FORT MILL, S.C. — Training for route service representatives (RSRs) is paramount to any successful business. We all know that they’re the face of your company to your customers.
With an average route running $10,000 per week, they’re the chief operating officer (COO) of a substantial small business of $500,000 annually. Simply stated, they’re a big part of the impact on your financial results, and they do far more than just being a “driver.”
Finding and keeping top-tier RSR talent is critical.
Studies on the cost of employee turnover are all over the board. A more conservative study by the Center of American Progress (CAP) states that turnover costs a minimum of 20% of salary. For a person making $40,000 a year, that’s $8,000 in recruiting and training expenses.
Many of us can remember when a route service rep received two weeks of training with another rep before they went solo. Maybe it worked then, but it’s the “doom loop” in today’s world, and it has become extremely expensive.
Many companies wonder why their turnover is so high in the first six months. The initial onboarding training program is typically the No. 1 reason.
There are five key things to consider when it comes to route service rep training:
- Core Process, Branded Training vs. Tribal Knowledge
- Consistent Repetition vs. One and Done
- Daily Check-in Training vs. Cash-outs
- Follow-up Verification vs. “Hope They Got It”
- Route Rep-Conducted Meetings vs. Manager-Directed Meetings
CORE PROCESS, BRANDED TRAINING VS. TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE
Tribal knowledge is how most RSRs are trained in our industry. It’s passed down from the RSR or manager before them who learned from another RSR or manager before them.
If you rode on five of your routes, how many different processes would you see while servicing the customer? It’s an age-old problem in our industry.
Just recognize that the way your customers are serviced is your brand. Your route reps are your brand. Your vehicle may have the same name and logo on it, but the service you provide is how your customers perceive you. When each RSR provides a different type of service, your overall company brand is eradicated.
Review whether you have detailed documented processes for your RSRs. Are they an active part of your service team/culture, or are they a written manual sitting on the shelf collecting dust?
Look into other training options such as online service training for which the content is visual and dynamic, utilizing multiple training aids such as videos and graphics. Not everyone can learn by reading content from a manual.
Do you use one trainer for new route service reps or multiple trainers? Just make sure your route trainers are delivering the same training and communicating the same process that your company sanctions.
Finally, when your managers complete route ride training, make sure there is a documented form that the manager utilizes to observe and correct process deviations by your route service reps.
CONSISTENT REPETITION VS. ONE AND DONE
We’ve all heard the term “ongoing training.” There’s a reason.
It’s because there is always a wide range of content comprehension with adult learners. We all absorb information at a different pace. It’s rare when a person can go through a training program and achieve 100% comprehension and application.
The U.S. military is arguably the best training organization in the world. They repeat the same training tactics over and over again with their soldiers. The repetition can seem overwhelming, but they keep doing the same exercises again and again. It builds consistency and reliability.
Whatever training you provide your people, it can’t be a “one and done.” Many people need to go through the same training multiple times before the lightbulb goes on.
Our industry processes have a lot of moving parts. Even the 20-year veteran will have a new learning experience each day or week, as long as you establish an active and ongoing training environment.
DAILY CHECK-IN TRAINING VS. CASH-OUTS
The daily check-in is the classic game changer if done correctly. As mentioned, our industry has a lot of moving parts. Some call it simple, but it’s anything but simple. Just look at your RSR job description. Overseeing product inventories, renewing service agreements, delivering acceptable product quality, conveying exceptional communication, resolving service issues, requesting money for “past due” balances … and it goes on and on.
Because of the complexity of the job, daily coaching and communication between the manager and their RSR is critical. The few minutes that they debrief on how the day went and what tomorrow looks like is a training opportunity.
Look at your end-of-day communication process and ask yourself if it’s a cash-in or a high-value check-in or debriefing. Better yet, sit in on the meeting and see for yourself. A cash-in or paperwork audit can be done by your office staff. That’s the financial and administrative part.
The true value occurs when the training and coaching is performed correctly with each RSR on a daily basis.
FOLLOW-UP VERIFICATION VS. ‘HOPE THEY GOT IT’
Learners don’t always gain complete comprehension right away.
Some people need to hear a message multiple times before comprehending that message. Other people are visual learners. They need to see it firsthand. Still others are physical learners; they need to actually “do it” to internalize it.
This is why you need to follow up with the person to see that they achieved complete comprehension of the message, content or process. Viewing it firsthand is the best way, but just getting the person to recite it back to you can also be effective.
ROUTE SERVICE REP-DIRECTED MEETINGS VS. MANAGER-CONDUCTED MEETINGS
When it comes to route service meetings, peer-to-peer training provides an open setting within which route service reps can grow and learn in multiple ways.
The RSR presenter shares success stories and best practices that can create a high level of impact with fellow RSRs. Peer trust goes a long way for a message to be received in a positive manner. A good rule of thumb is that the route service reps facilitate 75% of the meeting.
A manager lecturing to the team creates a far different message. Though the manager needs to help facilitate the meeting, it doesn’t mean that they have to dominate the meeting.
Studies show that a 10% increase in workforce education level led to an 8.6% gain in total productivity, while a 10% increase in the value of equipment increased productivity just 3.4%. Don’t ever underestimate how training can impact your top-line growth and your bottom-line profit—especially when it comes to your route service reps.