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Salvaging Customer Relationships Through Real-Time Learning

A corporate crisis of any kind puts a strain on customer relationships. Customers' reactions range from providing a show of faith for the organization to having questions that need answering to deciding to end their relationship. Time is essential. Once a crisis strikes, innovative approaches are required given the increased complexity employees face along with the lack of time available to dedicate to formal learning. When these innovative approaches are implemented as part of a customer retention plan, they can significantly solidify credibility and relationships. Here's how you can help salvage customer relationships through real-time learning:

Reach out to customers. At Satyam, for instance, within 24 hours of the announcement of the corporate fraud, we leveraged our web television capability to do a broadcast exclusively for customers. During the session, the firm's leaders were able to present and hear from the customers. Use whatever means you have at your disposal, from Facebook and Twitter messages to personal calls to your best customers.

When leaders are assigned to coaches, they gain the advantage of talking through their situations as they plan their strategy. Short, continuously available learning programs have rapid and maximum reach. These programs should focus on best practices for communicating with customers as well as providing the information that leaders need to communicate with their customers.

Using real-time learning, you can blend business consulting, organizational development, and both formal and informal training to get to the essence of the crisis and co-create sustainable solutions.

With the primary goal of enhancing customer relationships, real-time learning provides a solid platform for development. It is a leader-oriented, team-customized, consultant-driven, diagnostic-based learning service. Essentially, real-time learning includes a needs assessment, consulting, coaching and facilitation, and measurement - all the pillars of excellent learning. The process is based on action research, adult learning, performance consulting, and executive coaching concepts. It is the fusion of development and consulting methodologies.

Real-time learning is unique because there is no single, predefined, frozen content downloaded to an entire group of participants; rather, it is an organic process emerging from the business ecosystem.


With this approach, information reviewed before engagement is combined with observations of and feedback from all stakeholders, including customers. Without frozen content, what drives the program is its process and the consultants' skills in observation, feedback, coaching, and consulting, as well as their toolkit of ready-to-use content on a variety of topics, including project management, communications, conflict resolution, and relationship building. The real-time learning process involves three stages:

  • Collect data.
  • Ignite change onsite.
  • Sustain change.

During these three stages, learning happens on the job, in real time - through a pre-engagement analysis of information, observation, ongoing feedback, personal development meetings, coaching, team sessions, and extensive follow-up. This process responds to the needs of the business in the "here and now," which is why is it especially vital during difficult

Note: This article is excerpted from Riding the Tiger by Priscilla Nelson and Ed Cohen

Together, Ed Cohen and Priscilla Nelson created an impressive learning culture at Satyam Computer Services. Ed Cohen is a talent executive who has conducted business in more than 40 countries with Booz Allen Hamilton, National Australia Bank, Farmers Insurance Group, Banco Banesto, among others. He is a featured speaker, and the author of Leadership Without Borders.

Priscilla Nelson was global director of people leadership at Satyam when the company fell from grace. She has 30 years of talent management experience with Fortune 500 companies including AT&T, Emergent,Titan Corporation, and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals.

2011 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.

About the Author
Priscilla Nelson is a senior-level executive with 30 years of global best-in-class talent management experience working with Fortune 500 companies in human resources, strategic development, performance consulting, global diversity, and succession planning. She has received international acclaim for her work in leadership development, executive coaching, and diversity. With her unique ability to recognize the additional strengths most leaders have within them and don’t know how to nurture, among the notable organizations she has helped are Glaxo SmithKline, AT&T, Rollins College, Emergent Biosolutions, Titan Corporation, the U.S. government, Mahindra Satyam, and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. She has given presentations throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia, especially in China and India. Read more about her work at her website.
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