“Customer Assurance” is a practice that far too few organizations practice. And, yet, Customer Assurance separates the best from the rest — and, one of the most important criteria you should use when making your supplier choices.

What is Customer Assurance?

It is a practice that marks the best-of-breed organizations — in any professional or business segment. It is based on a genuine commitment to customers throughout the organization and includes:

• Formal or informal survey involvement of customers before any development of products or services begins.
• Formal involvement of customers in the review process of prototypes.
• Formal and informal involvement of customers in the “results measurement” process of actual field implementation of the created products or services.
• Traditional Customer Service activities.

Unfortunately, most organizations practice only the latter activity — Customer Service — and that means that the product or service you purchase is only going to be fixed “after the fact.” As practiced, customer service is merely a “response department” in which the sole job is to respond to complaints, error reports and other problems.

The first three criteria are committed to avoiding issues that, when ignored, result in a flawed product or service.

What you should be looking for are vendors that practice Customer Assurance — vendors that are thinking “customers” from initial development through service-after-the-sale.

Specifically, let’s examine what you should be looking for when selecting a provider of training courseware.

It all starts with courseware development. And, I’m not talking about the myriad Regulatory Training or Microsoft Office Training vendors. Those vendors need only do “manual” and published regulation research in order to initiate their courseware development activities. That is because they are creating “information” courses that re-package existing print-based knowledge. The content is universally available to everyone at all times — one of the major reasons there exists so many Regulatory and Microsoft Office Training vendors.

What I’m talking about is skills-based training that, while having a base of procedural information, must also include “best practices,” “proper tool use,” “safety,” and “good housekeeping” considerations.

The first step in Customer Assurance, for any vendor offering training in skills acquisition, is a partnership with its customers. Does the choice of subjects-to-be-taught come as a response to customer-interest? Are the video and graphics used originating from actual on-site visits to process and manufacturing companies? Is the talent used comprised of actual workers, already expert at the procedures being taught?

The second aspect of Customer Assurance involves the planning and review stages that are integral to the programs being created? Are applicable customers being involved at every step in the development process?

The final step is the one we refer to as Customer Service — an after-the-sale activity that results in “fixes” to problems and questions.

However, without the other — equally important — aspects of Customer Assurance, the Customer Service component will be never-ending — simply because “customers” were never seriously considered in the planning, making, and reviewing processes — all so essential to meaningful learning today.

More on Tuesday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning