How to Convert Employee Training Into a Better Delivery of Customer Experience

Mike Ashton
Posted: 01/10/2016

Whether it’s a customer experience, marketing or data & analytics conference, we always seem to end up talking about how to manage change in our organisation; how to encourage and inspire people to change the way they behave to deliver a better experience that drives sales revenue.

The type of change varies enormously, for example reacting faster to changing customer demands; handling customer communication more consistently across channels; capitalising on the potential of new technologies etc., but the challenge remains the same: How to evolve (or transform) the way we work to be more competitive and achieve our goals?

Many solutions are suggested including:

  • Being more focussed on understanding emerging customer needs
  • Getting better at engaging, inspiring and motivating staff
  • Being more collaborative and cohesive across departments and channels

In this article I’d like to focus one the most frequently offered solutions: Using training to equip staff with the knowledge and skills they need to transform performance.

It’s clear from the amount of money and time invested in this area that training or learning & development is seen as an important priority.

Worryingly thought, surveys highlight that as little as 10 per cent (or even less) of training activity converts to in-job performance – meaning some 90 per cent of our corporate investment in training could well be wasted.

SEE ALSO: Interview With Jack Upton, the UK Director, Training, Education and Customer Services at McDonald's

In what other area of business is such waste considered acceptable or performance so poorly assessed?

The question is, why is the conversion rate from classroom to in-job performance so low and what can be done to fix it?

We’ve identified 6 main Blockers that will undermine the impact of any training if they not identifies and addressed.

Here are the Blockers and some top line suggestions on how you can begin to address them:

  • Top level alignment: CX training almost inevitably encourages people to develop solutions that extend beyond their immediate department boundaries. It’s therefore essential that senior managers across an organisation collaborate to create an environment where change can flourish and training investment can bear fruit. Working towards common goals and applying a cross-function and solution-led approach to training is extremely effective.
  • Management engagement: When line managers get involved in training activity the impact is far reaching and immediate.

    Here are 3 specific ways to generate powerful results:

    1) Pre-training: Discuss with participants the reason for training and what’s expected afterwards. Get familiar with the training and agree some clear performance goals.

    2) In-training: Where possible attend and participate and NEVER interrupt the training with calls, emails and requests. This impact of active participation is transformative.

    3) Post training: Immediate conversations to assess understanding, agree priorities, and on-going support will produce immediate payback.
  • Inflexible processes: Why send someone on a training programme to develop skills that are difficult or impossible to implement because of inflexible systems and processes? Before embarking on training in a specific area, think about the behaviour that’s likely to emerge and how this might be frustrated by current working practices such as decision making levels, sign-off procedures and innovation process and internal communication etc. Figure out what can be done to ‘clear the path’ and allow people to flourish.
  • Workload and prioritisation: Using new skills and tools after a training experience can take additional time till we become comfortable. Being sensitive to this and allowing people a little ‘wiggle room’ to bed in these new skills is critically important. Without it people will tend to fall back into old habits very quickly. It’s also vital to be realistic about how many things we try to change at any one time. A couple of new areas is the absolute maximum.
  • Measurement: We frequently find the only measure of training effectiveness is the ‘happy sheets’ that participants complete, but this is not enough.

    As a minimum we should assess:

    1) How well programme content has been understood
    2) The impact on behaviour and performance

    It’s also highly desirable to track resulting commercial performance though this can be more difficult depending on the type of training and the roles of participants.
  • One-dimensional design: People learn in different ways and while classic class-room training can be a great initial step, a blend of techniques sustained over time will produce better results. For example, blended programmes might include a combination of classroom events, on-line learning (webinars, etc.), work based projects, in-job training and coaching. It’s important that each programme is tailored to the company, people and learning goals.

How customers experience your brand is a key differentiator and for many businesses provides untapped potential for building competitive advantage. Yet our conversations with business leaders suggest they often struggle to deliver a customer experience that brings their brand to life in a way that’s distinctive, trusted and drives commercial value.

Equipping staff with the knowledge and skills they needs to deliver the required experience and removing the barriers that block positive change in performance are critical steps on the journey to success.

Mike Ashton
Posted: 01/10/2016