Delivering training to an audience beyond traditional employees is one of the fastest-growing segments of the learning industry, increasing at an annual pace better than 25 percent, according to Bersin & Associates.
These external training initiatives may require the delivery of training, certification programs and knowledge assets to your organization’s extended enterprise of customers, partners, suppliers, channel and distributor networks, franchises and franchisees, association members, independent agents, contractors and volunteers.
There is an art and science to this concept called “extended enterprise training” (EET). It’s a model being used to great success by well-known companies like Dell, Palm and Google. Turning learning solutions into business solutions for external customers—creating learning commerce—can be a key driver of continued growth in the training department.
The advent of on-demand learning platforms now makes it easier and more effective than ever to develop and deliver training to audiences outside the organization to stimulate customer success and increase sales.
Customer training enables buyers to best use products services. When a customer understands how to use a product and its features, that customer has a higher level of success and overall satisfaction. Customer success will also decrease questions about the product (reducing support and service costs), and may lessen the potential for product returns and enhance organizational transparency.
As complementary products or new products with additional features are introduced, a well-trained customer will be more likely to consider additional purchases.
The operational challenge of putting EET into practice comes down to the science of effectively selecting and using the right learning platform technology. The various technology elements needed —including a learning management system (LMS), online courseware and e-commerce— are all parts of an integrated whole. Using an on-demand learning management solution, training can easily be developed and delivered to external audiences. The Software as a Service (SaaS) model only requires users to have Internet access to complete their training, providing a very flexible and scalable solution.
Other important considerations when launching an EET initiative include:
>> Listening to customers: Significant emphasis must be placed adequately understanding customers’ needs and building solutions that satisfy those requirements. Customer training may need to address a diverse audience, so it must be designed with customer input to optimize revenue and value.
>> Keeping it simple: From the LMS user interface to the ease of on-demand system delivery, organizations should make it simple for customers to access the training.
>> Focusing on flexibility and scalability: As an EET program grows and expands, needs will change. So think ahead. For example, working with an LMS vendor that has experience in delivering EET domestically and globally will have the ability to guide your organization through e-commerce challenges related to languages, currencies and international taxes.
A leading provider of software was looking for a learning management system (LMS) to support a training commerce initiative targeting its clients’ end users.
It needed a robust and intuitive LMS to manage online and instructor-led IT training with a robust e-commerce functionality to calculate multiple international currencies. The solution would also have to calculate domestic state taxes and international Value Added Tax (VAT) and Goods and Services Tax (GST), which are required for international transactions. Additionally, the company required a flexible system that could be integrated with its existing licensing processes and fulfillment tools. This would allow the company to improve existing business processes by incorporating the new LMS and its capabilities to streamline process workflow.
After a great deal of research, the company realized it needed a provider that could centralize instructor-led training and online learning registration, a locator map to help students select instructor-led classes offered near them, and an e-commerce system that could provide comprehensive reporting.
Through collaboration with the company, on-demand LMS provider GeoLearning was able to create a one-stop location to manage the online and instructor-led course registration needs of students. The company selected GeoLearning’s GeoMaestro LMS and training commerce solution to manage customer training on a global scale. Using GeoLearning, the company was able to offer:
>> Online and instructor-led e-learning available globally 24x7x365
>> World map for selecting classes within each student’s learning area
>> Point-and-click service for learners to find nearby instructor-led courses and register
>> E-commerce functionality capable of handling multiple currencies, credit cards and taxes
>> Integration between GeoMaestro and the company’s order processing tool, thereby eliminating highly manual work and follow-up
In the first three months, the new system hosted 36,000 online training events and registered more than 1,000 customers for instructor-led training classes globally. With the expansion of its registration program, the company has been able to release a new series of lab-based courses that are far more advanced and hands-on than the previous foundation courses.
Susan Swanson is a freelance research analyst and writer specializing in the learning and performance industry. Learn more about this initiative at the Website www.geolearning.com/alt.