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John Lewis staff receiving theatrical training to aid CX

Customer experience (CX) is the buzz-phrase of the moment in retail, and John Lewis is looking to improve its CX offering by providing staff with theatrical lessons.

Over 500 of its staff – known as partners – are being trained by actors working for the National Theatre in an attempt to help improve their customer service skills.

Everyone who has been recruited to work at the department store chain’s new shop at Westfield London in White City – from those in stockroom roles to the head of the branch, Ruth Scharvona – are receiving the training, which is run by Theatreworks.

The retailer says the initiative is part of its plans to respond to growing customer expectation for its shops provide style advice, events and beauty treatments, as well as to buy products. The training sessions cover voice and body language skills, which John Lewis hopes will help its staff when they interact with consumers in store.

Peter Cross, CX director at John Lewis, commented: “Retailers have talked about 'retail theatre' but as shopping habits change this has never been more important.

“We're investing in this training with one of the world's leading theatre companies because actors are outstanding communicators and that's an important element in offering outstanding personal service.”

The new store, which will be the anchor to Westfield’s £600 million extension of its original London shopping centre, will cover four floors and include features not offered in other John Lewis London destinations. Loved& Found, a standalone boutique for new and contemporary brands, and in-house spa concept, &Beauty, will have a home there.

Sheila Chawla from the National Theatre, who manages the acting training, explained that John Lewis staff can expect to learn multiple new skills from the classes.

“Our training sessions focus on the idea that communication is made up of not just what you say but how you say it,” she said.

“So body language, voice and expression are all as important as our words. We all find it more engaging when someone brings some of their personality to a conversation, meeting or presentation – and our training is all about giving you the confidence and the tools to do that. It's all about being yourself just with a bit more skill.”