Those Savings from your Travel Budget? Time to Splurge on Customer Engagement
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Enterprise planning and budget season is upon us, and this year, enterprises are seeing a huge question mark on what is traditionally one of the most expensive elements of their overall budget: travel. According to industry research, pre-COVID-19, 445 million business trips took place each year, creating a $251 billion industry, so it’s no surprise that travel often comes in as the second largest slice of the enterprise budget overall.
Your CEO or CFO is probably delighted by the savings, but if you’re involved in customer engagement, you know that there’s a flip side to this ‘great news’. In fact, the same research shows that for each dollar spent on business travel, companies see a $2.90 increase in profit, and a $9.50 increase in revenues. Your travel budget pays for a whole lot more than in-flight snacks and fluffy hotel pillows. In reality, it’s being spent on face to face meetings, on coffee dates, on greeting customers, prospects, and partners in person. It’s being spent, on sales and customer engagement.
According to the September 2020 Travel Intelligence TIPS study, just 18% of people believe they will be taking an international business trip during the next six months. Even domestic travel looks unlikely, as this number only rose slightly to 25% when respondents considered local business trips. In fact, the levels of confidence in travel have actually declined since June.
This year, you need a different route to customer engagement. One option is to invest in technology that can be used to keep the relationship strong where travel is impossible. Of course, not all tech is created equally, and it won’t all hit the right notes for your users, prospects, and partners. Planning ahead is key here, as studies have shown that unspent funds at the end of the fiscal year can result in lower quality projects.
People Buy From People, not Faces
Believe it or not, finding the right technology might shape up to be even more of a problem for next year than it was during this year. Throughout 2020, we’ve learned a lot about how to show value remotely, and improved the ways in which we can showcase products and vision through virtual training and sales enablement. However, for many the initial rush to Zoom and other video-conferencing technology has lost it’s shiny veneer. The social element of selling and training gets lost on Zoom, and we can’t ignore this, especially as we turn to figuring out next year’s budget, knowing that travel will not be the same.
We need to understand the limitations of a forty-five minute or a one-hour long video conferencing session when compared against the experience of bringing people together. This includes the social side – the chatting, the breaks in learning, the interactions, but also the learning itself. “The on-ramp for technology like Zoom or WebEx is in an organization’s immediate view” said Jon Allbin, Enterprise Sales Manager at CloudShare. “It’s easy for businesses to understand it quickly and start using it. But in a short amount of time, they realize that while it lets someone into the room, the tools that they need to teach or sell are behind a plexiglass screen. Watching someone do something is not the same as doing it yourself, and without that – you lose what’s fundamental to retention and learning.”
With this in mind, as the ‘relationship people’ of the company, it is the responsibility of customer engagement teams to find a way to allocate these travel budget savings to make up for some of what we’ve lost.
What Can We Expect from our Technology?
We know, we’re asking for a lot, and while tools like CloudShare virtual training labs have closed or even improved the retention gap for remote software training, technology still has some catching up to do to meet the social shortfall and be a true alternative to meeting face to face. But in order to adequately spend your travel budget overflow on technology that will improve remote learning efficiency and add customer engagement to the mix, here are some areas to keep in mind.
Analytics: Let the AI Do the Hard Work
Right now, there are datasets from hundreds of thousands of training sessions, taking up space in data warehouses on-premises and on the cloud. These can be categorized intelligently into people, courses, demographics and geographies. Leveraging the value and the information coming out of those sessions needs to be top of an enterprise to-do list.
Here are some of the questions that a good analytics program for virtual training should look to answer:
- What questions are participants finding hard?
- Where does the customer churn tend to happen?
- Where do people reach out for support the most, and why?
- How long does it take a student to become proficient in a new skill?
This data can be processed to create a feedback loop where the experience of training is constantly tweaked and improved. Of course, for this to happen, the right data needs to be collected in the first place. This is where gamification can have a surprising impact.
Gamification: From Fortnite to Firewalls
Ever watched a teenager sitting absorbed in their latest video game? They can stay in one position for hours, totally engaged. I believe that the next generation of professionals will have an extremely shallow learning curve for all things competitive and gamified, and as software professionals – we should all be watching this space. The numbers back this up, as statistics show that gamified courses have double the completion rate of non-gamified traditional online study.
When implemented intelligently, gamification can in itself be a channel for those all-important analytics. According to industry expert and Senior Director of Product Experience at Thought Industries, Daniel Quick, “by creating a motivational path for users that they truly care about, gamification makes certain actions subjectively interesting for the individual. Using analytics, you can then in turn glean objective data on those actions.”
In short, first decide what you want insights on, and then set up your gamification track to reward and motivate those specific tasks to make sure that you get the data you need.
Collaboration: Adding the Social to the Remote Experience
Then, all that’s left to do is to ensure that we get that motivation right, and facilitate engagement. “As humans one of our primary needs and motivators is relatedness,” continued Quick. “When you’re thinking about the problem, design the system so that you’re offering channels to collaborate and then rewarding users for those moments.”
Encouraging this collaboration is another way that training providers need to take note. In many ways, the move to remote training has forced us all back into a simpler time, where instead of sitting in classrooms, our participants are often left working it out alone. This could be anything from reading coursework, to practicing something over and over again by themselves.
However, if we recognize the importance of the social side of training, alongside our drive for relatedness, it’s clear that remote training isn’t enough. There needs to be a human connection involved, whether that’s remote guidance from an instructor, or interactions with peers. Think about a child who is struggling with their math homework. In class they might raise a hand to ask the teacher, while at home, with no one to ask, they’ll give up, and find something else to do within seconds.
Not a lot changes as we become adults. If we can’t ask the teacher, or get the help we need, and of course, if we don’t feel motivated – we’re also going to give up pretty quickly.
This is where technology like CloudShare comes in, taking strides where video-conferencing software falls short. Integrating instructor-led training with self-paced tools in a customized virtual lab environment couldn’t be simpler, and allows you to add the all-important social side to your training efforts.
Whether you choose to motivate students via gamification, utilize analytics to augment training, or lean on collaboration to support your participants, the tools are within your reach to boost your training to the next level, and like your students – they work best as a team. Now’s the time to make sure that next year’s budget reflects that.
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