HR Training : The Importance of Product Knowledge

Sabira Ranjit

The Human Resources (HR) department is taken as the people department i.e. anything related to the people of the organization goes to HR, connects with HR, and is the responsibility of HR.

What are the expectations that the company holds from HR?

From pre-hiring processes to off-boarding of the staff and whatever lies in between.

Training is the part that lies in between onboarding and off-boarding. It is encouraging that in Nepal many owners/promoters of the companies are now aware of the importance of the HR department.

While the necessity of HR department is getting recognized in Nepal, we can hear some of the Executive members talking about the importance of the training that HR conducts.

Here are a few things that every HR might have heard from the top management level:
– Train the people on service
– Train the people to upsell
– Train the people to communicate
– Train the people to maximize the revenue and so on.

Here, I would love to share my experience in Product Knowledge.

Product knowledge is one of the essential factors required to have your products sold for the revenue to be generated. There are many departments in an establishment, some are considered the front of the house, whereas the rest are the back of the house.

Usually “front of the house” staff is the one who gets to connect with the client and get an opportunity to express the product to get them sold out. When it comes to selling, usually Sales & Marketing teams are considered to be the ones to have sales calls and to approach the market.

Even some companies conduct special training for them to have sound product knowledge. And they attend the sales fairs to promote the products they are associated with.

Product knowledge is an essential sales skill. Sound understanding of the product leads the salesperson to explain the products to the consumer the right way. His explanation includes:
– effectiveness of the product
– advantages of the product
– disadvantage if any
– proper use of the product
– maintenance of the product and every fact about the product

But my mind whines thinking, “Are people in Sales & Marketing are the only ones who are responsible for the revenue generation? To know the product better? And to remain the brand ambassador?”

Here goes my experience on Product Knowledge:
When I first joined my first company abroad, it was a hotel and they told me I had to go through 3 days of orientation program before starting my job.
I was wondering what that orientation meant and why three long days. Anyway, rule is a rule so I had to abide.

I want to elaborate more on those three days:
On the first day, we had an intense introduction of the company, its mottos, values, and vision.

On the second day, every department head came to us and explained their administration and operational function.

On the third day and the best day, we were taken to the café. We were treated as a guest, moreover, we were explained about the service, food, and how the monthly themes of the café are made and after the food, we had a hotel tour/show around.

With the knowledge of departmental function, it was much clearer for me to understand to whom to reach out in what context.

Besides, the great part was to understand what products we are selling. The dine-in during the orientation and show around gave me a clear idea of what we have as a product. The knowledge was not limited to the orientation program but, it got expanded as programs like:

Coffee with The GM: where few staff from each department get to sit with the general manager (GM) and have a coffee with snacks in one of the outlets of the hotel itself.

A Colleague of the Month: where best colleagues from the department are recognized over a hi-tea program.

Annual Party: where a hall in a hotel is used, with entertain activities followed by dinner where the food of the hotel is being served to all the staff.

Guest Food to the Cafeteria: The leftover of the guest buffet was shared with the cafeteria, and staff get to taste the menus.

Discounts on Products: Most, importantly during the off-season, they promote staff to use the facilities with good discounts. Either be it in the sister company or where we are employed.

Friends & Family Discount: We are eligible to provide our friends and family referred so they can avail 50% discount on the products.

Recognition Programs: Some recognition programs provide “dine-in” in any of the outlet or for a hotel stay.

Commission & Incentive Offer: Any employee who promotes or refer guest during the promotional times would get a certain commission or an incentive.
With all the above, knowing or unknowingly I was getting product knowledge and even being the secondary customer to my employer. I used to go talk about my restaurants and food to my friends and acquaintances and refer them with even discounts. I bet not only myself, but other back-of-house colleagues were also inspired and became brand ambassadors for the company.

My employer considers the employee as his potential customer as well. Since they were given benefits of discounts, during the off-season, the employees become their guests and their referrals to friends and families draw the revenue to the company. They could explain better about the product to their friend, family, and acquaintances as they are exposed to the product knowledge. So regardless of being back of house staff or front of the house staff, anyone could take part in the revenue generation.

I would say, I loved my company, and the experience I had there was great!
Let’s get back to Nepal:

Yes as my employer wants HR to train people on service, upselling, communication, and revenue generation, some HR might feel handicapped.
The challenges here are:

Training on Service: If you never know how it feels when you are pricked, you cannot explain.

Training on Upselling: If you do not understand the facts of the product, how to upsell.

Training on Communication: If you never use the item, upon what confidence level, you will communicate

Training on Revenue Generation: If you do not have any of the above’s knowledge, revenue generation seems hard.

I found out that the top-level management does not want to let their employees experience the products. Even some of them think, “Oh my employee is showing off using our product,” how daring. I bet many of you have experienced this. They think spending on employees is wasting money. They consider salary as the only compensation. Giving benefits and discounts is an extra burden to the company. That’s why their S&M team struggles to promote the product and raise sales.
It is even more difficult for HR if the top management is not convinced that their employee is the first people to understand and use their product. If there are management who do understand, Great!

If not, Alas! It’s their loss. So, before we train the staff on product knowledge, the top management level must be educated that letting the staff experience the product is the must.

Ranjit is HR Manager at Kathmandu Guest House & Hard Rock Cafe.

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