Trade Thoughts: Should there be an industry-wide standard of training for selling mobility equipment?
How important to do you think training is amongst staff in the mobility industry? Do you think the standard is high enough? THIIS asked some leaders in the mobility and access sector to discuss their thoughts about whether there should an industry-wide standard of training be required for selling mobility equipment…
All thoughts were submitted to THIIS in October 2021…
David Morgan, Managing Director of Snowdrop Independent Living
“Most professions have a professional or chartered body that ensures that standards are consistent and complied with. In many cases, these standards are about attaining a minimum standard, and many of us in the mobility industry strive to achieve extraordinary standards.
“It seems sensible that this should be the case when it comes to the mobility industry which is committed to maintaining people’s wellbeing, but it isn’t.
“With there being no set standards, we as an industry, have to police ourselves, Snowdrop’s training regime aims to keep our staff at the highest level of ability and knowledge.
“We believe that mobility industry retail staff should be committed to providing the highest possible level of customer care. To enable them to do that, at Snowdrop, we have developed intensive training at induction.
“Our Induction training includes essential Health and Safety, Falls Prevention and Risk Assessment to cover the basics of safeguarding our staff and customers. “As an ongoing effort to gain better understanding of our customers’ needs, programmes such as Dementia Friends and Autism Awareness are a part of the continuation training for all of our staff.
“We work with occupational therapists on a regular basis and Trusted Assessor Courses were introduced to key members of staff to enable us to work on home adaptation projects.
“As we grow, one of our ambitions is to develop a Snowdrop Mobility Staff Academy, to ensure the best consistent advice across our locations, a number of manufactures and distributors are already committed to support us.”
Mike Williams, Managing Director of Ableworld
“As advances in mobility equipment continue to grow at pace many of us now question the level of training that is provided for those selling the products that should assist and enhance the customers’ quality of living and whether this should meet an industry standard.
“These products are essential tools and, just like any other tools, will perform best when the customer knows how to use them properly. Set up and instruction are key upon purchase so getting the right advice at this stage is hugely important. The supply of wrong mobility products can have a detrimental effect and worsen rather than improve the customer’s condition.
“At Ableworld it is essential that all team members get complete and thorough training to use and sell the equipment available. A huge part of this is demonstrated in our ethical policy whereby larger items such as beds, chairs, and scooters are not available to purchase online. Customers can shop in-store for these items or can arrange a home demonstration to ensure that the equipment provided is best suited to the customer’s needs.
“With new products regularly launched onto the market, training needs to be continuous and many of our suppliers happily help out to ensure that the correct training is communicated to the team.
“To introduce an industry standard would serve to protect customers, increase industry knowledge of colleagues, which in turn provides career progression, and build brand reputation. The staff in front of the customers’ are key to providing the highest level of service and introducing industry standard training should be a priority to ensure this is consistent.
“This is the level of training that Ableworld currently provides to all staff and these values are and will continue to be at the core of Ableworld as a business.”
Billy Finnie, Operations Manager at Mobility Scotland
“I think this is a great shout and long overdue so my answer would be yes. A consistent and structured programme which covered key and high impact equipment, coupled to a mandatory number of hours per year with regular refresher courses would be fantastic and just what the industry needs.
“What a shot in the arm it would be for the industry ensuring trained knowledgeable and passionate staff were delivering a high level of product knowledge, recommendations and best practice to their customer base who would be so receptive, grateful and confident in their decision to make an informed purchase it would be the first, long awaited steps towards industry regulation and there would be no better time to start working towards regulation as the whole world is trying to reset itself after covid induced mayhem, change now would be good and easier to achieve.
“As practitioners within the industry and stakeholders within our businesses we regularly provide expert advice so training is crucial and the more we know the more powerful our people and businesses become and the more value we can add to the customer and enhance the credibility of the industry.
“The industry has taken a bit of a kicking over the last 10 years as the perpetual race to bottom delivered negative consequences, bad practice, little training, unsustainably low prices, poor service levels, resulting in ill-informed consumer choices and inappropriate buys.
“In fairness though, for many businesses training is standard practice but how good would it be if this was standardised and rolled out uniformly as modules. Mobility Scotland provide training to all staff, it averages around 55 hours per year, (national average being circa 35) driven in-house with the support of our trade partners. As employers we owe it to not just the customer but staff to aid their development and help create dynamic, passionate and value adding individuals who can make a real difference in all they do.”
Alastair Gibbs, Managing Director of TPG DisableAids
“The age old problem of standards and quality versus margin and volume is never more in focus than when the subject of training comes to the fore.
My personal view is clear, we must invest in staff training without hesitation to ensure that we equip our people with the correct practical and theoretical knowledge to go out and represent us in the correct manner.
“Firstly, our industry has a responsibility to our clientele to assess, advise and train them in the safe and effective use of their mobility products. This ensures no harm is done to them personally or to the environment in which they need to be mobile. Poor assessment or poor handover is only going to result in later problems of customer dissatisfaction which may in turn lead to them causing problems for other pedestrians or road users.
“Secondly, as business owners or managers, we have a responsibility to our staff. I would certainly not want to be put in a situation where I was in front of a customer trying to wing it, or struggling for answers due to lack of knowledge. It would be embarrassing and irresponsible. So if I would not like it, why should I put a member of staff in that position ? It is also likely to lead to staff unrest which in turn is not going to result in the best sales performance.
“The combination of these two factors will almost certainly affect the bottom line. A knowledgeable and competent sales assessor is always going to be more successful than an untrained order taker.
“How to measure or control this level of training is often a problem in itself. I would, in the first instance, like to see all manufacturers or importers take some of that responsibility. It should be a condition of sale that if you want to buy their products you must take their training.
“In addition to that I believe the DLF ‘Trusted Assessor’ qualification is a real essential to ensure a thorough knowledge and understanding of who we are selling to and their limitations or constraints. The investment in training therefore is an investment in ‘Doing the right thing’.“
Matthew James, Director of Precision Rehab
“Yes, 100 per cent there should be an industry-wide standard of training, even very basic products should be prescribed by trained staff. At Precision Rehab we supply specialist powerchairs and all our staff are factory trained by the manufacturer including completing training courses by the manufacturers and postural training from healthcare professionals.
“We supply complex powerchairs to clients that have complex needs so it is vital that our staff are not only trained on the products and controls but how to meet the postural needs of the individuals we are assessing.
“We work closely with healthcare professionals such as Occupational and Physiotherapists and attend training where possible, we also ask if the client’s therapist can attend our assessment so we can work together to ensure the product is not only suitable but meets their complex needs.
“Working in this way not only reassures the client, their care team and family that they are receiving the best advice and the product suits all their needs it also prevents costly mistakes that often cost companies money to correct if the product is not correctly prescribed.
“This can also have a negative reflection on the company as in our industry people buy from people and companies they can trust that have a good reputation and this is why we believe training is vitally important and worth every penny when investing in training for all staff members!
“Personally I feel more needs to be done in our industry to ensure all companies meet a required standard of training to be able to prescribe all mobility products. All too often, we see examples of bad and poor practice, we are members on the BHTA (British Healthcare Trades Association) and feel all mobility suppliers should join and adhere to their ‘Code of Conduct’ before being allowed to provide mobility products, almost like Gas Safe!”https://thiis.co.uk/trade-thoughts-should-there-be-an-industry-wide-standard-of-training-for-selling-mobility-equipment/https://thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/PWMStraining.jpghttps://thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/PWMStraining-150x150.jpgAnalysis & InsightsNewsroomTrade ThoughtsAbleworld,access,Industry,Mobility,mobility scotland,Precision Rehab,Snowdrop Independent Living,TPG DisableAids,trade thoughts,trainingHow important to do you think training is amongst staff in the mobility industry? Do you think the standard is high enough? THIIS asked some leaders in the mobility and access sector to discuss their thoughts about whether there should an industry-wide standard of training be required for selling...Liane McIvorLiane McIvorliane@thiis.co.ukAdministratorTHIIS Magazine