When you create an active learning community within and beyond your organization, everyone stands to gain.
What is Extended Enterprise Learning?
To begin, it is important to understand extended enterprise learning. In a nutshell, it is any training system that targets non-employees—for example, people in your supply-chain channel, sales representatives, service technicians and customers. With an extended enterprise learning management system (LMS), the objective is offer training that effectively changes collaborators’ and customers’ behaviors in ways that support your organization’s goals.
As discussed in previous posts, there are many ways contexts in which extended enterprise learning can be beneficial. To illustrate, consider the following example. If your company sells safety equipment to construction companies but your primary clients—construction companies—don’t even recognize the value and necessity of using and/or updating safety equipment, you have a problem. In this case, by extending learning to one’s customers, it is possible to increase their awareness of why safety products matter and why they need to be replaced on a regular basis too. In the end, one’s clients gain by increasing safety on the job and lowering their liability and one’s business gains by radically increasing sales. It’s that simple.
Still not convinced? Let’s look at the top three reasons why extended enterprise learning holds the potential to transform your business.
The bottom line is that companies that not only invest in training their own employees but also people in their supply and distribution chains and their customers report greater increases in revenue. A recent report by the Aberdeen Group found that learning programs for customers or business partners may double one’s increase in year-over-year revenue per full time equivalent. Why is this? The answer is simple. Your suppliers, distributors and customers are also part of your organization. The more educated they are about what you are doing, the more able and willing they will be to work for or with rather than against you.
Track Customer/Client Behaviors
We now all appreciate that data matters. Today, the best run businesses are those that have up-to-date analytics on everything from what their employees are doing to how their customers interact with their products. While collecting data on one’s employees is relatively easy, however, collecting data on other players in one’s supply or distribution chain or on customers and clients can be a challenge. With an extended enterprise LMS, one gains access to data previously out of reach. For example, let’s say you’re selling an especially powerful blender that does it all—blends, grinds, and even works as a juicer. You already know people like your product but you also know, from customer reviews, that some consumers find it difficult to assemble your product and never use it to its full capacity (e.g., they manage to use it as a blender but not grinder or juicer). By offering extended enterprise learning, you can track when and how often new customers seek advice but also gain feedback on how your customers may be using your blender in surprising ways. In the end, your customers gain by learning how to use your product more quickly and effectively but you gain by gathering feedback on the product, which you can use to improve your learning materials and pass on to engineers in order to develop future products.
Train Service Technicians and Sales Staff
A final major reason to embrace extended enterprise learning is that it is a powerful tool for training service technicians and external vendors. While service technicians and external vendors may not work for your company, they do have a huge impact on your products success. Let’s say your selling office equipment. Whether or not a technician can easily fix your copy machine or laser printer matters. Why? Because the client depending on the machine needs to get back to work. The faster the machine is fixed and working again, the better it is for them and ultimately for you, since a quick fix is more likely to result in future sales. Likewise, to return to the blender example, let’s say your selling blenders for household use. At most retail stores, there will be multiple competing products on the floor. So which blender will the sales representative—who is not working for any specific company—promote? The blender they know little about or the one that they understand inside and out because they have received some additional extended enterprise training on its potential? The answer is obvious—the product that the sales representative understand best will likely be more likely to be pitched and to receive a great pitch on the floor.
While not the only reasons to buy in to extended enterprise learning, increased revenues, advanced tracking capabilities and extended training opportunities are three compelling reasons that are difficult to ignore.