The Golden Standard: Fresh Ideas in the Training Industry

Authors:- Mariam Shoaib & Hira Sarfaraz.
An ice-breaker here and a guided walk-through of best practices there – there is a real risk of corporate training sessions becoming predictable and unproductive. While the management may be comfortable investing in familiar training formats, their effectiveness depends on the participants’ level of engagement. If the target group of employees is disinterested in customer service skills  training, there is probably a need to add some variety!

Switch Up

One way to change things up is by adopting experiential learning into your organisation’s regularly-held professional development workshops. Swap banquet halls in chic hotels for picnic grounds in a local forest reserve or take a conventional, on-site training to an off-site location. Contemporary learning and development experts insist on real-life experiences to create teachable moments for the participants. This applies whether the participant works in a law firm or a fast-food outlet. Experiential learning, also known as ‘learning by doing’, is when a facilitator encourages the participant to directly interact with the training’s subject matter. In experiential learning-based workshops, the participant is meant to learn by doing and prior knowledge is not required. Trainings based on traditional learning methodology, however, hinge on conveying the core concepts before transitioning towards an experience.

Here are some examples of experiential learning-based programs for the workplace:

Simulations

Simulation-based learning leverages the power of technology to create a hypothetical scenario which simulates a real-world situation for the trainees. This technique allows an individual to get first-hand experience of real-world business situations.

Gamification
Gamification Point

Gamification refers to applying game principles (points, badges, rewards, and levels, etc.) to non-gaming experiences. Gamification offers an immersive learning opportunity for the workforce. The trainees play a game that is centered on one key theme and they master the skills while playing the game. Gamification allows employees to practice team-building skills in a stress-free environment.

Case Studies

Case studies are a lot like fairy-tales, except the characters are businesses, their employees, and their clients. Studying relevant case studies provides trainees with exposure to common challenges that businesses usually face within an industry.

Role-playing

Trainees who participate in role-playing gain a deeper understanding of what a customer or colleague is going through. Such activities allow employees to see situations from the other individual’s perspective. This technique can be essential to empathy-building exercises for trainees in customer support roles.

Anything But Routine

More and more organisations are gravitating towards experiential learning  after witnessing the effectiveness of experiential training. To sustain high employee-engagement, organisations must invest in innovative training sessions.

Here are some ways an organisation can ‘spice up’ training sessions:

Leverage the Power of Alternate Realities
Leverage the Power of Alternate Realities

The emergence of AI has led to the rapid adoption of those technologies in corporate and eLearning environments. Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR), collectively known as immersive technologies, enable organisations to create accurate multidimensional simulations for trainees to experience and interact with. Walmart used immersive technologies to train more than one hundred thousand associates on Black-Friday sales.

Escape Room

In an escape room, a team has to work together to solve a puzzle or complete certain activities to ‘escape’ the locked enclosure. This physical adventure game gives trainees a break from their workstations. Such intense 60-minute sessions also help trainees test out valuable skills such as time management, problem-solving, communication, and team-building.

Microlearning
Microlearning

Gone are the days when employees would read manuals or attend one-month long training sessions to improve their on-the-job performance. These days employees respond better to just-in-time-learning. Microlearning is a learning strategy that places bite-sized information at the right time via videos, simulations, and kinetic-text, etc.

Geofencing

Geofencing goes a step further than microlearning.  A geofence is an electronic boundary which can be used as a trigger to push training material to employees as they enter the workplace. For instance, an organisation that has employees who work out in the field, an application can push any regulation updates via a brief training video to their electronic devices.

The training industry is expected to be even more dynamic and fluid in the coming years. To stay relevant, organisations must be open to adopting cutting-edge learning methodologies for their employees.

Why Repeat Training Produces Better Results

Back in 1885, a German psychologist named Hermann Ebbinghaus founded the now-famous “Forgetting Curve” while conducting experimental research on memory. The curve summarizes the learning journey of every individual; a closer study shows how it highlights the importance of repetition. Do you remember your first bike ride? Initially, the emphasis was on learning the basic skills like balancing the bicycle while propelling yourself forward. Once you got the pedaling down, all that is left is to keep practicing until you have completely mastered cycling. This same concept holds true for all kinds of learning; repetition is at the heart of learning.

Beauty in Repetition
Beauty in Repetition

Did you know that most corporate training participants are likely to forget seventy percent of what they were taught within a day? In order to get the most out of corporate training, businesses need to create employee training sessions that encourage information recall. Incorporating repeat training will not only improve overall skill retention but will also result in the following benefits:

  • Improves Workforce Productivity

Organizations must continuously innovate to remain competitive in the ever-changing global marketplace.  This goal increasingly depends on the existing skills and knowledge of the workforce. Repetitive training enables employees to develop new skill sets to remain competitive and productive.

  • Sparks New Ideas

Workplace learning and innovation go hand-in-hand as acquiring new skills unveils brand-new points-of-view. Such interaction encourages employees to think ‘out-of-the-box’ and come up with innovative solutions to everyday challenges. A role-playing based Customer service training session helps participants get an alternative perspective on how to tackle upset customers.

  • Transforms the Workplace into a Place of Learning

Continuous learning is much more than introducing new policies and procedures. It involves constant effort from employers, supervisors, and employees to build a culture that places learning at the forefront. The transformative learning culture fosters an environment of inquiry and knowledge-sharing.

The Way Forward
The Way Forward

To make sure that training results in skills development, organizations need to implement personalized, continuous trainings. Repetitive learning will ensure application of an enhanced skill in the appropriate circumstances.

  • Spaced Learning

Repetitive trainings utilize the spaced learning effect to support skill retention. Spaced learning is all about reshaping the “Forgetting Curve” by breaking down training session into micro-learning moments. It allows trainers to present the learning message in new and interesting ways to encourage retention.

  • Retrieval-based training

Retrieval-based training is an effective means of achieving meaningful learning. Studies have shown that trainees are better able to retrieve information if it is tied to a specific context. This can be achieved by incorporating simulations, role-playing and real-world scenarios in the training sessions.

  • Gamification

Experiential learning through a game-like approach helps participants overcome the forgetting curve. Gamification takes the mechanics of games to effectively impart knowledge. This technique allows trainees to freely interact with one another and this engagement ultimately results in greater retention of knowledge

  • Natural Concentration Span

To avoid the “overload and overwhelm” effect, the trainer needs to breakdown the monotony. One way to do that is by delivering key learning concepts in brief, 5 to 10-minute bursts.

When an organization spends continually on in-house employee development, it usually results in increased loyalty and satisfaction. The more engaged and satisfied the employees are, the more productive and inventive the organization is likely to be.

 

The Power of Experiential Learning

The foundation of experiential learning is based upon an educational philosophy termed Constructivism. According to Constructivism, a learner’s knowledge is developed ‘on-the-spot’ by experiencing concepts, theories, and things in-person.  An essential aspect of Constructivism involves the learner reflecting on the newly ‘constructed’ knowledge. They may even compare, contrast, or debate the differences between this relatively new experience and any prior knowledge they may have.

The Need for Experiential Learning in the Corporate World
The Need for Experiential Learning in the Corporate World

The modern learner is easily distracted, has a short attention span and is usually overwhelmed by multiple conflicting responsibilities. As a result, a fun and immersive training session can enable such employees to gain valuable skills that will benefit them as well as their organization.

Experiential learning helps modern-day organizations internalize the following benefits:

  • Greater Motivation to Learn

Work skills that can help an employees’ professional growth are transferred to them through an experiential learning-based training session. As the skills taught via experiential learning directly improves the employee’s performance, they are likely to be more receptive to acquiring these new skills.

  • Higher Chances of Skill Retention

The skills acquired via experiential learning tend to stay with the trainee for a longer period of time. The reason for that is they will not only learn about the skill but will also apply it in real-time.

  • Customized Learning

Experiential learning is tailored to the needs of the organization and the trainees. The participants are on the driving seat as they set their own learning pace and have substantial control over the learning process.

  • One Step Ahead of Theory

Repetitive, lecture-based training is steadily being replaced by the “learning by doing” approach. The trainee uses critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills to accelerate their own learning process.

  • Collaborative Environment

Experiential learning, by design, encourages co-learners to engage with and learn from each other. This not only helps an individual with learning a particular skill but also helps in team-building.

  • Higher Return-On-Investment (ROI)

Experiential learning-based trainings are proven to positively influence both the behaviour and skill set of the participants.

Experiential Learning in the Office
Experiential Learning in the Office

In comparison to compartmentalized learning, experiential learning mimics real-world scenarios to create a unique learning experience. Experiential learning broadens the learning toolset from mere boards, slides, and books to gaming, simulations, case studies, role-playing and much more. These experiential tools can be used in isolation or in conjunction with traditional learning methods – it all depends on the organisation’s specific training needs. In the case of experiential training for corporations, games have proven to be an effective educational tool. It is noted that games make the learning process fun and engaging for all the people involved.

Experiential learning-based trainings provide employees with numerous opportunities to learn via bespoke experiences. The skill-building techniques enable employees to polish their customer service skills and enhance their personal skills by learning from real-world examples. Employees can brush up on their communication skills by playing experiential games that incorporate the following themes: public speaking, listening, and persuasion. Incorporating experiential learning in the corporate culture takes time and effort but the results easily outweigh the initial investment.

A+ Customer Service: Does Your Brand Make the Grade?

A smiley emoticon, a ‘thumbs-up’ like, or a multi-paragraph positive review on a third-party website – satisfied customers are the hallmark of a successful business. With an increasingly competitive marketplace, simply being friendly with clients is hardly ever enough. As a brand, your organisation must consistently demonstrate superior service quality across all customer touchpoints. This is accomplished by first recognising the aspects that your customers deeply care about. As customers, most individuals feel strongly about professionalism, dependability, responsiveness, and empathy while dealing with a business. Also, there is usually a level of trust involved when a customer invests their time, and money into a certain product or service. But the question remains: how does one measure an organisation’s customer service quality in the first place?

Here are some methods for organisations to gauge their customer service skills with:

A) Surveys

Surveys

Customer satisfaction surveys provide easy access to customer feedback. What is interesting is how it can be readily distributed in multiple formats. Shoppers can answer the questions being asked by a store representative while they are browsing the aisles. App users can give their ratings, up to five stars, after using the service on their smartphones. Restaurant-goers can tap in their impressions on a tablet while the server arranges for the bill. Guests can log on to a third-party travel advisory site, select a forum, and share their experiences about a particular resort. Customers of a ride-hailing service can rate the service while waiting to talk to a customer service representative on the phone.

As a business, you can gain valuable feedback on just about anything –  how reliable is the brand, how responsive is the staff in case of an emergency, and so on – through a survey. Surveys are a great tool for evaluating a business’s performance and ensuring that your customers remain with you for the long-run.

B) After-Sales Service Feedback

feedback

After-sales service involves customer support after a product or service has been delivered. Service providers, whether over the phone or through a mobile app, often use a rating system to gain immediate feedback. The core purpose is to ensure customer satisfaction – even months after the original sale has been made. Over time, successful after-sales service programs can foster brand loyalty, customer retention, and repeat business for the company.

C) Mystery-Shopping

Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping provides management with actionable insights into the actual customer experience. This is a common method to evaluate and help compare the customer service of one company with another. It requires hiring an undercover “customer” to visit a store (either online or in person) for the purpose of testing their service quality. The mystery shopper effectively audits the particular outlet’s customer experience based on set criteria. This criterion can be similar to the one the company uses for its customer satisfaction surveys.

D) Social Media Monitoring

Social Media Monitoring

Social media, and more specifically social media marketing, has become an integral part of consumers’ lives. Customers often resort to social media to make their purchasing decisions as well as to share their experiences with the digital community. Whether they have a complaint or an accolade to share, there is a strong possibility that your customer is sharing their experience through a social media post. Customer experience experts recommend consulting social media to find genuine, unfiltered opinions about your company’s products and services.

E) Tracking Customer Service Performance

Tracking Customer Service Performance

You can have trainers on board, team-building materials at-the-ready, a positive work environment and even customer feedback but it will all be pointless if their effectiveness is not measured. Unless monitoring is taking place, the organisation will not know where the problems lie. An entire department can lose track of business objectives, and damage the brand’s hard-won reputation along the way. Managers responsible for customer success can employ pre-established customer satisfaction key performance indicators (KPIs) such as First Response Time, Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Customer Retention Rate. Organisations must set systems in place to measure, evaluate, and improve their quality of customer service on a regular basis.

F) Taking Action

Taking Action

The final step in tracking customer service quality involves making an action plan and setting it in motion. An executive team must first gather relevant customer service-related data – be it from social media reviews, surveys, phone calls, feedback from walk-ins, or email-based complaints. Next, they must work together to study the data to find patterns that signal a deficiency.  Finally, they must generate a practical, measurable plan to ensure real impact on the company’s existing service quality.

What is the desired end result? Ideally, it’s a noticeable increase in customer confidence. Customer service and employee behaviour are intangible yet intertwined.  To provide the best customer experience, your organisation needs to take steps to understand your customers and also evaluate your service. Through these methods, you can easily gauge where your brand stands when it comes to customer service quality.