Strong product knowledge is an essential pillar of excellent customer service. A little bit of expertise can go a long way to convert new customers, especially if they’re unfamiliar with the brand. It can be difficult, though, to keep everyone up to date on the latest and greatest, especially if your product launch cadence is on the quicker side. But with a little collaboration between corporate teams and retail leaders, everyone will be up to date on new product features and benefits.

The Frontline Leader Mindset

You want to ensure your team has the information they need to answer customer questions and address concerns. When new products arrive, you rely on corporate to pass on the information about new products so you can train your team. You want to avoid a situation where a customer knows more about your product than your team does, but there are times when communication is late or unclear. Since you aren’t sitting in the corporate office, you don’t have the benefit of seeing new products until they are close to launching. You hear information “through the grapevine,” and you’re looking for any opportunity to stay in the loop.

The Corporate Mindset

You are focused on the product development cycle and need to meet launch deadlines. After spending so much time prototyping, iterating, and finally producing a product, the front-line team must be well-equipped to sell it to customers. But you are somewhat removed from the retail teams and/or don’t have access to give them first-hand information. You would love the opportunity to interact with the retail team, not to mention customers, but it can be challenging to find the time.

Meet in the Middle

Everybody has a job to do, but siloed workplaces cause friction. Here’s how you can bridge the gap:

  • Know what’s coming: Retail leaders can get into the habit of waiting for information to come to them. If your corporate team is small, be proactive. Ask your product team if they have a calendar that they can share with you for upcoming launches. Send them a weekly or bi-monthly email to ask how things are going. Just as you would be happy to share your business goals and progress, they will be glad to share their passion for the product. Keep a calendar in the back-of-house so your team can see what’s coming and get excited about it. Be sure to clarify what information can and cannot be shared publicly (since the retail team likes to share exciting product developments with customers).
  • Be there, even if you can’t: The best place to get information is from the horse’s mouth. The retail teams love hearing directly from the product team when they are learning about what’s coming. A retail team member’s ability to tell a customer exactly why a product was built is far better than them rattling off the technical composition of the materials. If you are close enough to any stores to conduct an in-person product knowledge session, do it! If you aren’t able to be there IRL, make a video that showcases the mood boards and inspiration behind the specific product launch. Highlight any features that were added because of customer feedback or learnings from previous products. These are great stories that the retail team can use to build brand affinity with customers.
  • Feedback is a gift: Both corporate and retail leaders can work together to find a way to gather and disseminate customer feedback. Feedback from fans of the brand and early adopters is highly valuable for both teams. Whatever method you use to gather product feedback from customers, work with the product team to close the feedback loop. For example, if a customer gives feedback on a pair of pants bunching in a certain area, the product team can look at the problem and circle back with the store to explain how they are fixing it. If the retail team is aware of the adjustments, this information can make its way back to the customer the next time they come in. Then the customer is truly a part of the product development cycle.

There’s always something you can do to increase your Double//Vision.