Mark Zuckerberg recently visited the Oculus Research Lab in Redmond, Wash., and showed off how the Oculus Gloves could type in virtual reality. He shared:

“Our Oculus Research lab in Redmond is where some of the best scientists and engineers in the world are pushing the boundaries of virtual and augmented reality. The team is led by Michael Abrash and focuses on things like advanced optics, eye tracking, mixed reality and new ways to map the human body. The goal is to make virtual reality and augmented reality what we all want it to be: glasses small enough to take anywhere, software that lets you experience anything, and technology that lets you interact with the virtual world just like you do with the physical one.

He concludes: “The technology being builtin this lab right now makes me want the future to get here a lot sooner.”

 

Published in New Products

Evidence shows that consumers believe overall customer service is actually getting worse. Arizona State University found that customer complaints climbed from 45 to 50 percent over a two-year period. And, according to a study by NewVoiceMedia, poor customer service costs businesses in the United States approximately $41 billion every year. More clients are having negative customer experiences, and those experiences are translating into a substantial dollar-loss for businesses across the nation.

With today’s competitive marketplace, irritated customers are discovering that they can simply take their business elsewhere. In fact, 65 percent of customers have completely cut ties with a brand over a single bad experience. And internet-based businesses aren’t immune to this new-found customer awareness, either — roughly 60 percent of web users who encounter a problem (customer experience or otherwise) on a company’s website immediately leave the site and/ or visit a competitor’s site. So, whether your company is B2B focused, businessto-customer oriented, web-based or brick-and-mortar, there’s no doubt that customer neglect can significantly reduce your profits.

THE DECLINE OF THE CUSTOMER-CENTERED MENTALITY

What’s the cause of this decline in customer service? The answer depends on a variety of factors. For one thing, the modern customer is more aware of what good customer service is. Companies that are being consistently recognized as having superior customer service are taking advantage of the positive publicity a customer-focused business plan creates. They use transparency and social media communication to ensure potential customers around the world know exactly what kind of positive experiences they could be having. This puts a great deal of pressure on businesses to provide equally awe-inspiring customer service. Once clients realize top-quality service is a possibility, they begin to expect it from every business they encounter.

The almost infinite reach of the internet has made it possible for even the smallest of businesses to amass customers from all over the world. As this international customer base grows, business leaders are forced to reallocate more of their finite resources toward customer service. This becomes an even more difficult task to accomplish as their client bases grow. Add to that the issues of providing customer service across multiple languages and cultural norms, and the cost and complication increases even more.

DIGITAL DIFFICULTIES

Virtually every issue associated with the decline of customer service results from the advancement of the digital age. Simply put, as reach and abilities have increased, the one-on-one focus of pre-internet business has declined. This is unfortunate, because approximately 70 percent of buying decisions are made based upon how a customer feels that he or she is being treated.

The digital age doesn’t have to mark the end of the era of customer satisfaction. By recognizing and re-committing to some essential customer service skills that businesses around the world have been disregarding, you can ensure your customers remain happy.

Here are four customer service skills that many businesses need to re-learn:

1 Patience

If there’s one thing that has come to define the digital age, it’s speed. High-speed internet, instant video streaming, Wikipedia-style informational databases, online shopping with next-day delivery — all seem to promise customers everything with instant gratification. Businesses believe that by rushing potential customers through the sales process, they’ll have more time to devote to acquiring new leads. However, there’s something to be said for taking a more leisurely approach. When companies and clients are able to move slowly through the sales funnel, the extra time allows for better mutual understanding. Of course, many customers may still insist on a quick resolution. It’s the responsibility of the business to ensure the customer fully understands what he or she is committing to. When necessary, explain to hurried customers that in order to provide the best customer service, there are important steps that can’t be rushed. Most customers would rather invest the time to ensure competent service, than be quickly rushed into something they may end up regretting.

2 Knowledge

Few things are more frustrating for a customer than having to deal with unknowledgeable company representatives. A nightmare situation many consumers have experienced happens when a customer is transferred from department to department, having to reexplain their situation again and again to representatives who either don’t have the proper authority to address the problem or the understanding to make things right. The majority of employees who work directly with customers are often situated at the bottom rung of the corporate ladder. It’s become even more prevalent as many businesses are now choosing to outsource customer customer service departments in answer to their growing customer bases. But while it may make sense financially to spend less on customer-service specialists, it makes absolutely no sense at all when you consider the customer service implications.

Your customers are your company’s most important resource, and without them your business ceases to exist. So, spend necessary time, effort, and money to ensure that those within your organization who work directly with your customers have the training and authority necessary to give them a positive experience. Think of these added expenses as investments: 55 percent of customers would be willing to pay more for a better customer experience, so go ahead and charge a little bit more to make up for the added training.

3 Understanding

When you have the opportunity to meet your customers directly and communicate with them face-to-face, it’s generally less difficult to understand them. But as more and more customer interactions are taking place on the virtual stage, the ability to accurately ‘read’ customers is diminishing. This is because there are many more layers to conversation than can be conveyed through words. Body language, voice inflection, and a thousand other details that are vital to communication are garbled when businesses and customers attempt to communicate through text, telephone, or video conferencing. These limitations can be circumvented, however when it comes to accurately conveying intentions, feelings, and ideas, there is no substitute for honesty. If customers and representatives can communicate openly, they’ll be more likely to reach a favorable outcome.

4 Approachability

Customers don’t simply want the best products for the best prices; they want the best people working with them. Personality has always been an important aspect of the customer-business dichotomy. But with the necessary automation of sales processes, it’s becoming more difficult for customers to connect with businesses. As a result, businesses become faceless, uncaring entities in the eyes of the consumer. The remedy: A simple name tag. A name tag shows your customers that you welcome their questions, concerns and anything else. Of course, when operating over a digital medium, a physical name tag becomes somewhat ineffective. You can make up for that via social media pages that are well-maintained and give your customers a place to connect with your organization. The benefits ene of this kind of connection have been well documented: 77 percent of buyers are more likely to buy from a company if its CEO is active in social media, and 46 percent percent of web users visit a company’s social media pages before committing to a purchase. Also, organizations that deliver customer support through social media achieve gains of seven percent, , in comparison to the nearly three percent gains seen by those organizations that do not.

The digital age has opened up an entirely new universe in which businesses are able to generate new leads and establish customer relationships. Unfortunately, it has also played a part in driving a wedge between consumers and organizations. However, by identifying the aspects of customer service that are routinely being neglected and training employees to focus their attention on repairing these breaches, your organization can take advantage of the increased speed and reach of the 21st century digital landscape.

Don’t let customer neglect separate your business from the people on whom it depends. Recommit to customer retention and satisfaction through building customer service skills, and you’ll find that as you make their happiness your priority, your customers will respond accordingly.

— Stuart Leung is manager, Salesforce and authors authors monthly monthly blogs on trends in sales enablement enablement and CRM.

Published in Insights

Great e-learning motivates learners and provides a great employee learning experience. Great e-learning means writing great content. How do you make a great e-learning course? Here, I would like to share six tips.

>> Making Raw Content into Good E-learning Content
Reading through the raw content and writing the content in a simple and easy-to-understand way is the first step. Flow of the content is very important and provides information in consecutive steps; otherwise, learners will get distracted and may not focus on the course.

>> Writing Better Learning Objectives
Writing good learning objectives gives clarity about the purpose of the course and instills learner confidence. Learning objectives need to be clearly defined, specific and measurable. Learners need to know what they get after completing the course.

>> Presenting E-learning Content
Present the content so that learners can easily understand what is being shared. Chunk the content into smaller parts, and keep each screen to a minimum duration. Giving lengthy information in one screen and long duration of slides are boring. Ensure consistency of presentation patterns throughout the course.

>> Making It Interactive
Involve learners in the course by making them participate in an activity. Add interactive elements like click-on tabs, slide shows, gaming interactivities and internal assessments such as FAQs. With these elements, we can make courses interesting and prevent learner humdrum.

>> Summarizing
At the end of the course, summarize the key points that have been shared. This provides information about key takeaways in a nutshell. This also enables learners to recall and re-visit the information.

>> Final Assessment
It is a good practice to end the course with a summative assessment. This tests the extent to which a learner has mastered the topics covered in the course. Prepare the questions such that they test your learners on content that has been shared during the course. In other words, the questions should be based only on the course’s content. This helps learners re-visit the portions that they have not answered or found difficult to answer.

Good e-learning courses go a long way toward engaging your learners and meeting your learning needs effectively. By using these tips, you can develop top-notch online courses that captivate your learners and deliver first-rate training.

—The author, Mahammad Shafi, is a project manager at CommLab India, an e-learning design and development company. He is responsible for managing multiple e-learning projects for Fortune 500 clients and responsible for meeting timelines with good quality. More info: www.commlabindia.com

Published in Top Stories

Google has released a major upgrade to its Google Classroom platform that offers educators and developers the ability to connect to its Cloud services with third-party apps.

It includes a new application programing interface (API) that connects developers with Google Classroom, a platform for teachers to manage assignments and send feedback to students.

The update reportedly leverages richer content to turn learning into a more shareable experience. Alongside the API, Classroom updates include a new share button that educational sites can use to let students and teachers share links to articles, videos, images and other rich content. Likewise, smaller tweaks consist of notifications for its Classroom iOS and Androids apps, an API to create easy Google student accounts, and whitelisted "domains" that let different user groups collaborate across Google Apps for Education.

—More info: https://www.google.com/edu/products/productivity-tools/classroom/

Published in Latest News

Weejee Learning has been chosen by the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) to drive e-learning initiatives that will enhance training for the national organization's membership.

CAPC selected Weejee to develop custom training to strengthen safe and effective pain and symptom management as well as communication skills for all frontline clinicians who work with seriously ill patients. Weejee will develop a series of 60 CAPC courses rolling out on a continuous basis over a three-year period.

The case-based, interactive courses will provide free continuing education credits for all CAPC members and be offered in two categories: clinical modules and operational modules.

Published in Deals

The latest version of Docebo's LMS — v.6.6 — includes:

>> An enhanced multi-domain app, which manages multiple clients with unique domains from a single LMS. The enhancement — of particular relevance to extended enterprise customers — improves the user experience as well as providing automatic setup for domain configuration and http(s) addresses for the various domains.

>> An expansion of the LMS's popular widgets feature, makes it possible to have multiple configurations saved and assigned to different user groups, such as managers, administrators and learners.

>> A training and re-certification app allows administrators to create training certifications that validate users' skill levels for various topics.

>> A module that enables administrators to store test questions in a question bank for re-use across multiple assessments/evaluations.

—More info: www.docebo.com

Published in New Products

Growth Engineering's new Cloud-based authoring tool, Genie, has been developed to create game-based e-learning that is engaging for learners, but which also makes the process of creating e-learning fun for developers, too.

Having recognized the importance of gamification and social features to engage learners on its award-winning Academy LMS, Growth Engineering decided to add the same gamification and social functionality to its authoring tool.

Genie allows content creators to collaborate on projects in real time, allowing for impressive project management, and gamification features like points, badges and achievements motivate creators to move projects forward and hit deadlines.

—More info: www.growthengineering.co.uk

Published in New Products

Sales and marketing alignment has become a hot topic as leaders realize that getting the two groups on the same page yields greater revenue growth, shorter sales cycles and higher customer retention. Many organizations, however, struggle to create sales and marketing synergy that delivers a measureable business impact. They fail to recognize and address one of the key barriers to alignment: a lack of marketing training.

Marketo's "2013 Sales and Marketing Alignment Study" reported that in organizations with one to three days of marketing training annually, 21 percent of MQLs (marketing qualified leads) close. Increase training to eight to 10 days a year, and that closing percentage jumps to 35 percent. Organizations with more than 10 days of marketing training per year see closure rates of 60 percent of sales qualified leads that had resulted in proposals.

Why does training make such a big difference? One possible explanation: well-trained marketers deliver more effective programs. They're better equipped to create the types of messages, experiences and calls to action that resonate with their audiences. They're also more likely to understand how to track program results and optimize based on past success or failure.
"In the past, sales has had personalized, one-to-one conversations with prospects, while marketers have delivered higher-level messages target¬ing broader audiences," notes Valerie Witt, MarketingProfs vice president of Professional Development Solutions. "Now, marketers are challenged to deliver more personalized communications that leverage what they know about someone based on their behavior. It's a different approach. There's also greater emphasis on using technology and data to deliver more effective marketing campaigns. Companies that commit to developing their marketers' skills give themselves a competitive advantage."

While investments in sales-centric learning and development are increasing according to the ASTD "2013 State of the Industry" report, marketing training is not keeping pace. In fact, investments in marketing professional development are shrinking as companies attempt to maintain flat budgets while adding in new marketing technologies and tactics.
The recent "CMO Survey" reported that spending on marketing training and developing new marketing capabilities have steadily decreased since August 2012. The survey also found that while companies expect to increase spending on marketing analytics over the next three years, less than half believe they have the right talent to fully leverage analytics.

In addition, most companies plan to increase spending on social media and digital advertising, though only 16 percent have qualitative data on the impact of social media on the business. Almost half — 49 percent — have not been able to show the impact of their social media investments.  "Most businesses are asking marketers to think differently and use new tools without preparing them to do that," Witt says. "Until companies invest in learning for marketers the way they invest in leadership, management and sales development, they're unlikely to realize true sales and marketing alignment."

Published in Top Stories

NetDimensions and Maxment GmbH have signed a distribution agreement that will allow both partners to extend the impact of their flagship solutions to their respective client bases.

NetDimensions clients using the award-winning NetDimensions Talent Suite will now be able to link up to the Maxment Transfer & Evaluation solution and the Maxment HR Development Controlling solution. Both of these Maxment solutions rely on web-based, multilingual, user-friendly tools that are available to organizations of all sizes. This agreement expands Maxment's international distribution. At the same time, the agreement allows NetDimensions to offer clients complementary solutions for maximizing the return on their training investments.

Published in Deals

To understand what business-case success look like, let’s first look at what failure looks like.

Failure takes place when the business case:

>> is not in line with strategic business objectives;

>> lacks recognition of what is important to the CEO and CFO;

>> requests spending without financial benefit projections; and/or

>> uses HR and learning industry terminology that is a “different language.”

These failures all have one thing in common: They all relate to an L&D-driven agenda and not a business-driven agenda. To develop a successful business case, you must consider how it is perceived and how it will impact the greater good of the organization.

Who can tell you how your business case is perceived and how it will impact the greater organizational good? No single stakeholder can. In fact, according to CEB (Corporate Executive Board), the average number of individuals involved with today’s buying decision is 5.4. This buying team will often have differing agendas. That means that in order to get a Cloud-based learning business case approved, you’ll need to identify each of the buying team stakeholders and then secure their support by tailoring it to their specific priorities. Skipping or not fully addressing a stage will weaken a business case and reduce your approval probability.

STAGE 1: Define the Business Issue

>> Identify the business opportunity or problem to be solved.

>> Create a succinct description of what your proposal will deliver.

>> The objectives should help your organization reach its overall goals and be aligned with the priorities of senior management.

>> An example may be “reduce operating expenses” or “increase talent capability.

>> Develop an opportunity statement.

>> This describes the benefits of solving the problem or seizing the opportunity.

>> For example, “Reduce  HR budget and expand talent development to more employees."

STAGE 2: Analyze alternatives; Select best options

>> Ask those closest to the issue for their ideas on possible alternatives.

>> Research case studies of those inside and outside your field that have  faced similar challenges and solved them.

> Collect information about each alternative.

>> The goal is to weigh alternatives against one another in financial terms, intangible benefits and risk level.

>> For the financial terms, a payback period and proforma ROI are often used to compare.

>> Payback period illustrates how long it will take to recover initial investment.

>> ROI shows the monetary impact your investment is predicted to yield.

STAGE 3:  Prepare the business case

>> After analyzing the alternatives, you will prepare the written business case.

>> The template you use to lay out your business case should have a simple and sound structure:

1) Executive Summary;

2) Current Situation;

3) Analysis , Recommendtion;

4) Conclusion.

STAGE 4: Deliver the business case

>> During this stage you “sell” your recommendations.

>> Hone your persuasion and influencing skills.

>> Rehearse with an informed, invested colleague.

>> Plan the forum and format with care.

>> Select the time, place and approach that suits the stakeholders best.

>> Keep your presentation focused and concise. Avoid going into unnecessary detail.

>> Be prepared to deal with questions that may arise.

>> Have you ever implemented a similar recommendation?

>> What else might be needed that is not articulated in the business case?

>> What assumptions have you made that your stakeholder may disagree with? 

Published in Ideas
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