training visiting stores to provide in-store support during installation. Overall, the initial deployment of the software was prolonged (only completing two to three stores a week) and involved many labor hours to complete the installation and training.

CBT Allows Employee Training Prior To Deployment
Considering the upcoming hardware upgrade (to IBM POS touch screens) and the software upgrade (to RetailStore version 3.0) would affect all POS employees, those working at the rental desk (who used a stand-alone system designed by Epicor|CRS), and store management, Hansen and Nagel thought CBT was the best way to proceed. "Using CBTs, we could deploy the hardware and software to multiple stores each week, thus shortening the time frame for system implementation," says Hansen. "It would also give the associates the opportunity to train on the system using real product and store examples — prior to equipment arrival." In fact, Hansen used these CBT training tools to learn the new system herself.

Epicor|CRS' staff worked with Hansen and Nagel to customize the CBT. After dividing the training into three sections — store management, POS transactions, and rental software, they created storyboards that translated into lessons, which were eventually included on separate CBT DVDs, so they could be used in stores whenever needed. The CBT lessons were customized for Sport Chalet processes and products. At the end of each DVD (which range from 33 minutes for POS transactions to 62 minutes for manager back office functions), a quiz was included to test associate retention. To familiarize employees with sporting merchandise, images of rentable sporting products were included on the rental CBT. Additionally, quick reference flip cards were created by Epicor|CRS that include step-by-step procedures for specific processes (e.g. how to perform a return, the information to obtain for a ski rental).

Training Enables Faster Deployment, Cost Reduction
Prior to the hardware and software deployment (which took place May through July 2006), CBT interactive DVDs were distributed to store locations, so employees could familiarize themselves with the new system before it arrived. "We deployed the upgraded equipment to approximately five stores per week using the CBTs and flip cards," says Hansen. "We were only able to do about two with the previous deployment. Furthermore, we didn't have to spend days training employees on the job, which potentially hindered customer service. We also reduced the cost and time of the rollout because there was little travel involved, which increased the speed of deployment."

Sport Chalet also uses the CBTs to train temporary staff during holidays, as well as all new employees that work with the POS, rental, or store management functions. "Not only did the CBTs reduce costs during the system deployment, new POS employees finish their CBT in approximately 40 minutes," says Nagel. "Afterwards, their hands-on training time is significantly reduced because the system and POS scenarios look familiar to them by the time they begin using the system. In addition, if an employee struggles with one function, they can easily revisit the CBT and quiz themselves."

When Sport Chalet opened a new store right after Thanksgiving of 2006, Hansen and Nagel prepared themselves and the new employees for opening day using the CBT tools. "The cashiers who used the CBTs in combination with the instructor-led training were far more prepared for opening day when compared with new cashiers on prior opening days that didn't use the CBTs," says Nagel. "Associates have a greater level of comfort using the system and refer to the quick reference flip cards, which are placed near the POS and rental stations. For example, if cashiers never completed a tax-exempt sale, when they are challenged with the first one, they recognize the function from the CBT and simply refer to the flip card for detailed steps."

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