Usman Ghani (December 18, 2018)
When employees hear the word ‘training’, they usually associate it with it being a formal theory-based session. Similar to a classroom environment, there is a trainer guiding participants in the best ways to achieve their yearly objectives while skimming through various topics deemed necessary for their review by the senior management. More and more organisations are now drifting away from traditional corporate trainings and towards more engaging, hands-on experiential training sessions. In experiential learning-based trainings, the focus is redirected on to the participants and their ability to ‘learn by doing’. The hands-on, games-based format can completely transform what employees feel about the word ‘training’ – from ‘Blah.’ to ‘Wow!’. While just about all the industries can benefit from the experiential learning-based approach, for now, the focus will be on customer service training.
So, What is Experiential Learning?
Experiential learning is when a person learns and develops their skill through experience. Such as when a young child gains the ability to ride a bicycle by being brave enough to try! That knowledge gained in the act of pedaling, braking, and balancing their own weight – all become the foundation of their personal bicycling-related skillset. In a wider context, a call center agent who undergoes periodic ‘angry customer’ simulations gains more knowledge than reading best practices brochure. Usually, an experiential learning-based session will mimic a work-related challenge, but the facilitator will remove all obvious indicators. Also, the session is hosted in a neutral environment, as far away from the cubicle as possible!
As a manager, there is much to gain from introducing experiential learning to the team. It comes in handy when the workforce must pick up a brand-new skill and quickly apply it to a real-world, role-specific situation. Unlike the traditional learning approach, that emphasizes learning before doing, experiential learning is based on facilitating learning by doing. Facilitators strive to create a safe and fun space where the participants arrive at the core learnings through both mental and physical exercises. Experiential learning-based trainings engages the participants completely and allows them to absorb information as they compete amongst each other.
Experiential Learning Enhances Customer Interactions
Those in a customer-facing role are quite familiar with the types of customers they have to deal with on a daily basis. There is ‘The Skeptic’, ‘The Perpetual Student’, ‘The Gentle Soul’, and even ‘The Know-it-All’! A personalised customer service training game can polish a group of new hires with an introduction to negotiation, time management, emotional intelligence, and communication skills. Customer service training games enable staff to interact with each other and improve their skills by actually experiencing different scenarios, participating in an assortment of activities and by encouraging teamwork.
Theoretical Training vs. Experiential Training
Although theory has its own place, experiential training methods help boost employee performance. They also encourage participants to approach unconventional training methodology with a positive attitude. Theoretical training, grounded in concepts and research, is unable to challenge the customer service representative’s readiness for the work environment. Employees feel safe making mistakes (and learning from them) while taking part in an experiential learning-based training. The fear of failure is diminished when interacting with colleagues in a relaxed and friendly environment. Experiential learning-based trainings can be tailor-made to enhance specific skills, such as written or spoken communication, as well as to improve an employee’s understanding of a particular product or service. It makes good business sense to have a blend of both types of trainings on the calendar. It allows customer service personnel to reap the maximum benefits from diverse training opportunities.
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