Customer-Driven Upskilling Strategies
The customer of the 21st century expects seamless products and services that are available anytime and anywhere. Yet, delivering upon those expectations is no easy feat. It requires new skillsets focused on digital technologies, agile ways of working, and emotional intelligence. Therefore, it has merely become imperative to upskill workforces. To stay on the scene, today’s organisations need to act as a knowledge machine.Authors: Jens Desmet & Sonja Noben
Where does the upskilling need originate from?
Technological advancement, better collaboration methods and social engineering reshaped entire industries in the matter of just a few decades. Today’s customers seem to embrace this new normal with ease. And can you blame them? Their experience has continuously improved thanks to immediate access and superior value for money.
Take for example how society consumes music. People used to buy complete records in specialised stores. Then came Apple, who allowed customers to purchase individual songs on their iTunes platform. Now, consumers massively flock towards streaming services as Spotify who give them access to any song imaginable for a measly monthly subscription.
Reimagining the business-customer relationship on such fundamental levels is bound to introduce skill gaps within the organisation. While filling those gaps may be challenging, they are not impossible to overcome. The solution requires the same customer perspective as the innovations that caused them.
As teams are tasked with creating and managing top-notch products and services, they have to be increasingly connected with the customer base. This allows to capture needs at the source, test new solutions immediately and incorporate feedback continuously. This customer-oriented and agile way of working means that teams need not only hard but also soft skills.
Trends show that automation will take over menial and complex tasks, yet a deep human connection has never been more of a differentiator. Customers crave immediate servicing, yet a human touch on demand. It comes as no surprise that leading organisations are upskilling employees to take on roles as data scientists who have excellent personal leadership and interpersonal communication abilities.
A good learning strategy starts with the customer. It identifies the skills necessary to serve the needs of the primary customers and the gaps present within the organisation. These may be of technological, methodology or social nature. This outward view on the customer is vastly different from the traditional inward (process) view and may lead to the conclusion that current skillsets have become severely outdated. Thus, offer employees upskilling journeys in line with your customer.
The power of employee & customer engagement
Businesses who lead in terms of customer experiences are known for their exceptional employee experiences. In his book ‘Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose’, Tony Hsieh details how helping employees grow – both personally and professionally made Zappos the #1 customer engagement provider in America.
The Zappos case is not a singularity. It is a widely accepted fact that investing in the upskilling of employees impacts customer engagement for the better. These upskilling opportunities generate a wave of positive motivation that diverges in every corner of the organisation. Employees can see their future within the organisation and feel supported in their personal development. This radiates directly with customers who sense this is a ‘great place to work’.
Incorporate real customer-cases
Exceptional effective upskilling incorporates real-life customer-cases into the curriculum. By making use of realistic simulations, theory meets practice. On top of that, it has the added benefit that employees feel (re-)assured in their capability to serve their customers.
While inviting real customers may not always be possible, don’t stick to the basics as reviewing recorded calls or fake emails. Try to be creative. Hiring professional actors or letting training participants reenact a case they once experienced may have powerful effects as they stimulate all the senses in a safe environment.
Upskill customers themselves
Organisations should not fall into the trap that upskilling is only an internal activity. Upskilling externally, namely your customers themselves, should be high on your priority list. Coolblue, for example, provides explainer videos for the products they sell on their webshop. Another great example is Hubspot, who’s CRM tool includes an entire Academy that explains how to use their tools for successful inbound marketing & sales.
Providing training content to customers ensures that your organisation is considered as an expert. As customers discover the features and possibilities your solution has to offer, they tend to become more ingrained with the product and service, deepening the provider-customer relationship.
What is the role of leadership?
Leaders have an essential role to play. Not only do they need to set objectives that are laser-focused on the customer, but they also need to create environments where teams can deliver those customer-focused outcomes. This means acting as a servant leader, removing obstacles, supporting experimentation, providing learning opportunities, and allowing slack time (moment free to spend on whatever seems fit to reach the objectives).
As organisations become more customer-oriented, they need to reinvent themselves from a technology and collaboration point of view. Upskilling employees in line with these changes is not only a minimum to stay on the scene, but a key success factor in the digital marketplace. DigitalScaler has experience in creating upskilling journeys that are in line with the customer-centric business strategy. We can help you bring these two closely aligned with more significant results.