The Surprising Reasons Why Video is Better Than Hiring a Trainer

I typically have a lot of conversations with customer service leaders this time of year who want to hire me to conduct training for their team. I almost always try to talk them out of it.

Yes, I realize I'm talking myself out of paying clients. But my goal in these conversations is to be helpful. The surprising truth is video is usually much more effective than hiring an external consultant for frontline customer service training. 

This blog posts lays out the reasons why video can be better.

Why should you believe me?

  • I've spent more than 25 years as a customer service trainer.

  • I'm a Certified Professional in Learning & Performance (CPLP).

  • I'm a past president of the Association for Talent Development’s San Diego chapter.

Two important caveats here:

One: In the interest of full disclosure, I have 18 training videos in the LinkedIn Learning library. I started working with LinkedIn Learning in 2013 when I realized the power of video.

Two: The focus here is on customer service training. I'm in no way suggesting that video is the best way to learn any skill.

Person watching a training video on a smartphone.

Video Costs Less

Let's start with the easy one. Using training videos can run as little as 10 percent of the total cost of hiring an external trainer.

Keep in mind the trainer's fee is just one of the expenses you'll pay:

  • Trainer's fee

  • Licensing and printing fees for materials

  • Labor cost of employees attending training

  • Labor cost of employees who provide coverage during training

  • Facilities cost

  • Catering cost

Here's a simplified cost comparison I worked up for this blog post.

Cost comparison of live training vs video.

Notice employees are spending far less time in training with the video example. My training videos typically take 50-75 percent less time to complete than a live class.

This is a key part of the cost/benefit equation, and it also leads us to the second area where video is superior.

Video is More Flexible

Hiring an external trainer can be a logistical challenge.

First, there's getting a date on the calendar. My next available date is three months from now. Internally, you likely have busy and slow periods to contend with along with employee vacations and other initiatives competing for time.

The day of training is also complicated. Most businesses don't have the luxury of shutting down their operation to send everyone to training. A typical solution is to divide the team into two or more classes, and then run extra shifts and even overtime to maintain coverage while some people attend the workshop.

But your troubles don't end there. What do you do if someone calls in sick that day? Or what happens when you hire two new employees next month? Those people missed the class entirely.

My training videos are on demand, which means each individual can watch them when convenient. You could assign a few videos to everyone on the team, give them a week to watch them, and have each person watch just a few minutes at a time.

This minimizes the disruption to your operation. And it allows new hires to attend the same training as the rest of the team. Watching the video on demand also has an incredibly important learning benefit. which we’ll get to next.

Video is More Effective

By now, most leaders tell me, "Ok, I understand that video costs less and is more convenient, but I'm willing to spend the money to get the best results."

The surprising response to that is video is still the way to go! Here's a simple exercise to help you understand the problem with a full or half-day live training class.

  1. Think about the last customer service seminar or conference you attended.

  2. Try to recall about how much material was covered during that time. 

  3. Now identify how much material you actually implemented. 

The answer for most people is depressingly low. 

That's because we're typically bombarded with too much information during a live workshop. We learn best when we receive new information in small chunks and have a chance to implement that information repeatedly over time.

This is where video really shines!

All of my video courses are split into short segments that are 3-5 minutes long. The intent is to watch just one or two segments, identify the specific skills they cover, and then go back to work and implement those skills.

For example, in this training plan for learning to serve upset customers, participants start by watching just two videos that total less than 10 minutes. The videos focus on understanding why customers get upset, and how a customer's anger can influence our instinctive fight or flight response.

Participants are then asked to go back to work and spend time implementing what they learned from these short videos. After a few days of practice, people will greatly improve their skills, and they can go back and watch the next video.

This leads to another benefit. Video gives you an opportunity to review content as needed. So if you had a particularly challenging customer, but can't remember that de-escalation technique you learned a few months ago, you can go back and re-watch the video to refresh your skills.

Conclusion

You don't have to believe me. I encourage you to run your own experiment and see how video can improve customer service training. 

Here are some resources that will allow you to try this at little to no cost:

First, you'll need access to either LinkedIn Learning or Lynda.com. You can get a free 30-day trial account if you don't already have a subscription. 

Next, pick a topic from the enormous library. I've already laid out a training plan for using the Working with Upset Customers course, but there are many courses to choose from.

Finally, send your team through the training and see what type of results you get. You can use this primer to learn how to use the videos effectively. 

As always, you can contact me for assistance. I’m happy to have a conversation and walk you through it.


How I Create Scenes for My LinkedIn Learning Courses

Note: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

One of the great things about training videos is the scenes where actors play out a customer service scenario.

It helps provide viewers with a more concrete example of concepts being shared. 

A common complaint for many training videos is the scenes are unrealistic and cheesy. I've seen plenty of those myself, so this is always in the back of my mind as I work with film producers at LinkedIn Learning to create scenes for my training videos.

Here's how I create scenes for my courses.

Filming a scene for the Customer Service Foundations course.

Step 1: Start With Something Real

My scenes are based on situations that have really happened.

I like to think of examples that highlight the concept I'm trying to share. It could be from my own experience as a customer, the many jobs I've had serving customers, or a story someone else shared with me.

For a segment on identifying customers' emotional needs, I thought back to the time I was a customer service manager for a catalog company that sold collectibles. Some of the angriest customers were people who ordered something as a gift, only to receive an item that was different than what was expected.

So for this movie, I wrote a brief dialogue based on that experience.

[scene: A contact center employee is talking on the phone with a customer. The customer becomes angry when the employee offers to do an exchange.]

Employee: "I'm so sorry to hear we sent the wrong item. I'd be happy to help you do an exchange and send out the color you ordered."

Customer: An exchange?! I was supposed to give it as a gift tonight. I can't do anything with this!

[end scene]

Here's what it looks like on film (the scene starts at :31):

Step 2: Pick a Setting

The setting for a scene can have a tremendous influence on its authenticity. 

Here I start with a few general ideas and then share them with my producer at LinkedIn Learning. The producer works with the production team to create the right set, cast the scene, and ensure everything can be filmed on time and on budget, so there's a lot of collaboration at this point.

Sometimes, my ideas are easy to execute. The contact center set used in the video above was the same one used for my course, Phone-Based Customer Service. (Fast forward to 2:11 of this video and you'll see the same set, shot from a slightly different angle.)

Other times, the producer will make some suggestions to find a setting that's easier to build or perhaps will show up better on video. 

I originally wanted to do a scene at a movie theater snack bar for my course on Working with Upset Customers, because I had seen a customer get unreasonably angry in that setting. The producer I was working with suggested a coffee shop setting instead, because that set was already built. 

It was a great suggestion, especially because I've seen people lose it in coffee shops, too! Here's a video using that set (the scene starts at :59):

Notice the video also focuses on emotional needs, but the scenario is different than the first video I showed you. There are often overlapping topics between my courses, so I try to put a slightly different spin on it each time.


Step 3: Cast the Scene

Good acting can make or break the authenticity of a training video scene.

This step is almost entirely in the hands of the producer I'm working with. As a writer, I like to give my producer a general idea of what each character might be like without getting too specific, since there's a lot of diversity in the customer service world. 

The producers at LinkedIn Learning have extensive experience casting for training videos, and I've really been impressed with the choices they've made. The actors in my training videos are consistently talented and professional, and they do a great job bringing the script to life!

Of course, there are times when our production schedule, budget, or some other factors requires some creative casting. The contact center agent in this scene is actually my producer for the course, Sam.

Filming a customer service training video on a contact center set.

Step 4: Build the Sets

The LinkedIn Learning production team does a terrific job building sets for various scenarios. 

We will sometimes have a conference call or exchange photos of different ideas to make sure we're on the same page, but I've learned to trust the process. Here are behind-the-scenes photos of the four sets we used for scenarios in the Customer Service Foundations course.

Reception Area

Filming a customer service training video on a reception area set.

Retail Store

Filming a customer service training video on a retail store set.

Contact Center

Filming a customer service training video on a contact center set.

Living Room

Filming a customer service training video on a living room set.

Step 5: Film the Scenarios

One of the really fun parts of creating a training video is being on the set when the scenes are filmed.

I've worked with several film directors at LinkedIn Learning and have been really impressed at how they put cameras in just the right place, coach the actors through the scene, and capture just the right moments. 

My role on the set is mainly as an observer, though I'll occasionally provide the actors with some suggestions or clarification around the dialogue. The goal is always to make it come out as realistic as possible.

You can see a few more scenes if you fast forward to 1:47 of this video:


New Training Video: How to Get Great Customer Service

The lightbulb moment happened in a convenience store.

I had gone in to buy a Coke on a hot summer day. As I approached the counter, I noticed everything about the cashier's body language suggested he didn't want to be there. His shoulders were slumped forward, he looked disheveled, and had a bored expression on his face. 

The cashier was ignoring customers as he heated a burrito in the store's microwave.

You've probably experienced this same scene yourself. What the cashier was doing versus what he ought to have been doing was easy to see. But that won't change the basic fact that the cashier wasn't acting like Mr. Customer Service.

My lightbulb went off when I realized he probably felt exactly like I did—tired, hot, and a little unhappy to be there. 

We've all been in that position. Sometimes, a little jolt is all we need to get back on track. That's why I was buying that cold, refreshing Coke. I decided to give the cashier a jolt as well.

I put on a big smile and greeted the cashier in my friendliest voice, "How's it going?!"

Customer giving a thumbs up and a five star rating on a survey.

Service Tips for Customers

The cashier's demeanor instantly changed.

He looked as if a weight had literally been lifted off his shoulders. He approached the cash register, broke into a smile, and greeted me in return. The rest of that very short transaction was pleasant.

The experience helped me realize that customer service works best when both the customer and the employee are on the same wavelength. Sure employees are supposed to be friendly and helpful, but they're also human. 

And humans sometimes have bad days.

It occurred to me that we could get better customer service if we used some of the same skills we want customer service professional to use. So I created a series of exercises to test this out.

  • Make the first move (what I did in the convenience store)
  • Introduce yourself to share your name with people who serve you
  • Empathize with the people who serve you

I started to try out these techniques and they worked! Employees were friendlier, I started getting "extras" more often, and problems become easier to solve. These techniques don't work 100% of the time, but I noticed I received good service more often.

 

The New Training Video

Many years later, I now have the chance to share some of my favorite techniques in my new LinkedIn Learning training video. The course reveals essential skills you can use to get great customer service.

The content is broken down into three main categories:

  • Build relationships
  • Earn extraordinary service
  • Solve problems

Best of all, you can build your own customer service skills while completing these exercises. Here's a short preview:

Additional Resources

You'll need a LinkedIn Learning or Lynda.com account to access the full video. If you don't already have one, treat yourself to a complimentary 30-day LinkedIn Learning trial.

The new course marks the release of my 19th training video. You can access all of those courses on LinkedIn Learning or Lynda.com or learn more about how you can leverage the power of training videos here.


How to Train 35,000 People Before Lunch

Training large numbers of employees is a big challenge.

Organizations have several factors working against them. There's geography, where employees are spread out over multiple locations. You need to keep people running the operation while employees are getting trained. And, the sheer number of participants involved can be daunting.

Some people thought e-learning could solve this problem. There's just one issue - it's boring. A lot of e-learning is nothing more than an amateurish voice over PowerPoint.

The future is in video. Short, engaging, and beautifully produced video. 

More than 35,000 customer service professionals have now taken my Customer Service Fundamentals video-based course on lynda.com. It's rapidly approaching 1,000,000 individual views. That many people have got to be on to something.

One promising feature is employees can complete the training much faster than a traditional class. The entire program takes less than two hours, far less than the eight hours the live version requires. There's no set-up, scheduling, or logistics to handle either. It's ready to go right now - your employees could easily start the training in the morning and finish before lunch.

Here's why this and other courses like it are the wave of the future.

The Power of Video

Video offers a number of distinct advantages over other forms of training.

It's engaging. People enjoy watching video. According to eMarketer, adults in the U.S. spend 5.5 hours per day watching video.

You want training to be engaging enough so employees enjoy the process. Here are just a few comments from people who have watched the Customer Service Fundamentals training video:

"This course has really been an eye opening in all aspects of customer service.. I enjoyed every bit of it."

"He did a great job keeping the material interesting."

"The author's positive attitude is contagious."

And, it's always good when a participant feels the training made a difference:

"I am about to start my first working day as a customer service representative and thanks to this course I feel myself more confident and equipped with essential knowledge on making my customers feel satisfied."

It's easy to access. Employees can watch the videos from their computer, their tablet, or even their smart phone. 

Lynda.com now offers a download feature where you can watch the videos offline. I'll often load a few courses on my iPad when I know I'm going to be spending a lot of time in an airplane. There's no reason for the learning to stop at 35,000 feet!

It's inexpensive. Here's a cost comparison between live training and using video. Video can cut your costs in three ways:

  • Delivery is less expensive per person.
  • Development is less expensive (if you buy pre-packaged courses).
  • You spend 50 - 75 percent less on employee wages since video-based training goes faster than a live course.

Lynda.com has also introduced an impressive array of features to improve how companies can manage video-based training.

  • Quizzes to test participants' knowledge.
  • Certificates of completion (they can be added to your LinkedIn profile!).
  • Management features like customer playlists and LMS integration.

 

Don't Forget the Special Sauce

There's one danger of using video. It's a problem called Popcorn Learning where participants just consume the training and then do nothing. (This problem exists for classroom-based and e-learning programs too.) 

You can avoid this problem by adding this secret sauce to the mix:

You can access a wide range of customer service training courses on lynda.com or explore many of their other topics such as content marketing or becoming a manager.

You'll need a lynda.com subscription to view full courses, but you can check everything out with a ten day trial.


How Popcorn Can Ruin a Good Training Video

A human resources manager recently contacted me to discuss some options for customer service training.

Her budget was limited and the small team of people she wanted to train worked in different locations. It would be logistically difficult and potentially cost prohibitive to get everyone together for an in-person class.

Naturally, I suggested video.

The HR manager told me that her organization had tried e-learning and video-based training in the past, but it wasn't well received. Participants thought it was boring.

I immediately recognized the popcorn problem. This issue causes learners to get bored with training and ultimately limits the new skills they implement on the job.

Here's an overview of the popcorn problem and what you can do to fix it.

The Popcorn Problem

Many people enjoy going to the movies.

Popcorn is a quintessential part of this experience. You get a bucket of popcorn to share with a friend, grab a favorite drink, and sit down to enjoy the movie. It's a relaxing form of entertainment. 

People often sit down and watch a training video the same way they'd watch a movie. This is not how people should try to learn valuable workplace skills, but they do.

It doesn't work out well.

The most obvious issue is it's boring. Even the most exciting training videos aren't great entertainment. You certainly wouldn't watch them just for fun.

(Side note: Here's where some readers will say, "But, I saw that video with John Cleese or the FISH! video and it was fun!" Ok, if you doubt me, then try inviting some friends over to watch a training video. Or, ask that special someone if they'd like to training video and chill this weekend. Good luck with that.)

The less obvious issue is employees learn very little by watching a video straight through. They implement even less back at work. The challenge is caused by something called The Forgetting Curve

People quickly forget what they learn in training unless they actively process it and apply it. This is necessary to move information from short to long-term memory, but this rarely happens when employees passively watch a training video.

That's not to say that training videos don't work. Blaming training videos for a lack of learning would be like blaming a hammer when you hit your finger and not the nail. There's nothing inherently wrong with the tool, but you'll get less-than-desirable results if you don't use the tool correctly.

The good news is there's an alternative approach to using training videos that's much more effective.

 

Bite Sized Learning

You can overcome the popcorn learning problem by breaking the training into bite-sized chunks with short assignments in between.

Here's an example using the Working With Upset Customers training video on Lynda.com.

The course is organized into short video segments that are each two to five minutes long. They're further organized into sections like "Introduction" and "Serving Angry Customers." This design makes it easy to dissect the course into small learning bites.

So, you might have your team watch the video this way:

  1. Watch the three Introduction videos
  2. Complete a Learning Plan and discuss with supervisor (there's a downloadable worksheet)
  3. Watch "Understanding Our Natural Instincts" video
  4. Go back to work and identify situations where you experience the Fight or Flight response
  5. Watch the next video, and so on.

The key is watching a short segment of the course, applying those skills on the job, and then returning to the course to continue learning.

Let's look at some of the advantages of using this approach:

  • Participants apply their new skills as part of the training.
  • Applying lessons helps make off-the-shelf training more relevant.
  • It's not boring!

That last one is key. The entire Working With Upset Customers course is 55 minutes long. There are no explosions, car chases, or sappy love scenes to spice things up. It's simply too long a video to enjoyably watch all in one sitting.

But, watching a five minute segment is a breeze. That's roughly equivalent to just three cat videos.