Using learning technologies to support the end customer

by | Sep 12, 2012 | Articles

Earlier this year, Brightwave hosted a debate at Learning Technologies called Heads in the Cloud, which explored how learning content strategies need to evolve in the workplace to meet current performance demands. Here we explore some of the debate findings and what it means for the way organisations support the end customer.

Digital technology can be a great enabler. It has created the smart learner. It has also created the smart customer who is connected, well-informed and brand-savvy. Competitors are one click away, as are peer reviews and information about products and services. Buying over the last two decades has become a more open process online and the binary relationship of customer and vendor is converging in the process. A recent IBM Report called Leading Through Connections frames this  ‘convergence of the digital, social and mobile spheres connecting customers, employees and partners in new ways to organisations and to each other’.

If employees, customers and partners are being connected to each other, what are the opportunities and implications for supporting this process and what role can technology-enabled learning play?In this article, we explore how we can extend the learning environment beyond the organisation to reach customers and partners.

 Improving customer service and increasing loyalty

Increasingly, e-learning and learning technologies are being used as a way to provide better customer service and increase loyalty. The Towards Maturity Annual Benchmark 2012 reveals that 42 per cent of organisations are using learning technologies to support and educate the customer. 77 per cent state that improving customer satisfaction is a driver for investment. Only a third of this number is achieving a measurable result. However, those that are report an impressive 20 per cent improvement. It’s evidence that developing a customer-centric learning strategy is worth the investment for solid business reasons. As a panellist at our Debate held at Learning Technologies this year,  Genny Dixon, Head of Research at Towards Maturity, says, “We should expect more from our learning technologies and, we should demand more”.
Fellow panellist, Kenny Henderson, Head of Talent Development Operations at Sky, described how they have opened up their learning management system to the ‘extended enterprise’, to outsourced partners and their supply chain. The LMS has become part of the organisation’s main architecture complementing the customer management system. Kenny also considered the disconnect of creating separate online content for employees and customers and recognised the opportunity to link these better.

The rise in online support networks

When the audience was asked, “How can organisations extend learning content to their customers and supply chain?” 44 per cent voted for ‘online support networks’. Rather than focussing purely on specific pieces of content, this is a vote for a shared learning environment which exploits cloud-based technologies to extend performance support (aka customer service in this context) to customers and supply chains. Whether this is using closed forum software, web portal or social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, there are major opportunities to improve learning and responsiveness across all stakeholders.

As organisations open up their networks and open up their learning – security and other risk factors apart – a shared vision across internal (employees) and external (customers) becomes increasingly important. The correlation between brand, employee capability, engagement and customer service becomes even clearer and more important. Learning technologies has a role to play.

Learning technology has positive role to play with brand and customer strategies

Early findings from a study that Brightwave has conducted in partnership with benchmark specialists Towards Maturity show that organisations embedding learning technologies in their brand and customer strategy programmes are:
•    8x more likely to say that their solutions are currently helping to provide a competitive advantage
•    5x more likely to report an improved reputation as a customer-focused organisation
•    3x more likely to report increased customer loyalty and customer satisfaction
•    2x more likely to report increased cross-selling/up-selling
•    5x more likely to use social media
As a result, 2 out of 4 businesses say their employees are now more engaged with the company and brand values.
Customer-centricity is a core strategic focus for the majority of organisations and customer service a powerful differentiator. Extending learning to the customer is a significant opportunity for L&D to create value for their organisations. IBM talks in terms of the Social CEO. Perhaps we need to talk in terms of the Social Learning Professional. Connected, collaborative and smart!
The Towards Maturity study in the use of learning technologies for end customers will be released in early October.

Other findings from the debate  looking at evolving content strategies can be found at

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