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The Value of Customer Training & Education: Interview With Tom Clancy (TLG Podcast Ep. 12)

Posted by Joe Moriarty on June 17, 2020

In Training Led Growth

Listen to the Training-Led Growth Podcast (Episode 12, with Tom Clancy)

 


Joe Moriarty spoke with Tom Clancy – UiPath’s Chief Learning Officer, and training industry veteran – about the huge opportunities that helping customers get better acquainted with your business can bring, and how online education is key to employee and individual growth.

Given his decades in the learning, training, and education space – at companies like Dell EMC and now at software automation specialists, UiPath – Tom Clancy has seen how customer education training can directly impact sales and growth, as well as overall customer happiness and satisfaction.

Lots of business people often wonder what the value of customer education is – whether it’s worth the investment. But, regardless of whether you work in retail, tech, insurance, or healthcare, an educated customer is the best customer you can have. 


Much More Than ‘A Nice To Have’

Education can have a positive impact in many different areas – from improving NPS scores, to reducing service calls, and boosting customer success. That said, while it often has a direct impact, customer education is difficult to measure. 

However, as Tom points out, it is possible to delve into the data underpinning customer education – something his team have carried out at UiPath with some outstanding results. The study showed every dollar spent on training and learning yielded an additional $12 dollars in incremental product sales.

Even more impressive was the fact customer training could be attributed to $700 million in sales. Essentially, by working closely with data scientists and being able to provide evidence and insights, the case for increased investment in customer learning is a tough one to shoot down. There’s a huge opportunity to be realized – not just cost savings from reduced call volumes.

This also makes learning a much bigger concern for everyone from the Chief Revenue Officer to the Vice President of Sales. Leaders from outside of Human Resources need to understand the benefits too – especially when it comes to understanding metrics of this magnitude.


Democratizing Learning

In a large company, you only see the value of customer education through the profit that it brings in. For many, especially tech companies, there are high margins, so it's hard to give training away for free. 

However, at UiPath where Tom works, which is looking to bring out new robotics technology as fast as possible, the company’s strategy is to democratize the learning. They want everybody, everywhere, to understand what a software robot is, what robotic process automation RPA is, and to grow the company. That’s why three years ago, they set up the  UiPath Academy – which today has over 900,000 subscribers. 

Tom’s adamant that they’d never have attracted an audience of this size if UiPath had charged for training. He also thinks that they were forward-thinking in that respect as many companies now offer free training – something that’s proved particularly useful for many customers and prospects affected by the COVID-19 lockdown, and a trend that he believes is set to continue.


Accelerating Adoption

For many technology companies, which are constantly innovating, the challenge of getting customers to understand your product is a genuine concern. Customer training can help bridge these gaps and can also accelerate the sales cycle to some extent.

Tom finds that it's very rare that the customer hasn't looked into you and your competitors before any initial discussions – meaning training has a much wider marketing bearing on marketing the brand and setting the context for customer experience in many instances. Often thousands of people go through the UiPath Academy – getting certified in many cases – before they pick up the phone. 

To date over 40,000 people have become UiPath-certified, which reflects a wider trend in remote learning generally. Tom believes that this will become the norm moving forward – not just for product and software-led training, but for education more generally. It may even lead to businesses, like UiPath, that specialize in a particular niche to accredit specific on-the-job training, and authenticate in-demand skillsets.


Giving Online Certification Greater Credibility 

That’s already happening to some extent via UiPath’s Academic Alliance program. Set up in mid-2019, this initiative is designed to help foster close collaboration between universities and colleges; giving them the resources needed to teach robotic process automation (RPA) to students. 

By allowing institutions to include UiPath courses in all educational programs, and offering free courses for all students, dedicated UiPath software, they’re helping to both educate and empower a new generation of early adopters and experts.

So far, more than 500 academic institutions have signed up, and over 150,000 students have benefited from the program.

However, when it’s possible to become an excellent coder in two years via on-the-job training, instead of attending college for four years – and given that big tech companies like Google are in favor of hiring candidates with nanodegrees and MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) qualification, online learning becomes a much more attractive – and affordable – prospect.

While anyone interested in RPA can get basic UiPath academy training for free, more advanced certification – such as learning to be an associate or an advanced developer – comes with a cost attached ($150 and $250 respectively). However, considering the career opportunities and six-figure salaries that many with these specialized skills can benefit from, the trade-off is minimal.


More Meaningful, Better Paid Work

As more and more business functions become automated – from invoicing and accounting to email marketing and scraping data from the web – Tom believes that broad adoption of digital assistants is inevitable. 

At UiPath, his learning team uses about six digital assistants – including one that keeps students updated about their individual learning progress. In fact, Tom sees their usage as an essential component in any learning-based organization.

As the overall business benefits of RPA – from a cost and labor perspective – become increasingly attractive, with the right training, everyone from finance professionals to contact center employees could create and use their own digital assistants. 

However, many see the automation of back-end processes as problematic – particularly where the loss of data entry jobs is concerned. Tom sees that by offering a combination of automation and training opportunities, companies like UiPath are well positioned to help employees develop the skills needed for advance their careers, earning potential, and ultimately do more meaningful, engaging work.


Looking Ahead

The current COVID-19 lockdown has been a catalyst for change in many different sectors. From a training and learning point of view, it’s forced many businesses who would otherwise choose to attend in-person or one-to-one courses to reconsider their stance on distance learning.

That said, many who had booked in instructor-led training with UiPath have cancelled their sessions. But for Tom, online delivery remains his core focus and continues to be an area in which he sees so much potential – for UiPath and other businesses: particularly those that are software-led.

While changing behaviors can take time, right now there’s a huge opportunity for training and learning teams to make distance learning and online education as good as it can possibly be: for businesses, schools, colleges, and private institutions. 

As a result, the longer-term impact will be a renewed legitimacy for online delivery, as well as greater accessibility for learners, increased democratization, and lower overheads. However, failure to adopt these kinds of education may, eventually, force some traditional ‘bricks and mortar only’ learning institutions to go out of business. But, given the growth of MOOCs and private sector partnerships like UiPath’s Academic Alliance, there’s every chance that they’ll  begin to thrive in new ways.

With forward-thinking companies like UiPath strengthening their commitment to customer training and overall education, ‘Learning-As-A-Service’ may yet prove to be just as effective a lead generation and awareness building tool as any sales or marketing effort. 

The boundaries are blurring, that’s for sure. And given that seasoned learning professionals like Tom Clancy are leading the learning revolution from the front, there’s every chance future leaders are carefully taking notes.