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Proper Certification Key to Future in Tanning: As professional standards increase, so should operator training

Monday, October 14th, 2019

Training is training, right? Not according to successful tanning salons in today’s market. In fact, many successful business leaders will tell you that their operator training is arguably the most important part of ensuring a customer’s positive experience.

Amy Ringler has been driving her family-run tanning salon with the passion one would hope to see in any successful business. As the manager of Midas Touch Golden Tans, in Emporia, Kansas, Amy has a strong opinion on the level of customer service that should be expected by her patrons.

“The customer experience is enhanced because they feel so well cared for. We have ears and hands and hearts to help whatever questions the customer might ask,” Ringler says. “We have the knowledge, skills, and compassion behind it all. Smart Tan certification helps our team provide and intensify consumer confidence. The Smart Tan certificate on the wall shows our customers that their tanning experience is handled with caring confidence.”

Ringler is no stranger to operator training. She has been certified in Smart Tan’s Master Certification Program and has attended dozens of educational sessions over the years at annual trade shows and educational conferences.

“When we started we used to sit in a workshop with Joe Levy. As the years have gone on, everything’s online,” Ringler says. “My dad started the salon and we grew up hearing from him that knowledge is power. Put our noses in the books. He’s always pushed education first, from our staff to customers.”

On the other hand, Melene Hatcher has only been in the industry a few years, but it didn’t take her long to realize the importance of proper training. She first got involved with Ocean Rayz tanning salon in a consulting role, analyzing the business in search of potential improvements. With no previous experience in indoor tanning, she began her usual consultative process of researching the industry, as well as examining the business.

She read about Smart Tan training online, and tried the UV Certification herself, as well as the other training program that Ocean Rayz employees were using at the time. After testing both courses head to head, she knew that one important change for the four-salon business would be the switch to Smart Tan training.

“After I took them both I decided I liked Smart Tan’s course. It was much more comprehensive, and I felt a lot more confident that if our employees passed that, then they’d offer better customer service. We had all our employees recertified with Smart Tan,” Hatcher says.

“I think Smart Tan is the best training possible for our employees. We try to offer the best customer service, the best training, best equipment, best perks for members. It’s important to me to be the best.”

So, what is it about Smart Tan training that has industry veterans continuing to sing its praises and made an outside consultant demanded the change?

While there are a number of reasons, the most prominent feature of Smart Tan training that distinguishes it from the competition is its behavior-based design, constructed to meet the standards of the world’s most respected authority on training assessment systems.

“There are a lot of poorly produced certification programs that teach industry jargon and list information, yet don’t have any qualifications to ensure their effectiveness on impacting how an operator actually does their job. Smart Tan worked with training experts from outside the industry to ensure that our training accomplishes the objectives necessary to operate a professional tanning salon,” says Smart Tan CEO Matt Russell.

“Behavior-based training is the highest standard for any advanced market, and Smart Tan is the only program in our market that meets those standards. It takes a lot of time and money to develop a training program at this level, and Smart Tan has invested more than $1 million and spent two years in the behavior-based development process. Development is critically detailed – presentation, reinforcement, with a planned and appropriate level of redundancy without wasting people’s time. We don’t get into long analogies that aren’t core to what you need to learn. It’s educational and informative, yet still captures the attention of the student. That’s all part of effective educational design.”

Evolving with the Industry

After more than 20 years of training evolution and 14 major revisions to the training program, Smart Tan’s flagship certification had seemingly reached the limits of innovation from a knowledge-based perspective. But Russell new the market needed more. With ever-increasing consumer scrutiny and government regulations, tanning business operators needed to be supremely confident in their employees’ ability to transfer information from training into results on the job. In today’s professional tanning salon market, poorly trained operators will keep salon businesses from reaching their true potential.

“If you go back to the fundamental purpose of training, it’s not just so operators can sound knowledgeable to a customer. To succeed as training providers, we must change that operator’s behavior to where they are following through with the carefully developed measures in the Smart Tan training program,” Russell says. “Measures that ensure the consumer receives an excellent UV tanning result, while minimizing the risk of sunburn and other potential problems.”

Smart Tan brought in consultants to find out how to create a multimedia, multidimensional, behavior-based training platform to create the best consumer experience by changing the behavior of professional operators.

“We’ve always had the most informative training in the market, but with the direction the industry was headed, we knew we needed to help professional salons reach the level of professionalism found in so many other mature markets,” Russell says.

One of the consultants Smart Tan brought in was from the most prominent institute in standard and conformity assessment systems. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) provides consulting for development assessments for more than 270,000 organizations, including government agencies, companies and academic and international bodies. ANSI was complimentary of Smart Tan’s training overall, but acknowledged that their standards favor behavior-based modules, rather than the knowledge-based structure of Smart Tan’s certifications at the time.

“He encouraged us to completely rebuild from ground zero, with how we approach presenting every piece of information,” Russell says.

So, Smart Tan went to work, reengineering its training platform to meet the behavior-based standards of ANSI. It was a process that took more than two years for the initial development, and updates are made regularly.

The ANSI consultant audited everything written in the training, how it was created, how it evaluates, the design format, and how we it presents information. One key factor in ANSI’s standards is gearing training to accomplish specific objectives, so Smart Tan worked with salon owners to determine the most important objectives necessary for salon operations.

“Everything in the book, in the videos, in the interactive sections, and written in the tests, is built around the 32 key objectives we identified that need to be addressed in salons. We went to the market and asked panels of our stakeholders, our longest serving customers, exactly what they needed to address in the salons,” Russell says.

“We tailored everything back to that. It was a change in culture to presenting training in a format that’s designed to be effective and continue to improve. There’s no other tanning training that’s built like that.”

The result is the current Interactive UV Tanning Certification. This program is designed to go beyond the simple science of tanning and teach employees how to properly utilize the tools and information with which they are provided. It’s the only operator training that goes beyond conventional knowledge-based training, offering an interactive format and behavior-based design that puts operators through exercises that will change the way they interact with customers. The ultimate goal of Smart Tan’s Interactive UV Tanning Certification is to show your customers, with every interaction, that your salon’s operators are trained to act.

Smart Tan’s Interactive UV Certification is the industry’s only fully interactive multi-media training that keeps employees engaged, educates them effectively, helps them apply their knowledge accurately and tests them to make sure they’ve comprehended the information successfully.


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