Quit Complaining And Just Do The Bloody Training

Franchisee Columnist Todd Michaud has spent the last 16 years trying to fight IT issues, with the last six years focused on franchisee IT issues. He is currently responsible for IT at Focus Brands (Cinnabon, Carvel, Schlotzsky's and Moe's Southwestern Grill).

Technology training is about as popular as a die-hard Lakers fan in a South Boston bar. It also costs money. A good chunk of money. When you take something people don't like and then make it cost what the operator believes is a lot of money, you end up trying to cram the proverbial 10 pounds of stuff into a 5 pound bag.

When it comes to running a restaurant, investing time and money into learning the store's technology can mean the difference between a money-making hit and a bankruptcy-inducing nightmare. Technology plays a critical role in both the front and the back office. I am befuddled by the notion that the same operators who clamor for a Limited Time Offer that may bump sales 1 percent won't invest their energy in systems they already own that could easily save them 3 to 5 percent.

"There is absolutely no way an operator can be trained on this system in just a single day." No kidding. This particular system runs 80 percent of all the restaurant's front- and back-office operations. Where and when did we actually think that trying to train users on the system in one day was a good idea? No wonder the franchisees are not happy with it.

Customer: "I can't afford to pay for the recommended training and I'm not really a 'classroom' kinda guy. Couldn't you just give me the manual and I can figure it out on my own?"

Provider: "I'm sorry sir, but our skydiving school requires that you attend the mandatory training prior to jumping out of an airplane at 15,000 feet."

Customer: "Well, can't you give me a deal then? I mean, this is a lot of money. There has to be something you can do."

Provider: "You're right. Maybe the plane doesn't need its next scheduled maintenance. And come to think of it, we could get a couple of high school interns to pack the chutes, too. Then I could give you a discount."

Customer: "Perfect!"

As an IT person, I have a hard time relating to people who do not like technical training. If someone stopped by my office and handed me a piece of technology and said--"Here is a new piece of technology. I'm going to train you how to use it. Use it well, and you will get a 3 percent raise."--I can guarantee I would learn that technology inside and out. I would soak up any and all training. I would be the guy trying to figure out how I could use that technology to get a 6 percent raise.

But many people are intimidated or put off by technology. They just don't want to deal with it. They would rather do anything else. They will write off the raise in exchange for not dealing with something that makes them uncomfortable.

Then there is the cost. Depending on the type of training--private in the restaurant, classroom style, e-learning, etc.--the costs and impact vary wildly. Typically, the best approach is a blend of two or more of these techniques. Some things are better taught in a restaurant atmosphere, others in a classroom setting, still others online. Comprehensive multi-tool approaches can be extremely effective, but they are also expensive. Most people will tell you that approach is the right one to take, but very few are willing to pay for it.

With complex systems, timing is also an important factor. If you train operators on how to run a report that shows food cost but they don't use it again for 30 to 60 days, they are likely to forget the steps. On the flip side, if you try to train users on complicated topics the day before the restaurant opens, those operators may be distracted with all the other things that happen when opening a store.

Lastly, the audience being trained is very important. Some training materials may be geared toward the franchisee, while others are for general restaurant management and still others may be crew-focused. The people in each of these roles are likely to have different learning styles, too. A younger cashier may be more comfortable with an online class, whereas a semi-retired store manager may want hands-on in-restaurant training.

So how do you address this situation? Here are a few of my recommendations:<ul

  • Make all training results-based. Don't worry about explaining features and functionality; focus on how to deliver value to the business. (Example: Don't show users where the inventory variance report is, show them how to find and remove variances; it saves money.)
  • Don't start with a price point and see how much you can "cram into it." Training costs are important, but they should not be the first factor considered. (Example: If $2,000 can effectively turn the computer on the counter into a POS instead of a basic cash register, it's a worthwhile investment.)
  • In my experience, very few people enjoy classroom training. The reality is that, in many cases, it is the most effective way to learn. Just because classroom training is not "liked" doesn't mean it shouldn't be used.
  • Create "certification" and then provide incentives to be certified (Example: Discounted support costs.)

    When it comes to technology training, I think that if you focus on the value the technology will provide when fully utilized versus the cost and the time of that investment, you will ultimately achieve more success. Service providers need to stop being afraid of training. They should not allow their customers to shoot themselves in the foot, even if it means losing the deal.

    What are your thoughts? I'd love to gain some additional perspectives. Leave a comment, or E-mail me at [email protected]. You can also follow me on Twitter: @todd_michaud.

    And don't forget to follow my Ironman training progress at www.IronGeek.me.

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