How Instilling a Culture of Continuous Learning Will Improve Customer Experience

It's an ongoing journey that requires a prioritization on educating employees and management

Emerging tech is helpful, but if employees don't know how to use new devices, it won't have the intended impact. Getty Images
Headshot of Steven Testa

When businesses are looking to improve their customer experience, attention naturally veers toward sexy technology like machine learning and natural language processing. But elaborate tools will make little impact unless leadership and employees can learn to use new systems, embrace different ways of working and accept CX improvement as an ongoing journey. In other words, companies who want to lead the industry in CX will need to develop a culture of continuous learning.

Having deployed a new technology, most companies will train people on how to use it. And that’s important, but not enough. New tools will uncover data and analysis, which the business has to review and act on. High tech ushers in a cycle of insight, planning and action that never stops.

A successful CX strategy must include people who can embrace change, innovate, experiment and collaborate while advancing their own abilities. When learning and growth take center stage every day, the business can quickly bring CX improvements to market, react to evolving consumer needs and smoothly handle challenges no one saw coming.

In addition, opportunities for career development increase employee engagement and reduce turnover. People with longer tenure have greater expertise than new hires and can provide a higher level of customer service. And companies with just 50 percent more employee engagement lead their industries in customer engagement.

A learning culture also increases employee resiliency and improves innovation. When new technology is frustrating or customers’ problems are difficult, people can turn to colleagues for collaborative solutions or work with management to improve the situation.

Companies who want to lead the industry in CX will need to develop a culture of continuous learning.

For some companies, developing a positive attitude to change and innovation will take time and work. But a few relatively simple initial steps can make a big difference.

Lead by example

Culture starts at the top, so leadership has to get the ball rolling by setting company-wide objectives for learning initiatives and by giving employees the time and support to weave learning into everyday work.

Create individual learning paths

Shift from one-size-fits-all training to individual coaching and mentoring in which employees set personal goals in line with company objectives, identify actions to achieve them and overcome obstacles along the way. Don’t forget that managers need to learn as well. Many of them have never practiced the skills of coaching, listening or problem-solving that they’ll need in a learning culture.

Recast working as learning

Employees acquire between 70 and 90 percent of their skills from everyday experiences and working or talking with colleagues. Take advantage of this opportunity by giving people assignments that help them expand knowledge and ability. Hold post-mortems to draw out lessons from recent projects. Focus on repeating successes more than avoiding failure, and encourage experimentation.

Reward the process

For a healthy learning culture, people need to enjoy the journey not just the end result, so honor the lessons more than the outcome. If an employee suggests an innovative strategy that doesn’t quite work out, recognize and encourage the attempt. The next idea might be a game-changer.

Support collaboration

Give a team time to consult with each other, share concerns and solve problems together. You can set up book clubs, lunch and learns or regular team meetings that generate ideas on how to better serve customers. People are more engaged when working together, and most people prefer to learn from their colleagues.

Provide copious resources

In a learning culture, employees don’t helplessly wait for someone to come solve a problem for them; they actively seek answers. It’s important to make learning resources available. Serve up short online courses in soft skills, flesh out company knowledge bases and document essential processes.

At the heart of a continuous learning organization, you’ll find a group of people who embrace change and confidently master new skills. Regardless of the fancy CX technology behind them, these are the pioneers that will drive real leadership.

Steven Testa is channel director at VHT.