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You know how important the customer experience is to you personally, and to your business: Research shows it's a major competitive differentiator. A good customer experience attracts loyal, repeat customers—for instance, I always buy Lucky Brand Jeans because I have never had a bad experience with them (and my jeans always fit). A bad customer experience is just bad for business and customers have less and less tolerance for it. One survey found 32 percent of customers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after just one bad experience.

Now imagine if the same feelings and opinions applied to the learning experience? What if, after one bad experience with the company's learning system, employees gave up on it?

The reality is: It's happening every day. It is time for companies to take a closer look at their learning systems and upgrade them to create a better experience for employees. The result? Not only will your employees be more knowledgeable, but they'll also keep customers happier, too.

Today's LMS is Competing With Netflix

Historically, learning systems were designed for learning administration—it's in the name, “Learning Management System." LMS are really good at enabling learning administrators. The system manages rosters ensuring the right people showed up for the right class, tracks completions so that the company is legally compliant and reports on who took what training when. While there is still a very valid, legitimate need for this functionality, many LMS have been slow to evolve with the changing demands of learners.

Even the least tech-savvy among us can use the internet, text and play games on our phones. As consumers, we have come to expect, dare I say demand, evolution in technology (hmmm, when is the next iPhone release?). Yet somehow the LMS got left behind and now finds itself competing with the entirety of the internet for employee attention and loyalty. Netflix, Amazon, Google, Apple and the thousands of other sites out there offer a highly visual, intuitive and appealing interface that provides logical groupings of content front and center. In short, an engaging experience. The bar is high, and employees have little patience for clunky systems like the LMS of yore.

The fact of the matter is that learning professionals can no longer afford to focus primarily on administration, pushing aside the learner experience. For instance, content metadata is usually used by administrators for reporting. But today, metadata should be leveraged to improve the learner experience. Metadata is key to the latest technologies like machine learning, which can serve up relevant training to learners based on their areas of interest. Certificates of completion are a thing of the past; learners want to see their accomplishment. They want a badge. A badge gives positive feedback, it says, “Hooray! You did it!” Learners also depend on ratings to decide which course to take. Just like consumers do not want to buy a poorly rated product on Amazon, learners do not want to take a poorly rated course. And last but not least, learners want the screen to look like Netflix. Words aren't enough anymore. Each course has to have a picture to go along with the title and description (something learning professionals did not even think about four or five years ago). If not, no matter how relevant or good the training is, learners will likely never even click on it to find out.

A Better LMS Means a Better Customer Relationship

Recall that 32 percent of customers would leave after just one bad experience – it also turns out that employee expertise is another crucial part of the customer experience. The same survey found 46 percent of all consumers will abandon a brand if the employees are not knowledgeable. How would you feel, for example, you were working with someone on your mortgage and they did not understand mortgages? I know I certainly expect the employees at the companies with which I do business to know more than I do.

The training employees need to have strong interactions with customers is locked in the company's learning system. But if employees cannot easily find it – by perhaps choosing the subjects that interest them so that machine learning surfaces relevant content or by being encouraged to complete more training through the use of badges, ratings and graphics – what good is the training doing? Making this one change to improve your employees' learning experience could help to prevent the loss of almost half of your company's customers.

The learning experience matters. It is time to take a good hard look at your LMS. If it does not offer the compliance features administrators need along with a learning experience platform employees need, it is probably time to move on to one that does. There are only so many chances employees, and your customers, are willing to give.

Photo: Creative Commons