Updated: The Proof is in the Training


After my rant yesterday (see below) that incidentally was not posted on Harper’s comments section, I decided to write a PC comment about the article. Here is what I just posted: "This is a very interesting study and a hugely important boost for both the WSET and the premium Spirits industry. Although the study involves only thirty people and is of relatively short duration it provides convincing preliminary data that I am sure will justify more rigorous study not only in Spirits but also in the Premium wine market."

Original Post Below:

You’ve heard of the expression “the proof of the pudding is in the eating?” Well there is now good evidence from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) that the proof of the spirits is in the training. The research carried out by WSET in partnership with Living Ventures and William Grant & Sons (incidentally, the makers of Hendricks premium gin) is based on a controlled study (actually not so well controlled) conducted to assess the impact of the WSET Level 2 Award in Spirits training on the sales performance of customer-facing UK on-trade workers (meaning bartenders in hotels and restaurants).

The research involved paired employees from the same locale, one of whom had received the WSET training from a WSET Approved Program Provider (APP) and one who had not, that group was selected as the “control group.” Sales data, which was analyzed for each participant for the three months pre- and –post training, revealed that the trained group increased its premium sales share by an average of 4.9% versus a drop for the control group of 10%. The WSET attributed this overall drop to seasonal changes (remember I said it was not so well-controlled).

“Combining those figures shows that the trained group outperformed the control group by 16.9% in the post-training period, proving that following training, staff’s improved product knowledge increased their confidence to encourage customers to choose a premium spirit, according to Graham Cox, business development director, WSET UK.”

“Many think training is an expensive cost and they won’t see the benefits of it in their business, but the more staff understands a business’ products the better they will perform.”

This article is 100% typical of what I call “pseudo-science.” First, look at the participants of the study, the WSET, William Grant, the makers of premium spirits and Living Ventures an employee company. They set out to ‘prove’ what they already knew. Three interested parties with completely vested interests. Talk about the pharmaceutical industry! Secondly, the sample size of 15 pairs over three months is way too small to draw any conclusions and although the magic words “controlled study” were used, it was clearly not controlled for seasonal variation.

So let’s drop the term “study” and simply say that training by the WSET in Spirits increases the sales of premium liquor – No Duh!

Education, NewsAndrew Hodson