Custom eLearning Development

The Most Effective Uses of E-Learning Part 1

Readers of this blog know that the focus is on e-learning with an emphasis on business.  We develop e-learning applications for businesses not for academics.  This post is the First post in a Series titled The most effective uses of E-Learning based on experiences with our clients.  These use cases are presented based on the business result they achieved for our clients.

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Sales and Customer Service

Sales and Customer Service go hand in hand.  A successful business cannot have one without the other.  While these two departments serve somewhat different function, their primary objective should be the same, provide solutions for customers.  With that objective in mind sales and customer service have similar training needs as well that can be served by expertly crafted e-learning solutions.

E-learning is an excellent tool to provide training solutions for sales and customer service teams because of its accessibility, consistency and versatility.

Sales and Customer Service staff are the front line for your business, their job is to provide the best possible experience for your customers. Training them is vitally important, part of its success is its accessibility   I look at accessibility two ways.  The first is simply how it is accessed by the user.  This is a area where the delivery on-demand online training makes sense.  Accessible 24/7 on the terms of the individual.  The second way I look at accessibility in the design methodology.  If you require your team to sit in front of a computer for hours reading through text on a screen just to get through a training it is not only ineffective, but lacks accessibility.  We are firm believers in short tactical training focused around a specific business objective.  15 minutes or less, something that can be taken on a coffee break.  It is more user friendly and accessible!

Consistency is another key when providing training to sales and customer service members of your team.  E-learning can be a tool to help integrate your employees into your company culture, this is especially important for those groups on the front line with your customers.  People will go to a McDonald’s anywhere in the world, is it because it is the best food available?  Hardly, but they know they will get a consistent experience.  Your customers expect a certain experience when they interface with your company, using e-learning as a tool for ongoing training for sales and service reps is sure fire way to make sure the message is always consistent with your brand and company culture.

E-learning is extremely versatile  when strategically developed around your business and it can offer some excellent residual benefits.  One of the best residual uses of online training is the ability to re-purpose training content for use as a job aid.  We all have things that we use everyday to help us do our job.  For sales and service reps it may be as simple as a cheat sheet with product specs they can call up quickly when speaking with a customer.  Many of the assets built for your online training can be reused to create quick, interactive and very visual job aids for employees.  This helps to create more confident interactions with customers and more engaged sales and service reps.  As mobile technology continues to evolve these job aid applications become more a more viable with accessibility across mobile platforms.  The Commitment to E-learning is an investment in time and money, its versatility as a job aid will help generate a greater return.

Sales and Customer Service Reps are on the front line with your customers everyday.  They must have the proper tools to create a first class experience for your customers with every interaction.  Providing training through an E-learning platform will help create an accessible, consistent and versatile training experience with a significant ROI for your business.

How have you used E-learning successfully in your business for Sales and Customer Service Reps?

Know Your Business Objective if you want a Business Result

My friend and fellow Toastmaster Mike Hayes, wrote an article this week titled, Strong Opinions Make Your PR Campaign Great!  The basic premise being that you need to take a stand and have a position in order for your message to be heard in a crowded marketplace.  This got me thinking about how this basic premise should be applied to online training application for businesses.  The e-learning world tends to be run by academics and instructional design theory.  Those principles certainly have their place, but without focus on a sound business objectives results may be hard to come by, much like having your marketing or PR message heard when you fail to take a firm stance or have an opinion.

E-learning, whether you are looking at it from a big picture view or down to a specific course must focus on the business objective in order to achieve a business result.  Resolutions has had the good fortune of working with many different types of clients all of whom have different objectives when it comes to the development of online training applications, but the constant message we preach to them is, “what is the business objective ?”  It seems like a simple question that should warrant a simple answer, but that is not always the case.  You would be surprised how difficult it can be to answer if it was not the focus in the first place.

When I talk about a business objective I am not talking about the specific learning objectives of a course.  Every online training module has its learning objectives, I am talking about the big picture.  The things that keep the CEO up at night like major citations, fines, accidents, bad press, declining revenue… the list goes on.  E-learning applications built for a company should consider how they can positively affect the actual BUSINESS of their business.  If a client comes to me and says, “I need to build a course on ladder safety.”  My first question is, “What happened?  Did someone get hurt?”  Chances are their is a hidden business objective behind the launch of a ladder safety course that the person put in charge of execution may not have been made aware.  My guess is there was an accident, someone got hurt and either sued the company or made an extremely costly insurance claim that leadership would like to avoid in the future.  Simply understanding that will make a dramatic difference in the development of the training.

Think about it.  If you go to work and all of a sudden you are asked to take a course on ladder safety, what is your first thought?  Most likely, “This is ridiculous  I know how to climb a ladder.”  You are probably right, you do know how to climb a ladder, but if the person developing the training presents ladder safety with an clear understanding of the business objective it can be framed in such a way that is valuable to the user.  When you present something of value there is a much higher likelihood of retention and behavior change over time.

A clear focus on the business objective can help trainers and e-learning developers build training that can have a real impact on their company.  Take a stance, have an opinion and meet a specific business objective.  It will help the company and the user achieve and actual result.

Humor, A Powerful Training Tool

A a solid majority of the training material developed in the corporate world is based on a regulation or technical specification and must be very straight forward and matter of fact due to the subject matter, but not everything needs to be quite as staid.   Many times the way we train our customer service and sales reps is the way we develop our outward persona to our customers.   This is an area in e-learning development where a little humor can go a long way.

The goal successful e-learning is for the learner to retain the information being taught and ultimately transfer that knowledge to on the job skills.   Effective and appropriate use of humor can go a long way in keeping your employees engaged with online training initiatives.  Sales and customer service reps are on the front line dealing with customers every day, e-learning targeting those groups should to reflect your corporate culture.  One of the best ways to teach sales and customer service skills with an online course is through the use on consequence based video simulations.  This type of simulation based training is a prime opportunity to introduce a little humor into your e-learning.

In the simplest sense consequence based training gives the user the opportunity to do something the right way and the wrong way.  One way to broach the wrong way with impact is to take it to an extreme.   Setting up your wrong way scenario in a manner that makes the user laugh it also makes them realize they do not want to put themselves in a laughable situation.  You have created a tool that makes your employees think about what they look like when they are in a similar situation, and how they can avoid looking like “that person” who made a fool of themselves in the course.

In order to use humor in your training you must first have appropriate subject matter and second it must fit into your corporate culture. Make sure when you push to use humor in your training it is in good taste and fits within your company guidelines.

How have you used humor in your company training?  Online or classroom based.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/1291332

Sex Sells, but so does E-Learning

We have all heard the old adage, sex sells.  While that me be true, sex may not have the ability to generate incremental revenue and solidify customer relationships as well as e-learning.  This may come as a bit of a surprise so let me explain.  Every company selling a product or service has educational material available to their customers, but are they realizing the potential of that material to expand their business model and develop stickier customer relationships?

A fundamentally sound e-learning platform developed around your business and your customers can be a huge differentiator in the marketplace and most importantly could be an unrealized revenue source.  Let’s look at a software business as an example.  Company A is selling an enterprise software solution to mid-sized companies.  There is a certain about of ramp up and training time required to implement their solution, as well as ongoing support calls.  Chances are this is being handled by a small staff initially to handle installation, initial training either in person or via online meeting.  Ongoing support is probably handled by a 800 number help desk, support email system or FAQ database.  On the surface the systems are in place, and by most standards this is an acceptable practice in the software industry, but leveraging that internal knowledge base and transforming it into customer focused e-learning platform could open the floodgates to incremental revenue and better customer relationships!  All of the internal knowledge, manuals, trainers, webinars should be transformed into a tactical, engaging and interactive online training curriculum of courses that is on-demand 24/7 for your customers to have all the answers to their questions with real-time tracking, scoring and possibly even product certifications!  This type of online content delivery could drastically reduce ongoing support and internal manpower, while increasing the image and quality of your training product.  It also opens the door to up sell subscription based access to your world-class customer training system, providing a real return on investment.

If you read my post about the blurred lines between training and marketing, you would know that the training system you built to educate your customers may be the best way to market to and engage prospects searching for your company’s solution.  The needs of your prospects and customers only very by degree not kind.

E-learning is a powerful tool for education in both the academic and professional world.  Why not leverage its power in your business.  It could be the differentiator in your product or service, help generate more revenue and create stickier customer relationships.

Build It and They Will Come!

Build it and they will come!  If it were only that easy.  Resolutions develops e-learning courses for a variety of clients in a number of different industries, one major challenge for all of our clients, regardless of industry, is user compliance.  Our focus as a company is building e-learning content that achieves a business result.  That can be hard if the intended audience is nowhere to be found and the company has spent thousands of dollars to develop the course.  We have come up with a few keys you should keep in mind for any e-learning initiative to help drive users and ultimately ROI.

1.  Identify your Objective – If you want to develop training that gets results, know up front what results you want to achieve.  Be specific, how does a particular employee group learning this material affect the bottom line?  How will it affect your customers?

2.  Focus – Once you have identified your objective focus on it!  Don’t take the, “While we have them here” approach of throwing in random topics you would like them to pick up while they are here.  Keeping your online training focused will help keep users attention.

3.  Tactical – You have set your objectives and are focusing on them, know turn your attention to the user.  What is in it for them?  Present useful information that will help the user be better at their job or possibly advance their career.

4.  Short – Your employees are busy, and honestly how much time do you want them away from their actual work?  If you are laser focused on your business objective you should be able to deliver effective tactical training in 15 minutes or less.  Coffee break anyone?

5.  Engaging –  User engagement can be defined a number of different ways, but in its simplest form make the learning active.  It is proven that passive learning is far less effective than active.  Make use of media where appropriate, discovery learning is always a winner and decision based learning paths will seal the deal.

These are a few short tips we try to pass along to our clients.  Every situation is different, each company and industry segment has a different level of acceptance when it comes to online learning.  The best clients incorporate it into their culture and make it a part of everything they do.  Not everything goes as planned, but if your build your online training content with these the 5 simple tips in mind, then they surely will come!

What rules do you follow in your company training?  What has been the result?

Training and marketing, the lines are blurred

I read a good article this morning by Lynne Murray, titled E-learning and Lead Generation in the Digital Age.  She talks about the rapid growth of e-learning and content marketing as an opportunity for marketers to expand their online presence.  Lynne hits the nail on the head with her article, I want to take it a step further.

The emergence of e-learning and content based marketing have blurred the lines between traditional marketing and training, but the potential benefits are not being fully realized by large corporations, which is a huge opportunity for the small and mid-sized companies competing with them.   Training and marketing in most major corporations operate in their own silos, completely independent of each other, which is a mistake.  As Lynne stated in her article, “4 out  of 5 users now search for information on products and services online to start to understand how to solve their business issues.”  If e-learning is being used successfully as a tool to train employees selling, servicing and supporting your product or service that same information could be incredibly valuable to your potential customers searching for solutions to their problems.

The objective of well built online training is to engage the learner to the point where the material is retained and ultimately that knowledge is transferred to an on the job skill.  There is a lot of effort put into internal employee online training.  Script writing, instructional design, video, graphics, animation, approvals from legal.  Why not extend the ROI of internal training projects into the your company’s online marketing efforts ?  There may need to be some minor modifications made to the content to suit your consumer based audience, but the re-purposing of training assets will create efficiency in the use of your resources.  This is a tough nut to crack in the large corporations where training and marketing are budgeted, staffed and run independently, but is a huge advantage for the mid sized business where much smaller departments are asked to wear many hats and contribute to many areas within a company.

Content based marketing has been built around providing high value online material to your prospective buyers so your company will be viewed as a respected source and be top of mind when it is time to buy.  Why put out another white paper when you could offer truly engaging and purposeful content your company has already made a sizable investment in developing?  The lines have been crossed!

Do you market to consumers and train employees differently?

Here is an example of internal sales training that was re-purposed as “how-to” training for customers.  The end result was more sales with a better educated sales team and less returns due to increased “how to operate” knowledge for their customers.

Get down to business

Let’s face it, the majority of the e-learning industry is based upon academics.  I get it, the concept of e-learning was built out of universities offering classes online, it was only a natural progression for corporate and business based learning to follow suit.  It makes too much sense, reduced overall training costs, on-demand, tactical, etc.  Elearningindustry.com explains this far better than I can with this infographic, check it out, it confirms the true benefit of e-learning in a business setting.

My focus here however is on the execution.   Online learning in a business setting should not be academic!  Quite the opposite, the learning should be focused on one thing… achieving a business result, any deviation from that stated result should be left behind.  I am a firm believer that any web based training built for a business application can be accomplished in 15 minutes or less.  Short, tactical and to the point.  For example, one of our industry niche businesses is in the insurance industry.  The objective for any online training we build for our clients is focused around a single business objective, reduce claims in a common area of loss.    Let’s say the the insurance program we are working with has driving risks, chances are they see high frequency claims due to distracted driving.  We have built a simple online training module designed specifically around that area of loss covering the most common driver distractions using simple scenarios the learner can relate to in their daily driving.  This entire course is 12 minutes long and the content does not deviate from it’s objective.  Raise awareness of distracted driving risks with the goal of reducing claims as a result.  Simple, to the point and focused around our clients business objective.

The bottom line is people in every business are busy, anything that does not help them achieve a business result is simply wasting their time.  Short, tactical online training is the best way to get busy people trained and focused on the desired result for your business.

How do you get down to business.  I would love to hear your examples.