With the forecast expansion of the AV market, the end-user training is an important element in fuelling demand and an outstanding business opportunity. AV News looks at the nature of this emerging market, and some of the training options available to those wanting a share of the demand.
If the InfoComm forecasts of growth (72% by 2016) in the AV market are correct, the industry can expect a considerable influx of novice users, with a widening skills gap in fast growing technologies, including collaborative solutions and digital signage. Training will be a growing and increasingly profitable business activity in its own right, as well as providing the key to successful system deployment and generating future solution sales through improved user adoption. So why isn’t training higher on the sales agenda?
Like sustainability and world peace, training us generally regarded as a ‘good thing’ but the role of training in driving user adoption isn’t widely understood or considered. There is no easier prospect for a subsequent sale that a customer with a satisfied and enthusiastic body of end-user colleagues. By championing training as part of your product portfolio, you can call on a huge body of statistics and case studies to help you make your case.
Or to put is the other way round, you can tell your customer that the cost of doing nothing to maintain and improve the skills of an organisation will erode its capabilities. IDC estimates that a company will lose 10 to 30% of its capabilities per year. By Year Three, an organization has retained only 41% of its original capabilities, dwindling to 24% by Year Six, due mostly to employee movement, process changes, technology changes and the dearth of knowledge new hires bring to the organisation.”
Untrained or poorly trained users will cost significantly more to support than their well-trained colleagues. Those members of your customers’ staff who spend a significant portion of their time away from the office, and who often have networking questions from multiple remote locations, are generally more expensive to support, regardless of the types of devices they’re using.
If your customer wants further evidence of the positive advantages of training, you might try the following (apologies that the figures are from the US):
- · The cost of replacing skilled employees ranges from US $75,000 to $450,000.
- · The average recruitment cost to recruit a professional candidate is $18,374.4
- · Companies in the top quarter in training expenditure ($1,500 or more per year) average 24% higher profit margins.
- · Motorola estimates that every dollar spent on training yielded US $30 in productivity gains within three years.
- · Corporations with 1,000 employees can save at least $240,000 per year as a result of an average productivity gain of just three minutes per day.
With evidence like this, your customers would have to be either singularly lacking in vision not to see the opportunity that training offers. Fortunately, says Pip Thomas, MD of leading training provider N-vest, says that both the nature of training and its preconceptions have changed: “We’re pleased to see the channel recognises that industry training is about more than technical training for installers, engineers and technicians. While N-vest provides sales training and leadership coaching, our main focus is end-user training – equipping users with the knowledge, skills and confidence to use the new technology so the organisation gets real value from its investment.”
Key to serving this emerging market is the development of new training techniques that suit the requirements of a diverse end-user community. Thomas explains: “We provide a range of training ranging from bespoke on-site training (half-day, full-day, drop-in day and twilight), remote training via VC; self-paced online and assisted online training, to training video services and iBook, interactive product guides for iPad and other tablets.”
Over the ten years N-vest has been providing end-user product training on behalf of the channel, the company has seen a change in attitude. “We’ve always provided training for manufacturers wanting to support their channel partners and users and over the years they’ve been joined by more-and more-distributors. They see training as a great ‘add-on’ that can be sold as an accessory and as a value-add that helps give them a competitive edge over their competition.”
Distributors now see training as an essential part of their services wrap, but not all take it further than a listing on their website or catalogue. But is in the channel at large where change is most apparent: “Where we’re seeing the biggest change is at a reseller/integrator level. While many are content to offer training as an add-on offered online or by telephone sales, others are making training a key differentiator by engaging with us on a much deeper level as a training partner,” said Thomas.
She emphasises that, for committed resellers and integrators, training is not just an extra revenue source, but is the key to a successful system deployment. It is people using the equipment that will determine success after all not the choice of kit or the quality of the installation: “We’re also now partnering integrators to make training part of a user adoption strategy, engaging with customers for our partners pre-sale to understand what they expect from their new video conferencing, digital signage, interactive etc. – their business objectives, then work with them to introduce the new technology to potential users and drive adoption.”
The value of outsourcing
Scanning the list of distributors published by AV News in June 2014 reveals that the majority offer training as a service – and that most provide instruction from within their own staff resources. Increased demand will see either the addition of dedicated trainers to the staff complement, which can be a sizeable commitment for a smaller reseller, or greater recourse to outsourcing. Outsourcing can be a more cost effective option for a business that does not want the expense and/or hassle of establishing and maintaining an in-house resource, or it can be used as a top up – to cover specific product areas or provide national coverage, for example.
“We find resellers value having a specialist partner,” says Thomas. “We help them integrate our training into their sales process, or design training offerings for them. We work with the sales teams to maximise their effectiveness then once the sales are made we do the rest. We do the customer needs analysis. We design the training and we deliver it. It means they free up valuable resources and focus on running their business.”
Training: the business benefits
Training can be a high margin commercial activity taken in isolation, and offer an even greater advantage when seen as part of the sales process for future projects. Around 30 points is realistic for end-user training. The real money is to be made by developing an ongoing revenue stream following these guiding principles:
- 1. Provide consistently good quality training across all your brands, not a piecemeal offering cobbled together from manufacturer training and some home-spun efforts.
- 2. Use professional trainers who understand different learning styles, hands-on interactive training techniques and who, most importantly, are able to design effective training that gets results.
- (N-vest often get called in to train users who have already had ‘training’ from a reseller or manufacturer that was not relevant to them, was poor quality or was more of a passive demo.)
- 3. Actively sell training: all too often training is provided only when the customer requests it, or is included on the quote as an optional extra that’s chopped off to get the price down.
Training: Return on Investment (ROI)
Quantifying the ROI for training ROI can be very difficult. For instance, one effect of training can be increased job satisfaction, which is difficult if not impossible to quantify. Intuitively we know this is important in retaining good employees; however it will not show up on a ROI calculation.
Individual case studies have estimated training ROI from 100 to 5900 percent, but even the most conservative calculations, using large data sets to compare many different organisations, place the estimate somewhere between 7% and 50% – more than acceptable when compared to many other budget items.
Your customer’s conclusion should be that training is a valuable commodity that, if viewed as an investment rather than an expense, can produce high returns.