Training Fundamentals in the Age of Experience
Jason Bacaj | 9 min read
Experience-driven brands need to train employees to recognize customer service moments of truth and empower employees to put the customer’s needs first—but how? Check out four real-world examples of customer-centric businesses that answered that question.
The age of experience places a premium on training — even during a pandemic.
The research firm Forrester found that “56% of consumers admit they are always open to test-driving new brands, products, and experiences.” Additionally, the main driver of consumer loyalty — “scarce behaviors among today’s experimentative consumers” — is customer experience.
Doug Stephens, accomplished retail veteran-turned-consultant, told Retail Dive that e-commerce is maturing and that maturation opens up opportunities that depend, in part, on customer experience. Consumers are comfortable with relatively simple transactions, like airline tickets and electronics, but the vast majority of global retail includes “things that are fundamentally more complex purchases” — purchases where brands can add value through service.
So, how does a company train its employees to create this valuable experience? As you may have suspected, we think an LMS is the right tool for this job.
To help explain why we think so, let’s apply some framework borrowed from the Harvard Business Review. The idea, written by Mark Bonchek and Vivek Bapat, is that brands and companies tend to fall into two broad categories: purchase and usage.
The main difference between purchase and usage is where efforts are focused. Purchase brands simply want people to buy product, whereas usage brands are focused on the experience users have. As Bapat and Bonchek write, “(purchase) brands focus on positioning their brands in the minds of their customers, (usage) brands focus on positioning their brands in the lives of their customers.”
Brands today find the most value when focused on the usage end of the spectrum. We think that organizations in experiential retail would find similar value in applying some of the usage concepts to their workforce. These concepts are: create demand for use, emphasize advocacy, worry about what customers say to each other, influence the experience at every touchpoint.
We even queued up a handful of pre-pandemic client examples that show these concepts in action:
Create Demand for Use
There are a handful of ways you can go about doing this. The HBR article points to personal care and beauty companies Sephora and Ulta and the way they “provide instruction, community, and services to help people feel confident in being able to use the makeup themselves.” Phrased a bit differently: it’s important to meet your users where they are. Sometimes that’s providing instructional content and community support.
For Tempur Sealy, that meant meeting employees where they were and providing clear, consistent instruction on how to work through the training and professional development content on their LMS, the Snooz.
Tempur Sealy launched an internal sales contest. Employees had to complete a module to qualify for the contest. Right at the top of the module was a note that informed employees of key information: the type of content (eBooks, videos) in the module, an estimate of how long it’ll take, and regular reminders that you have to click ‘mark done’ at the top to complete the module.
Another way to incentivize people to use your LMS is using it to streamline communications. Things have happened quickly during 2020, and your LMS can act as a communications superpower when coordinating across regions of the country.
You might know this concept by another name: getting buy-in, treating employees like customers, etc. Basically, the idea is to give employees the opportunity to interact with your brand in a way that draws them in, gives them a sense of ownership, and a sense of the why behind the what and how of your business.
Hello Alfred, a tech company that assigns assistants to handle recurring chores and tasks, begins the process of turning employees into advocates with a scavenger hunt on its LMS, the Bat Cave. Employees track down various pieces of information while learning how the LMS is organized. And Hello Alfred’s two-person learning and development team leave a gift on the desks of each employee who completes the scavenger hunt.
Of course, the company’s efforts to turn employees to advocates doesn’t end there. Scattered throughout the Bat Cave are polls that ask employees to rate the overall status of the site. Soliciting regular feedback helps any L&D team stay responsive to user feedback and keep a site fresh.
Worry About What Users Say to Each Other
This one’s a little tricky, partially because of free will. People do what people want to do. True Food Kitchen embraces this, with sayings like ‘we treat every guest as an individual because they are,’ and doubled down on the value of each person by putting an extra effort into designing their LMS, named True U, well and displaying user contributions and recognition messages prominently on the platform.
The multi-pronged approach to valuing each person shows through in the analytics available for their site. Since a redesign that displayed the user contributions so prominently, True Food Kitchen has seen a 24% increase in month-over-month logins and a 50% increase in social engagement among their employees.
And in the time of coronavirus, it’s helpful to offer a place on your LMS where employees can reach out for support if they’re feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of what all’s going on.
Brand Experience at Every Touchpoint
Mario Tricoci provides a great example of handling brand experience in their LMS, named Axis, with how they handled holiday promotions and the company holiday party.
First, they put a countdown to the holiday party on the Axis homepage and created a banner that took employees to a page built out specifically for the holiday promotion. Festive tweaks were made to the color scheme, along with a video outlining the promotion.
Plus, the holiday page included a module built specifically for the company holiday party. Employees could go there to get all the information around the party — general information, book hotel rooms, and a way to RSVP to the dinner and party.
During the month of June — Pride month — Axis featured a well-designed banner calling on employees to wear rainbow colors on the last Sunday of the month.
Their site admin also asked for people to submit photos of them holding a sign that states what they’re proud of. The photos received will then go out the company’s social media accounts over that last weekend — a great way to authentically celebrate your people and culture.
LMS themes might not directly affect customers. But they directly affect the way employees view your brand and organization. Customers can sense when employees just go through the motions and when they’re truly bought into the brand.
By Jason Bacaj
Jason is a content creator with Wisetail. Through research and interviews, he works to help L&D pros grow the breadth of their knowledge. He’s a recovering journalist fascinated with learning.