In today's networked economy, organizations are finding that by effectively engaging and training their channel partners they can develop new profit centers and increase revenue and customer satisfaction scores. Channel Learning provides a platform for training the entire value chain to achieve greater business performance and returns.
Why Care About Channel Learning?
Companies are realizing that educating just their employees is not enough. Many companies rely on a channel to sell their product and services and to deliver on their brand promise. If the channel is not continuously trained, there is great impact on revenue and competitiveness. Similarly, several companies rely on their suppliers during the product development phase. If the suppliers are not well trained on the expected quality standards, the end-product quality suffers. This has direct cost through product recall, unsold inventories, and negative brand value. Many companies rely on outsourced call centers for first-line customer support and other partners to deliver post-sale services. If this part of the value chain is not properly trained, the impact on business is customer churn. Not training the channel is like creating a weak link in your value chain that can dramatically impact your revenue, customer retention, brand value, and margins.
What Is Channel Learning?
Channel learning provides continuous learning for the organization's entire value chain - including employees, customers, channel partners, suppliers, resellers, and distributors. Channel learning is designed to be accessible and to constantly engage this value chain, ensuring they have the right skills to sell the products, service the customers, ensure regulatory compliance, and exceed the expectations of the end-customers on all fronts to enhance the brand value of the organization. Channel learning shifts the paradigm from simply training internal employees to training the entire value chain - and especially the weakest links in the value chain - to achieve greater business outcomes.
High-Impact Channel Use Cases
The high-impact use cases tend to vary based on the industry sector and business model of a particular organization. For example, most high technology companies rely on their channel partners for a significant portion of their revenues and interaction with customers. Similarly, a lot of manufacturing companies rely on their extended supply chain during their product development and production process. Almost all automobile manufacturing companies depend on the dealership network to not just sell the vehicles, but to offer post-sell services as well. After collaborating with hundreds of best-in-class companies, our research has identified patterns of several high-impact use cases. Mission critical business problems solved by companies using channel learning include:
- Optimizing channel performance and engagement to drive revenues
- Turning learning into a profit center by offering fee-based training and accreditation programs
- Achieving greater customer service reach and excellence by enabling more services partners
- Ensuring regulatory compliance across the entire value chain to reduce business risk
- Channel partner engagement: The difference between a successful channel partner and others is usually the difference between their engagement levels. Channel partners that are trained and certified produce greater revenues than the ones that are not. In many cases partners and channel employees are busy executing and are unable to find time for refresher training programs. A blended learning (formal and social) solution plays a critical role in engaging and making the channel partners more effective in selling your company's products. However, the channel partners can be distributed across multiple countries, require training in different languages, and sell different products, thereby requiring unique course content and workflows. Leveraging a comprehensive solution that resolves these complexities can make significant impact on business outcomes. Many companies in the high technology industry have seen greater correlation between the performance of channel partners and their level of certifications.
- For-profit training: Many companies in the technology, retail, and hospitality industries have course content that is very high value for the end-customers as well as channel partners. These companies have an opportunity to transform their training department into a profit center by offering these high-value courses for a fee. However, in order to realize the revenue from training, companies need comprehensive eCommerce capabilities to process payments, ability to implement multiple pricing schemes for different audiences, and configurable workflows that vary based on audiences and roles. Many companies have successfully transformed their training departments into a profit center by generating a profitable revenue stream from training course fees.
- Customer service excellence: Successful and timely resolution of customer issues and increasing successful first-call resolution rates are critical for delivering the experience that your consumers are expecting. With rapidly evolving product lines and demanding service-level agreements, customer service representatives need to keep their knowledge fresh. Many companies use outsourced call center partners for first-line customer support. Similarly, companies such as automobile manufacturers rely on dealers to offer post-sale maintenance services. Training this global network for hundreds of thousands of services partners in their local languages and delivering them targeted training on the specific products they are servicing requires a sophisticated and proven solution with geographic reach and scalability.
- Ensure regulatory compliance: The cost of noncompliance can result in significant fines, criminal penalties for executives, and negative brand image that impacts future revenues. For many companies, their extended value chain is involved in selling, manufacturing, and servicing their products and services. Just like their own employees, the actions of their extended value chain employees must be in compliance with the appropriate regulations. Regulations are different in different countries, and the criteria to be compliant are also different. You need a sophisticated solution that can handle these complexities, by country, by partner, and by customer to provide you peace of mind.
Key Attributes of Your Ideal Channel Learning Solution
How do you know you have a right channel learning solution that will effectively solve your business problems? What key capabilities should the channel possess that will help you fulfill your particular business? After working with hundreds of customers who have leveraged channel capabilities for driving business outcomes, we would like to summarize some of the key elements you should look for in a channel learning solution:
- Configurable domains for targeted branding: Configurable LMS domains to meet the needs of each partner, brand, and country and to create specialized branding experiences.
- Audience types for targeted, role-based training: Configurable audience types to offer unique and targeted training programs for specific roles. Some roles require mandatory continuing education credits to stay compliant and remain eligible to perform their jobs. For example, the manager of a restaurant in Paris will have different legal requirements than a manager in New York.
- Configurable workflows for internal and external learners: The access control rules are different for internal learners and channel learners. Similarly, if you are offering for-profit training, the workflows could be different if you are offering them via a channel partner instead of offering them directly to the end consumers.
- Compliance and certifications: The certification workflows are different for different roles. For example, employees who are cooking food in a restaurant require different compliance training than other employees who are performing other jobs such as cleaning. Additionally, several regulations require eSignatures and audit trails for the changes made to key certification requirements. Comprehensive audit trails and reports are critical to be able to quickly generate reports to seamlessly respond to regulatory inquiries.
- eCommerce capabilities: To offer training programs for fees and seamlessly process those transactions to realize revenues, you need the ability to process purchase orders and credit cards, compliance with standards such as PCI, and the ability to offer multiple pricing schemes for different audiences. Without these capabilities, it is difficult to realize revenues and turn training into a profit center.
- Social learning: The solution must deliver capabilities such as rating, tagging, bookmarking, following experts or groups, asking questions of experts, and sharing resources directly with mentees that help to foster rapid knowledge sharing and unlock tacit knowledge from experienced workers and executives.
- Real-time collaboration: Built-in online collaboration and Web and video conferencing capabilities are essential for allowing learners to collaborate with remote co-workers, experts, and coaches and to conduct virtual training sessions, record these knowledge-transfer sessions, and share them with the rest of the community.
- Mobile, anytime, anywhere capabilities: Your learning solution should allow learners to get answers to key questions while being in the field, review video tasks performed by experts, and launch an online collaboration session with an expert via a mobile device such as iPhone or iPad.
- Scalable, secure, and global: Your extended value chain is often spread across the globe and can comprise hundreds of thousands of users. In order to offer effective, targeted training programs you need a scalable, global, and secure solution.
Companies that have embarked on the journey of continuous channel learning have realized a wide array of benefits, including strategic impact on revenues, customer satisfaction, and margins.
Channel learning shifts the paradigm from simply training internal employees to training the entire value chain to achieve greater business performance. By implementing effective channel learning, you increase the predictability of your business by exercising increasing control and influence on your virtual corporation, as well as create an opportunity for training-based revenues that will help to cover costs and could contribute to the bottom line.