The benefits of sharing your staff elearning with your customers

Posted on Jan 20, 2015

Air New Zealand’s Hobbit-themed safety video is an inspiring example of what can happen if you break down barriers and silos to share great training content with a wider audience.

It’s called The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made and, well, it really is. Featuring Hobbit stars Elijah Wood, Sylvester McCoy and director Sir Peter Jackson, the video gives all the necessary in-flight safety information in a highly-entertaining, action-packed video using the characters, set and costumes of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

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The airline posted the instructional film on its YouTube channel and it became one of the top ten most watched videos in Australia in 2014. It’s a real talking point for Air New Zealand passengers and fabulous promotion, to boot.

It was perhaps a no-brainer for airline bosses to release the video to the public given its quality and scale (not to mention budget) but it has still been recognised as an innovative move which could hold a lesson for other businesses.

Obviously, the Air New Zealand example is aimed at customers but could instructional materials for employees also be suitable for public sharing?


Well, why not?


We’ll come back to the barriers later but first let’s explore how this might work in practice and the potential business benefits.

Practical applications

Most successful businesses and organisations are used to getting the most out of their business assets, willing to be creative and innovative to optimise them. But with corporate elearning the model tends to be linear and traditional - it’s purely for staff training purposes and not for customers. This seems short-sighted particularly when some types of elearning could actually be of great use or interest to customers.

Here are three examples where an elearning course created for staff could potentially be shared with customers:

  • Product knowledge or launch – Customer habits are changing and one emerging trend is the public’s desire to research and learn more about a product before buying. In its summary report, Power in the hands of the Consumer, PwC suggests the balance of power has shifted from what the retailer wants to sell to what the customer wants to buy. In this context, giving customers just as much information as sales staff so they can learn about a new product range makes sense. This is particularly pertinent for high-end or high-value items such as cars, furniture or electronic products where customers are likely to be at their most discerning before spending.
  • Health and Safety – Most organisations work hard to make sure their staff are compliant with health and safety legislation and many invest in elearning as part of this training. It is in the interest of these businesses to make sure their customers know they are safe, responsible places to work and that they have the safety of their customers at heart. Making some types of health and safety elearning available to the public could aid this. A good example would be an elearning course for health staff about hand-washing. The techniques being taught are good practice for anyone visiting a hospital or a care home whether they are a patient, visitor or employee.
  • Corporate Values – Elearning is a popular tool for training staff on the core values of an organisation. Values are meant to be the foundations of a business, what it stands for and how it is guided. Most large organisations make them publicly available already. Indeed, they are something to celebrate and be proud of. From a customer point of view, they are indicators of what level of quality, service and corporate responsibility to expect from a business. So for organisations such as banks or public sector bodies, where trust and transparency is crucial, sharing staff elearning with customers could well make sense.

Business Benefits

The examples already mentioned touch on some of the reasons organisations might consider sharing their staff elearning with customers but that will only happen if there are clear benefits to the business.

So what are they?

  • Customer loyalty – Customer loyalty has always been sought after but it is getting harder to achieve as people, empowered by digital technology, shop around for what they want. “In a world of increased customer promiscuity, the pursuit of loyalty becomes more important, not less,” said Jan-Pieter Lips, president of EMEA at Aimia which owns the Nectar scheme. He told Retail Week that ‘building relationships through customer understanding’ is one of the key ways to increase customer loyalty along with relevant communications and saying ‘thank you.’ So allowing customers access to the same elearning about a new product as retail staff can feed into this relationship which promotes loyalty and commitment.
  • Reduce dependence – Help desks or information services can be a costly activity and some businesses are already investing in online training for customers as a way of reducing the number of enquiries. Again, it is all about empowering customers and helping them to help themselves. The American-based ladder manufacturer, Werner, does just this with a range of training videos on safety as well as product information. In some cases, the same benefits could be achieved by sharing staff elearning with customers, with the added bonus of utilising a single training resource for both audiences.
  • Trust and transparency – More and more businesses are making this a priority as they see the value it can generate in terms of both customers and employees. As an extreme example, consider the situation at the social media management company, Buffer. The company publishes the salaries of its whole team and sees its policy on transparency as instrumental in its rapid growth. Both staff and customers respond positively to transparency. People want to buy from and work for organisations they trust and what could be more open than sharing internal elearning with the public?

Barriers and Pitfalls

Before deciding whether to share your staff elearning with a wider audience you will need to weigh up the pros and cons.

Confidentiality is clearly of concern and some elearning may simply be too commercially-sensitive to share outside the organisation. The quality of the elearning is also a consideration. If the course is boring or poor quality, it could reflect badly on your business and sharing it could become an own goal. Where to host the elearning may be an issue, and an external enterprise Learning Management System (LMS) may be required if customer engagement is going to be tracked. But perhaps the biggest consideration is the relevance of the elearning and whether it will make sense, have pertinence and value for customers.

There is a lot to weigh up and it will certainly take courage and vision to make the first step.

As a starting point, ask yourself what opportunities are there for sharing your internal elearning with your customers?

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