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Learning Paths: What Are They, & How Can They Create Customer Experience Success?

Customer service shouldn’t just be a department; it should be the entire company” – Tony Hsieh (CEO, Zappos) 

The late, great CEO of Zappos promoted this idea and he was absolutely right. To deliver exceptional customer experiences, everyone in your organization needs to be on board.

But what does that mean? And what’s most important to prioritize in education? This is where understanding the right learning path for overall customer experience excellence can be very powerful.

Let’s dig into some of the ways you can create the right environment for the right education to create a customer-centric culture.

Learning Paths, Defined

What is a learning path?

Learning and development leaders and curriculum designers often will put together a series of courses or training sessions to progress through within one area of interest or expertise. This helps learners take on a bit at a time, so they can eventually master bigger, more complex ideas. 

Learning paths, thanks to virtual learning environments and Learning Management Systems (LMS) available now, can serve up just what each learner needs at the right moment. 

But learning paths aren’t just about technology. You can create a learning path for an entire team or cohort, and that could mean a series of live training sessions, homework and group discussions, and whatever else you can present to educate.

We do this by creating custom learning paths for our clients, including virtual and live sessions, small group or individual coaching, and lots of communication to reinforce the topics we’re discussing. 

You can do this, too. These broad topics are important in any customer-centric culture, but then you can drill down where you feel each team needs more information. 

Starter Learning Paths to Consider

To get the most out of a customer experience learning path for your employees, it’s great to start with the basics and get the foundation right.

That means ideally having some foundational pieces in place, like your CX Mission Statement and your CX Success Statement

But even if you don’t have those quite yet, you want to be sure everyone in your organization is defining and discussing customer experience with the same vocabulary!

Path 1: Customer Experience 101

What DOES customer experience mean and why should we care? This is the first topic to approach and ensure you have a clear definition to build on.

Since CX comes from the top, ask your CEO or other C-Suite leaders to record a short video about what customer experience means at your organization. That’s a great way to introduce the idea and importance of customer experience.

Educational topics for this first step in the learning path could include:

  • Customer experience: the end-to-end journey between us and our customers
    • Explain how CX is not just about customer service or those serving customers directly, but the entire relationship you have with your customers
  • What customer experience success looks like at (BRAND)
    • What’s a great customer experience? How do you define that specifically at your organization?
  • What’s our CX Mission and how do we live up to that?
    • Share why the mission is what it is and how it’s not just an idea. Stress the importance of how the customer experience is about how you show up not just at transactional points in the journey, but at every touchpoint. It’s also how you show up as employees for one another!

Path 2: Move Into the What, How, and Who of your Company

Now that you’ve shared the basics, move into the specifics around your organization.

Share what customer experience actually MEANS to your organization. How does a successful customer experience deliver for everyone in the organization? 

Educational topics for this phase could include:

  • Our Customer Experience Strategy
    • So we deliver great experiences, so what? Share how when CX gets better, everyone wins. What does an increased referral rate do for your organization? How does that impact your overall business goals? (The CX Success Statement is really helpful here.)
    • If you have a customer journey map, or you’re working on one, this is also a great thing to introduce here!
  • How We Lead on Behalf of our Customers
    • How are customers included in decision making? Are leaders held accountable for CX outcomes? Sharing this is a way to emphasize that everyone is accountable. 
    • Who is responsible for what? How do cross-functional leaders work together to address customer needs? Transparency around how these cultural things are handled help reinforce the importance of CX at your organization.
  • How Do We Know? Customer Feedback
    • What feedback is collected at your organization? How are the insights achieved? How are those insights communicated to drive action?
    • If you have a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program, explain that and how it works. What are your top CX Metrics? 
    • What should every employee know about those numbers? What does it mean when NPS drops a point or CSAT improves? What numbers are we aiming for?

Path 3: Team and Role Specific Education

This is where customization can be important. Your internal communications team has different priorities than your customer success team. Narrow down what they need to know to empower them to deliver great experiences.

  • For example, your managers and leaders might need to know:
    • How do I coach team members around customer experience?
    • What are best practices for group adoption of using our customer data platform or CRM system? 
    • How can I empower employees to deliver the best experience possible?
    • How do I build bridges with other departments to address customer journey issues? 
  • Sales and marketing teams need to know:
    • How does the end-to-end journey of a customer affect how we communicate before the sale?
    • What are the ways we can live up to our CX Mission while building awareness and setting expectations?
    • What does a seamless, easier experience look like for our customers?
  • Human Resources can learn how the employee experience is directly related to the customer experience, including:
    • How to develop job descriptions to include customer experience goals
    • What incentives and rewards could be connected to CX outcomes
    • How to build a learning path to support a customer-centric culture!

You get the idea. Build the curriculum around the team and the roles they play.

Path 4: Experience Design and Improvement: Tools and Best Practices

Once your employees are fully on board with the ideas and ideals of customer experience, then they want to contribute! 

You can empower an entire organization by creating processes and mechanisms to collect feedback directly from them. Remember that suggestion box in the employee lounge? It’s the same concept, but now we have clever technology and tools to help us not only capture the great ideas but also to prioritize it and take action.

Techniques like customer journey mapping, service blueprinting, and customer observation methods can be taught and encouraged to solve customer issues.

These topics and trainings might include:

  • Customer journey mapping and micromapping
  • Service blueprinting
  • Empathy mapping
  • Ideal state mapping
  • Design thinking techniques

As you might have guessed, I don’t think this is a “one and done” learning experience. To create a true cultural shift to not only become customer-centric but to remain so, learning and reinforcement of this learning is an ongoing process.

How to Support Learning Paths by Creating a Long-Term Cultural Shift

Everyone’s learning paths should identify an overall outcome from the start. HOW will learning affect customers? How will we connect the dots between efficient behaviors internally and understanding customers ?

There are learners who can say “I’ve checked the box,” then there are learners who can say “I can’t wait to help our customers achieve more!” So, wouldn’t you rather have the latter?

Here are a few ways to bridge that gap:

1. Communicate clearly about why these learning paths are important to your customers.

Then reinforce those ideas again. And again…

Learners need to understand why knowing how to create a fancier spreadsheet or slide deck will connect to a better experience for them and those they serve. It’s not about just learning how to create a pivot table, it’s about providing accurate data swiftly to get to meaningful outcomes.

The more learners understand these bigger concepts, the more they will be willing to invest in their own learning.

2. Tie each step back to your customer experience mission.

The best organizations all march to the beat of one drum – the mission to create a unique and meaningful experience for their customers. They define this in their own ways.

Nike wants to make everyone an athlete. The Ritz-Carlton is a group of ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. These organizational mantras are more than just words used in new employee training. They are what drive people in everything they do to serve customers.

If you don’t have a customer experience mission , it’s time to create one, even if it’s just for your department. What are you really trying to do for your customers? This isn’t about what you do. In fact, it’s really about how you make your customers feel.

Instead of explaining a learning path as something that will just help you be a better accountant, help your learners see how learning will help your customers live their missions.

3. Embrace what’s coming next.

In today’s world, we’re already responding to chatbots and doing everything we can on our mobile devices. Artificial intelligence is providing new pathways for customers through virtual assistants on our devices to helping us distill data at lightning speed. Is your learning keeping up?

By learning about the amazing “nexts” like AI, Virtual Reality, or the like, you may unlock that big a-ha idea that pushes your organization into the future. Your customers are looking for you to do so, because they are already there.

Learning is a key way to encourage and facilitate innovation within your own organization.

Learning today is so flexible and exciting. And yet we still have work to do to connect the dots for learners on not just the HOW but also the WHY of learning and customer experience.

Ready to get started? We’ll be releasing our latest resource in the month of March designed to help you build your learning paths. It’s one of two dozen CX tools and resources we’re giving away for free as part of our Year of CX initiative.

Sign up here to be notified when it’s ready — and get immediate access to the resources we’ve already released.

About Jeannie Walters, CCXP, CSP

Jeannie Walters CCXP CSP small square photoJeannie is an award-winning customer experience expert, international keynote speaker, and sought-after business coach who is trailblazing the movement from “Reactive Customer Service” to “Proactive Customer and Employee Experience.” More than 500,000 people have learned from her CX courses on LinkedIn Learning, and her insights have been featured in Forbes, The Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and NPR

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