What listening to customers taught me

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Functional onboarding

In 25 years of L&D consulting I lose count of the times I have helped participants re-evaluate the benefits of listening. Recently, however, I had my own lesson in what listening really means.

We designed our functional onboarding platform five years ago. It all started as a client project where we consulted with stakeholders, listened to their challenges and designed accordingly. Subsequently, as we migrated the solution into a SaaS platform, we ensured the most highly valued features, namely; facilitating feedback through evidence sharing and multi-modal options etc. were integral in the new product. Then we set out to share our experience of facilitating experiential learning through a digital medium at conferences and other channels, engaging and attracting customers along the way.

Fast forward a few years and now we find ourselves talking to customers who had no involvement in the original design and consequently no emotional connection to the ‘best features’. When we ask what they value most, to my surprise the features I am proudest about don’t always make their top three. Simplicity of use and consequently speed of deployment are regularly among the most highly prized attributes.

Maybe my lack of experience with digital tools had led me to simply take this quality for granted, after all, aren’t all digital learning tools easy to use?  Well not according to our clients, one of whom said; ‘we test all kinds of fancy products that sound amazing but if we trial them and find that we will have to employ someone on a good salary just to administer them, then the ROI does not stack up’. Speed of deployment through ease of use is not just ‘nice to have’, it provides tangible financial benefit. As another customer explained ‘we like the On.Board platform because we can produce and modify programs at the speed of the business, which is not something many platforms offer’. Interestingly for us, our customer feedback is bourne out in this study by the Fosway Group.

Thank-you to all our customers who share their feedback so openly, we really appreciate it! Meanwhile, I have been reminded that listening is the number one learning agility and how easily pre-conceptions and beliefs can sub-consciously block-out what people are saying and the value they offer.

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