In Action

Retail in North America: L’Oréal counts on the in-store personal touch

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Doriane Dalati

Doriane Dalati, Vice President and General Manager at L’Oréal, is steering the Service & Retail Academy (SRA) transformation programme in the Americas Zone as she works towards the goal of creating a unique customer experience at every point of sale (POS). She told us how she is deploying it, starting with North American beauty advisors.

Conclusive results from the Canadian SRA worldwide pilot

“We began with stores and counters that were already strong with the aim of making them excellent”

L’Oréal chose Canada as the country for the pilot version of its Service & Retail Academy (SRA) transformation programme. “Our adventure began in 2015. We spent the first half of the year co designing the content with international experts and the second half of the year on a test-and-learn phase in Toronto”, Doriane explains.  From June to December 2015, the solution was introduced at 90 POS in the nation’s business capital. “We started by training teams that were already strong with the aim of making them excellent.” It wasn’t long, she says, before retailers and major stores alike were backing the project.

This is about people, not products

SRA’s real strength lies in its collective nature. Whereas the brands might have been expecting to be briefed before heading off to do their own thing, L’Oréal opted to deploy a new approach that covered all brands and divisions. Breaking silos and creating a non-competitive spirit amongst the brands instilled a deep-rooted culture of cooperation and community. “We put everyone in the same room during these trainings: this is about people, not products”, stresses Doriane. Unlike standard trainings, which are 80% focused on product knowledge and protocols, SRA devotes itself to the development of human core competencies which have become major game changers in the world of retail today.  “People buy from people they like.”  To boost efficiency, Doriane set up a dedicated task force.  “It’s a fellowship designed to share a common goal, resources and best practices… This task force is the glue of the entire programme.” Following completion of the pilot results in Canada, other countries such as the USA, Mexico and Chile have followed suit.  “The SRA fellowship works like a non-profit but is highly profitable!”

The power of empathy

“The power of empathy is at the heart of our programme”, says Doriane, who is deeply convinced that this is the most powerful way to connect and provide a truly personalised service experience. She explains that beauty advisors must be authentic, understanding of the needs of others and demonstrate curiosity to better connect and serve. This approach has garnered support from beauty advisors and all who come into contact with SRA. “The silver lining in SRA is that we learn as much about other people as we do about ourselves. Kleenex could have sponsored a few of our sessions!” says Doriane with a smile.

ROI exceeds expectations

The first effects of the test-and-learn pilot were quickly measurable. According to Doriane: “The benefits exceeded our expectations. Based on three key performance indicators – sales productivity, customer satisfaction and POS talent retention – the 90 stores that received SRA training outscored the 90 that did not.” By the end of the year, if the current rate is kept up, three-quarters of L’Oréal’s selective divisions in Canada will have received training.

USA: moving fast and furious

We needed to show them how well the programme had worked in Canada”

After proving itself in Canada, the programme began to be applied in the USA in 2017, with the ambition to reach close to some 19,000 customer advisors in 2018. “The US market is much bigger and more complex than its Canadian neighbour, so we had to make some adjustments”, stresses Doriane. The first of these was to set up a taskforce comprising the most senior and influential training managers. Based in New York and Los Angeles, the taskforce members meet regularly to talk about best practices. “They had already put in place processes that they felt worked well, so getting them excited about SRA was certainly a challenge: we needed to show them how well the programme had worked in Canada.”

“From employees to top managers, the entire company is engaged”

Lancôme, one of L’Oréal Luxe’s most influential brands in the States, is setting an example for the rest of the Group to follow. By opening their seasonal trainings to other brands, they enable smaller sister brands to benefit from shared resources. “It’s all for one and one for all!” says Doriane. “In the US more than elsewhere, they take a very methodical approach. Before doing anything, you’ve got to prove yourself and supply supporting data.” With that stage successfully completed, Doriane says she has been impressed by the firm’s holistic approach: “From beauty advisors to top managers, the entire company is engaged.” At each POS, the SRA training course gets 90 days to succeed and show that the method works. “Coaches follow the teams, monitoring developments and helping them to get accreditation. They use training cards to keep a record of all progress.”

Excellence also means remembering that there is always room for improvement. Doriane is well aware of this: “We’ve got to keep working to make sure that our beauty advisors continue to achieve excellence in their accreditation.” And to get accreditation, they must demonstrate over the course of 3-6 months a systemic set of new behaviours.

Latin America: Full Swing

“There is something refreshingly new in the air when we launch in a country” says Doriane. “Our environment is going more digital all the time, so we have to keep picking up the pace. We are watching what is going on in South America closely, with projects already underway in Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil. By the end of 2020, the aim is to deploy the programme everywhere L’Oréal does business, always with the same guiding idea – to keep the focus on the people behind the product. L’Oréal’s entire organisation should embrace this approach: you have to get your people on board to promote your products.”

Human capital | May 2018