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Grupo Cortefiel is a success, no bones around it. The retailer began life as a small family clothing store in Madrid in 1880, and now operates in 73 countries, with some 2,000 store locations and a thriving e-commerce business across its four brands: Cortefiel (stylish casual for men and women ages 35-45); Pedro del Hierro (dressier, trendier); Springfield (relaxed casual aimed at 20-30-year-olds); and Women’secret (what it sounds like, lingerie, sleepwear and swimwear). There is also Fifty Factory, an outlet chain selling all four brands. Total company sales in 2012 were about $1.3 billion.

In addition to the stores (staffed by more than 9,000 employees), each of the brands has its own active online channel, design team and sales and management structure. Corporate functions, including administration, finance, human resources, technology, expansion and sourcing, are centralized at headquarters in Madrid.

Keeping score

Like all bricks-and-mortar retail operations, the success or failure of Grupo Cortefiel’s chains ultimately rests in the hands of sales associates. To help train its far-flung army, the company is using QuizScore, a two-way internal communications tool from Multimedia Plus. QuizScore enables retailers to post product information, store procedures and other training materials for associates, and also to monitor the way associates interact with the training materials.

“We’re seeing a lot of traction right now,” says David Harouche, president of Multimedia Plus, “because the focus of all of our clients is really about the customer experience, and how you deliver on the omnichannel experience in the stores. One of the big challenges is that nowadays your customers walk in knowing more than your associates.”

“What [QuizScore] really allows you to do,” he says, “is not only to provide content in a media-rich way with your associates, but … to see exactly who’s gone through the training — by region, by district, by store and by employee.”

In other words, management can not only see who’s completed a training program, it can see how they did. The system has question-level detail, allowing store managers to see how many seconds it took an associate to answer a given question, as well as which questions he answered correctly or incorrectly.

If you’re managing a multinational, multilingual, multicultural sales force on four continents, this is useful information to have. Grupo Cortefiel is currently using the Multimedia Plus solution in 200 company-owned stores in 15 countries, including Russia, France and Mexico.

“Because of the system’s capabilities, we’re considering a second-stage rollout to the rest of the countries where we operate, not only to our directly-owned stores but to our franchisees,” says Diego Charola, Grupo Cortefiel’s human resources general manager.

Key performance indicators

A big part of this decision, Charola says, and one of the primary reasons Grupo Cortefiel went with QuizScore in the first place, is the ability to monitor associate training at various levels — country, region, store — and view it side-by-side with store performance.

“All our training software is linked to specific [key performance indicators] to help us evaluate the success or failure of the program,” he says. “In addition, we compare the training evaluation system with an audit of the sales point to give us the complete picture. The evaluations made so far have been extremely useful. They’ve helped us identify areas for improvement at a number of levels, from general procedures to very specific issues in the stores.”

One of those issues, of course, is turnover. In the United States, median sales associate turnover is about 67 percent for part-time employees and perhaps half that for those working full time. “Those ratios are different for every country, depending on the local labor market,” Charola says. “However, we are developing strategies to identify talent even among people with a part-time contract, partly by noting which ones do exceptionally well on the QuizScore training. Our goal is to be able to hold onto them by offering them an attractive career path within the company.”

Multimedia Plus has one retail client that “compared new hires in their first quarter of employment who went through their sales training versus those who did not,” Harouche says. “They had a high turnover rate going on, so they had a lot of new hires, and thus plenty of data to work with. Over five consecutive quarters, they found that new associates who received the training averaged 30 percent higher sales for the quarter than employees who did not.”

Woodsman, spare that tree

An ancillary benefit some retailers see from QuizScore, says Harouche, is the ability to replace printed product literature and other documents. “One thing that helps streamline the video training is that the video content downloads directly into the app itself, so it’s a non-streaming solution.

“Throughout retail, everyone runs into the same issue, that bandwidth is a concern,” he says. “We have several clients who’ve told me that by using the system to replace documents they were printing, they’re saving over $300,000 a year.”

The real payoff appears to lie in the system’s ability to deliver always-current tailored training (the content can be revised and updated as often as necessary), monitor its use and measure the results.

“We rolled out QuizScore training to give tools related to products, process and procedures to our store staff, and to link the use of those tools to the operational management of our stores,” says Charola. “We are currently improving our training for new staff in customer care and cross-selling. We’re also making heavy use of QuizScore’s tools for the presentation of new collections and seasonal specials.”

A retailer can “create the best training programs in the world and put them on your website. But if the associates in your store never see that material, it’s not going to impact your business,” Harouche says. “This is where we close the loop, in making sure that not only are we putting some great information out there, but that the associates and the stores are actually using it.”

And, apparently, liking it. “The software has been welcomed by our store teams at all levels,” Charola says. “It’s quick to learn, they can see it’s directly applicable to what they actually do and the training can be easily adapted to their daily work requirements. Our experience with it so far has been terrific. It has permitted us to evolve significantly at managing the way we train our store teams. We’re seeing progress both in quality and results.”