As a training and development professional, your job boils down to engaging and developing adult learners, nearly always in relation to their jobs. For those of us in internal training groups, that means creating learning for our fellow employees. For others who consult with other firms, that means working with clients on the best way to train their employees. In both cases, training is an inwardly focused event that works on training gaps within a company. But is that the only role we can play?
I recently read “Who’s In Charge of Customer Learning?” on the ASTD Workforce Development blog. The author’s main point is that businesses should be continually learning about their customers. What do they like? What do they hate? What do they need to know? What do they want that they are not getting?
The author further asks who is responsible for answering those questions. Should it be market research or training and development? Most would likely answer that understanding the customer is marketing’s role. And maybe that’s the right answer most of the time, but what knowledge can learning professionals bring to the table when it comes to engaging customers?
Consider an example the author provides. A large B2B company was frequently told by its customers that they wanted a mentor, someone to help teach them how to remain on the cutting edge. The author says, “The COO of the B2B company turned to the market research department for answers and got back a clichéd ‘do a study’ response. Frustrated, the COO then asked the training department for help. Their first suggestion was to stop ending calls at the call center with the all-too-familiar: ‘Is there anything else I can help you with?’ Instead, they suggested ending calls with: ‘What can I help you learn more about today?’”
Adult Learning Techniques Create Opportunity
Changing from a yes-no question to an open-ended question opened a door of opportunity. It invited customers to reveal what else they needed to know about. The result was that both up-selling and customer satisfaction increased.
It was the T&D perspective on how to engage an audience and get more than a rote response that made the difference. What areas in your company could benefit from the T&D perspective? Think of all the different ways your employees interact with customers. Could the perspective of the learning professionals in your organization make those interactions better? Could they make your customers feel more engaged? Could that engagement lead to more sales and happier customers?
Do you think involving T&D professionals outside of their typical role could be helpful for an organization? Why or why not? Please tell us in the comments. I’d love to know your thoughts.
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