Closing the Skills Gap to Improve Customer Experience

I worked for a major industry supplier of digital presses for almost four years as a solutions analyst. In the role, I saw myself as serving two different customers—internal sales staff and external clients. To help my internal sales staff drive business with external customers, I had to delight them with outstanding customer service, support, and information. I pushed myself—and leveraged corporate learning resources and experts I worked closely with—to continually strengthen my skillset.

As a printer, when you hear the “skills gap,” the first thing that comes to mind is its impact on job production. Our industry isn’t different from many of the other manufacturing industries in that a skills gap exists with our employees. But it’s bigger than that; the skills gap directly affects employee engagement. And when employee engagement falls off, it impacts interaction and customer service.

Lack of engagement impacts both your internal and external customer experience. Employee engagement drops off when employees don’t feel like they are being developed, which eventually leads to not having the skills they need to get the job done. Equally troubling, employees who don’t have the skills they need will leave, further exacerbating the problem.

According to a business outlook study by the Brandon Hall Group, the top business priority for most organizations is to improve customer experience. But what about those companies who already have high customer satisfaction rates—what do they have in common? It’s how they approach learning. Companies with the highest customer satisfaction scores:

  • Give their employees the ability to search, explore, and discover learning opportunities. Examples are access to eLearning, industry conferences and tradeshows, and local learning events.
  • They are more likely to provide their employees with the goals and outcomes of learning programs. Often, training is assigned to employees without first explaining why it’s essential to the business, the process, etc. Giving some context as to why the employee must complete an eLearning course, or attend a conference, is critical to buy-in and engagement.
  • Understand the importance of linking learning with personal objectives. This ties into the previous point but is customized for each employee. How will this training further develop employee skillsets and help them do their job better, faster, more easily, etc.?
  • Offer a personalized learning plan. Not all employees need the same skills training. The development plan must include identifying individual employee skills gaps and providing a roadmap and timeline for achieving goals.

To quote Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and successful business entrepreneur, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” When he said this, it was revolutionary because what was accepted for decades was “the customer is always right.” To better serve your customers, you need to equip your employees first. Solid advice.

Follow along in the coming weeks as PRINTING United Alliance provides exemplary learning opportunities like those mentioned here with the launch of its new iLEARNING+ online education platform! 

Joe Marin Senior Vice President, Member Services

Joe Marin is Senior Vice President, Member Services at PRINTING United Alliance and is passionate about helping people learn, advance, and grow. Joe manages member services for the association that encompasses industry awards, human resources support EHS resources, and the iLEARNING+ eLearning platform—the industry’s go-to resource for online education. Joe has spent most of his career in the printing industry and is one of the leading voices on digital technologies. He speaks at major industry trade shows and conferences on topics related to succeeding in a digital print environment. While managing association member services is his primary job function during the week, Joe can be found racing at autocross events or classic car shows on weekends.

Speaking Topics:

  • The WOW Factor—Digital Embellishment Effects, Techniques, and Best Practices
  • Top 10 Adobe CC Quick Tips That Will Make Your Life Easier—for Designers and Digital Press Operators
  • Designing for Digital Printing: The Best Tips and Tricks
  • Soft Proofing: See What You’ve Been Missing!