The Problem With Customer Satisfaction
If you’re a trainer or training professional, you probably use customer satisfaction score to measure how happy students are with the courses you offer. Chances are that once a student has completed a course you ask them this question: “How satisfied were you with the course/instructor?” If your satisfaction scores are high, you send a message out to the organization to highlight what a great job you’re doing. The problem with asking the “satisfaction” question is that the answer doesn’t tell you how engaged or loyal your students are.
Why Measure Customer Loyalty
Customer engagement or loyalty is a much better indicator of whether those students will take any more of your classes. In fact, high satisfaction scores might well be hiding that many of your training customers are ready to jump ship and find another provider. Here a real life non-training example:
I hired a vendor to work on my house. The project took longer than I expected and the contractor really didn’t do a good job of communicating schedule changes, delays, etc. The final product was pristine. And, I was satisfied with the results. If the vendor gave me a survey to rate just that aspect of the effort, I would have given him a nine out of 10. Unfortunately, because of the elongated timeline and poor communication there was no way I would use this vendor again or refer his services to one of my friends. The impact to the vendor was unrealized revenue opportunities.
Is it possible that your training organization is like the vendor that worked on my house? You’re getting a lot of good scores on your satisfaction surveys, but your students or customer base is not loyal. They are unwilling to recommend your classes to their colleagues and they would prefer to take classes from someone else.
What the Resesarch Says
My personal experience, it seems, was not a coincidence. Research shows that there is a direct correlation between corporate revenue and the willingness of existing customers to refer that company’s services. Forbes magazine, for example, suggests one reason Apple Inc.’s retail stores enjoy the highest productivity in retailing of any kind, is because they focus on customer loyalty, not customer satisfaction. Apple uses an approach called Net Promoter Score (NPS). Here’s how it might in a training environment.
Abandon your current questionnaire and create a one question survey. Rather than asking students who have completed courses: “How satisfied were you with this course?” Ask them: “On a scale of ‘0 – 10’ with ‘0’ meaning not at all and ’10’ being extremely likely, how likely are you to refer this course/instructor to a colleague?” Provide students with an area to submit comments if they wish.
How To Mearure Customer Loyalty
With NPS anyone who gives you a score of 9 or 10 is a promoter. It considers students who give you a score of 7 or 8 passives. And, it considers students who give you a score between 0 and 6 detractors. To get your NPS you would subtract all the scores of “0-6” from the scores that rate you between 9 and 10. If for example you received one hundred surveys from a course and twenty of those surveys rated your course between 0 and 6. Ten rated you between 9 and 10, and seventy rated you between a 7 and an 8. You would subtract the detractors (20) from the promoters (10) giving you a NPS of (-10), the translation, you have a lot of work to do.
What Customer Satisfaction Hides
Using a traditional approach to viewing these numbers gives you a different view. We would probably consider anyone who rated us above a “5” as satisfied. Thus the satisfaction score would have been 80% (the seventy that rated you between 7 and 8 plus the 10 that rated you between 9 and 10). The score of 80% would have hidden that more of your students are detractors than are promoters, and only 10 out of 100 would refer your services to a colleague.
So, if you really want to know how good a job you’re training team is doing. Consider NPS.
Twelve years ago I Co-authored an article for Training Industry Inc. titled “The Training Value Gap.” My thesis was: The incremental delivery of small nuggets of learning adds more value to an organization than the one time delivery of large training programs. I believed that consistently providinglearners with small (sometimes incomplete) knowledge nuggets would cause learners to more quickly gain new skills. The quicker acquisition of those skills would cause incremental and consistent performance improvements that would help the organization reap the benefits much earlier than if the organizations waited and delivered one large training program.
“The incremental delivery of small nuggets of learning adds more value to an organization than the one time delivery of large training programs.”
When Bobbi Edwardsand I wrote that article back in 2007, we had never heard of Agile. We had our own theory regarding the design of learning solutions, but we didn’t have a method to support it. Over the years we attempted to accomplish this fresh approach to training design and development using a variety of waterfall development approaches, including ADDIE and Six Sigma. It wasn’t until we transitioned to Agile that we truly had an iterative, incremental training development technique that allowed us to develop and deploy small incremental learning content in a sustained and proactive manner.
“Agile not only provides software developers with a technique that supports incremental releases, it also accommodates for the quick and nimble change of the high-tech world in which we live.”
For those not familiar with Agile and how this approach to product development has changed our everyday lives, consider how you receive updates to your smartphone apps or your personal computer software. Chances are you frequently receive small functionality updates to these applications. Right? This is in stark contrast to the mindset of just a few years ago when software applications underwent major rewrites every eighteen to twenty-four months. Delivering incremental software fixes and functionality allows customers to receive value faster and more frequently.
Consider the impact to today’s customers if they had to wait two years to get the latest twitter app because the phone manufacturer would not release that update until the Facebook interface was complete? Agile not only provides software developers with a technique that supports incremental releases, it also accommodates for the quick and nimble change of the high-tech world in which we live. As a result, we all glean the benefits of frequent fixes and increased functionality.
Applying this analogy to training allows a new manager (who needs to developleadership skills) the opportunity to learn how to deliver performance reviews even if the component of the curriculum that teaches how to navigate the company’s culture is incomplete. The implications are: the new manager (and his or her company) can immediately enjoy the benefits of one component of the training even though the entire program is incomplete. This allows the company to realize incremental improvements that reduce the training value gap. When training organizations develop content the Agile way, companies and trainees both realize the benefit of learning solutions sooner, not later.
If you want to close the training value gap, I encourage you to use Agile.
An institution’s capacity to learn drives its ability to succeed (Gronhaug & Stone, 2012). Businesses reach the pinnacle of this capacity when they become learning organizations (LO) and realize what Senge (1990) characterized as the “Fifth Discipline”. Institution that achieve the “Fifth Discipline” experience a shift in organizational culture. Inventing new knowledge turns into a means of operating, not a specialized activity (Nonaka, 1991).
Modern literature agrees with the potential, philosophy and grand themes of the “Fifth Dimension”. The research is likewise in agreement that the doctrine includes several unsettled issues and queries that organizations need to clarify to reach it (Antonacopoulou, Moldjord, Steiro & Stokkeland, 2019; Gronhaug & Stone, 2012). Those challenges include; How will the entity recognize when it has developed into a learning organization? And, what behavior modifications are needed? These unanswered questions are perhaps the reason Gavin (2019) contended that although business leaders concur with the notions embraced by the LO, few organization have transitioned.
The New Learning Organization
Antonacopoulou et al. (2019) focused on these unsettled issues by presenting a conceptualized view of what they referred to as “The New Learning Organization” (NLO). The investigators argued for precise, actionable, simple to implement rules for practice that result in producing what they referred to as an “agile” organization. They further proclaimed the NLO is proficient at the same principles Goncalves (2011) represented as core tenants of agile. Those tenants include; group problem solving, experimenting with new techniques, learning from previous experience and best practices, and transferring knowledge throughout the organization in a quick and efficient manner.
Agile and the New Learning Organization
The change from a conventional institution into the NLO requires several interrelated organizational activities (Sharma & Bilgic, 2016). However, because of its similarities to the agile method, Yocum (2015) maintained that adopting agile can assist with, and speed up an entity’s transformation. The researcher found that numerous training teams have replaced their traditional principles and processes with agile to achieve the “Fifth Dimension” and become more flexible and efficient in creating online educational programs. Further, Yocum (2015) found that, like the NLO, agile focuses on solving problems, experimenting with new ways of getting work done, learning from experiences, and transferring knowledge throughout the organization. With agile, employees, empowered to decide, collaborate to produce solutions (Denning, 2016).
Training organizations that have adopted agile as a development method have experienced radical improvements because of group problem solving, experimentation with new approaches, and knowledge sharing (Sweeney & Cifuentes, 2012). One company reduced the time required to develop and deliver training solutions from close to a year to less than two weeks. Another increased the amount of training it could produce by 74 percent. Perhaps the most impressive story is how one group avoided layoffs during a company downsizing, because agile made its training and development process so cost-effective (Islam, 2017).
If you’re interested in learning how to use agile to help transform your training team into the NLO, fill out the form below to pick up a case study that details how one team did it.
Antonacopoulou, E. P., Moldjord, C., Steiro, T. J., & Stokkeland, C. (2019). The new learning organisation. The Learning Organization. doi:10.1108/tlo-10-2018-0159
Denning, S. (2016, August 17). What is Agile? Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/ stevedenning/2016/08/13/what-is-agile/#2e34b4aa26e3
Garvin, D. (2015). Learning organizations. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2008/02/harvard-business-ideacast-83-
Gronhaug, K., & Stone, R. (2012). The learning organization. Competitiveness Review, 22(3), 261-275. doi:10.1108/10595421211229673
Islam, K.A. (2017). Agile methodology for developing and measuring learning: A step by step guide for delivering learning solutions that keep pace with business. Murrieta, CA: BookBlast Pro.
Nonaka, I. (1991) The knowledge creating company. Harvard Business Review, 69, 96-104
Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Doubleday/Currency
Sharma, M., & Bilgic, M. (2016). Evidence-based uncertainty sampling for active learning. Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery, 31(1), 164-202. doi:10.1007/s10618-016-0460-3
Sweeney, D. S., & Cifuentes, L. (2010). Using agile project management to enhance the performance of instructional design teams. Educational Technology, 50(4), 34–41.
Yocum, K.A. (2015). Design creativity: Using Agile principles in instructional design for online learning. (Ph.D. Dissertation). ProQuest Dissertations & Thesis Global database