Manufacturing capital equipment isn’t like producing shoes or headphones. Where customers don’t need more than a quick YouTube video to master the latest gadget, a great many people need to be trained before customers can get any value from a steel deburring machine or harvester-processor.
In some cases, such as with construction, medical, aviation or safety equipment, inadequate training is not only bad for business — it can be deadly.
In our work creating training and support resources for manufacturers, we have identified five key audiences that manufacturers need to train to ensure their products are made, used and supported properly and safely:
Operators / End Users: It doesn’t matter if your excavator or ultrasound machine is top of the line if your customers’ staff doesn’t know how to use it. Live demonstrations at the time of sale are good, but there might be a gap between the demo and application during which people might forget, and it doesn’t help new hires down the line. Providing on-demand videos, interactive tutorials and a well-organized, easily searchable knowledge base can help customers get the most out of your product over the long term. And if you start getting support calls from operators who never completed your training course, maybe it’s time to visit the client’s site for a refresher.
Service / Installation Technicians: Whether it’s a jet engine or an ATM machine, improperly installed or poorly serviced equipment can quickly lead to customer dissatisfaction. Whether you have an entirely in-house installer and service base or go through third parties, offering (or requiring) training and certification courses to anyone who might open your equipment can avoid awkward conversations with frustrated customers and spare you the cost of dispatching technicians multiple times. As with operators, providing field technicians with online training support resources means new hires don’t have to wait six months for the next local workshop or fly to headquarters before they can become useful.
Customer Service / Tech Support Agents: Most of us have had the unfortunate experience of speaking to a support representative who seemed to know less about their company’s product than you, the customer. Providing your support staff with training to answer common issues and a robust knowledge base to look up answers to less-common questions can ensure more customer issues are resolved on the first call. In addition to product knowledge, making sure your support team is solidly trained on customer service soft skills can ensure that every interaction leaves a positive impression of your company and products.
Salespeople: The role of salespeople is changing. Where once their job was to act as a walking brochure, rattling off features and benefits, today’s customers have already researched your EKG machine or real estate software online and want to ask more advanced, specific questions about how how it will work in the context of their business. To deal successfully with more informed (or misinformed) consumers, salespeople need solid product training, access to a mobile-friendly knowledge base and – ideally – an open forum where they can post questions for support staff or engineers and receive an answer before the sales meeting is over. When your sales team can answer challenging questions with confidence, customers will feel more confident in their purchase.
Design and Manufacturing: While your engineers and factory staff need all the usual training on project management, innovation and safety, they also serve a vital role in training and supporting the other stakeholders in your product’s value chain. Training design teams to create and maintain thorough, orderly and up-to-date product documentation provides operators, technicians, support reps and salespeople with a solid foundation of product knowledge to serve your customers better.