Why Your Customer Service Training Should Be Out of Sync

Carpool Karaoke is an amazing thing.

It's a popular segment on The Late Late Show with James Corden, but that's not what I mean. What I mean is it's amazing how we can watch it.

My wife mentioned a recent episode that featured Gwen Stefani, George Clooney, and Julia Roberts. We were enjoying a lazy Sunday morning with my parents who were visiting for Mothers Day, so we decided to watch it.

That's the amazing part. 

The Late Late Show with James Corden airs weeknights at 12:37am. We didn't have to stay up that late. We didn't have to wait for a weeknight. We didn't even have to watch the rest of the show that led up to that segment. 

All we had to do was find it on YouTube.

That may not seem amazing at first, but think of all the other content we can consume the same way. For example, why can't we do the same thing for customer service training?

The notion that we need to sync up everyone's schedule to attend a training class at the same time seems so out of date. And, it certainly doesn't make sense to sit through a bunch of training you don't want or need just to get to the really juicy stuff.

That's why your training needs to be out of sync. 

The Synchronicity Challenge

Imagine you have 1,000 employees.

They're spread over 13 locations and work 3 different shifts. You can't just shut everything down and get all the shifts to come to one central location. So, how will you get them all together for training?

In the old days, classroom training was the default solution. This was a hassle because you'd spend a great deal of money on four big things:

  • Paying employees to attend training
  • Paying a trainer to facilitate multiple classes at each location
  • Travel costs to get the trainer to all of the locations
  • Covering the employees' shifts while they attended training

Webinars made things slightly better. Employees could tune in from their computers, so you could hold fewer sessions and didn't have to pay for the trainer to travel from location to location. Of course, there was a drop-off in training quality, but the savings was substantial.

This type of training is known as synchronous training.

This is where everyone attends training at the same time. It's great from a learning perspective because people can easily share ideas and contribute to each others' understanding of the topic. It's not so great because of the aforementioned logistics.


The Asynchronous Opportunity

E-learning promised to solve the synchronicity problem. 

The beauty of e-learning is it's asynchronous training. This means that people don't attend at the same time. They consume the training when it's convenient for them.

To relate this back to television, e-learning is kind of like your DVR. You don't have to tune in to watch your favorite show at a specific time. You can watch it when (and often where) you please.

This can help you save a lot of training dollars. 

You pay to create the training once, and then re-use it, so you don't have to keep paying the trainer for each class. It's also easier to work asynchronous training into employee schedules, since employees take the training at their own pace. That means you'll spend less on keeping your operation covered while employees attend training.

There are also a few downsides to many e-learning programs.

For one, they're boring. Many e-learning programs are nothing more than a monotone voice droning on over text-laden PowerPoint slides. Even the flashier e-learning programs make you sit through a lot of content you aren't necessarily into before you get to the good stuff.

Another problem is what happens next. How will participants get the support they need? Will they get a chance to share ideas with each other? Many e-learning programs lack this crucial element.


The Balanced/Blended Solution

Really good training often blends both asynchronous and synchronous elements.

To help explain this, let me go back to Carpool Karaoke. I viewed the segment asynchronously. But, I also viewed it with my parents and my wife, so we were immediately able to talk about it (which reinforced the memory). 

I've since talked about it with other people who watched the segment. Even though they watched it at a different time than I did, we still consumed the same content. 

Good training is often like this.

Imagine again that you had to train 1,000 employees in 13 locations spread over three shifts on how to better serve upset customers. You wanted to focus on giving them specific skills for diffusing customer anger.

Here's how you could blend both asynchronous and synchronous elements:

Step 1: Everyone watches Chapter 1 from the Working With Upset Customers training video on Lynda.com. This part of the course focuses on diffusing customer anger and finding a way to help them.

Step 2: Supervisors hold team meetings. The purpose is to lead a team-level discussion about the training video. Employees can discuss their key learning moments and make a commitment to apply what they learned. The conversation could take place in a regularly scheduled team meeting to minimize operational disruptions.

Step 3: Supervisors provide feedback. The goal here is to check-in with each individual employee to see how well they're using the new skills, and to provide additional feedback to help them continue their development. Supervisors could do this as part of the regular feedback sessions they're already holding with their teams.

The net result of this plan is effective training that costs less and has far fewer logistical headaches.