Is Today's Learner a Returning Customer?


As an L&D professional, we are constantly challenged to create learning that is engaging and sticks. For the first time ever, we have 5 generations in the workplace, so the challenge has never been greater. In L&D, our customer is the learner, and it is our job to find out how to create the type of experience that will yield engagement and retention.

This very discussion came up at a recent CLO Breakfast Club in Atlanta where top L&D leaders were talking about the biggest challenges we are facing today, and one of the most thought provoking things that came out of that discussion was “What if we viewed the learner as a consumer providing the kind of experience that would yield happy and loyal customers?" It certainly gave us all a lot to think about.

A few years ago, I read Tony Hsieh’s “Delivering Happiness” I was inspired by the story and Hsieh’s approach to running Zappos. His customer centric approach of going above and beyond to deliver unheard of customer service set the bar high for online retailers. Maybe I just like the whole concept of making people happy in general, but until then, no other company had made it their mission, and they weren’t hiding it either. Online retail giant Amazon didn’t waste time acquiring their competition and purchased Zappos for 1.2B in 2009. So now, we have 2 very customer service focused companies living under the same roof-even better.

Amazon had been modeling the same “customer centric” approach cornering the market on creating the ultimate customer experience, so much so that the “Amazon experience” is now widely used in organizations to describe what we should all aim for when we think about the customer.

Customer experience and customer success departments are popping up more than ever and gaining momentum in organizations where they did not exist before. Shout out to Salesforce for discovering over 10 years ago that to be able to succeed in a recurring revenue model, the customers had to receive value from the product or guess what? They can decide to stop being a customer. We are officially living in the “Customer Age”. The Customer is King and companies like Zappos, Amazon and Salesforce really paved the way for this movement, showing that a happy customer who is seeing value is not only engaged with your product/service, they will keep coming back for more.

So, here’s the idea we are building on. As L&D leaders, if we create an insightful consumer level experience for the learner realizing that they have a choice and it is largely based on the experience we provide for them, we just may find ourselves with more loyal, engaged and happy learners and that would be a good thing.

I have a few more ideas on how we can accomplish this, so stay tuned. To be continued……

Kristy West is the Founder and an Improv Facilitator at BraveSpace in Atlanta, GA

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