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Learnings from the LINE survey 2012: concentrate on expertise and customer service

This post was written by Ed Lines and first appeared on the LINE blog on 15th November 2012. Like any good company, LINE communicates regularly with buyers of learning technologies about their needs and views. As part of this activity, we run a yearly customer survey. It isn’t just for existing customers of LINE – in fact this year’s, the latest in a series going back to 2010, has a higher proportion than ever before (89%) of ‘friends we haven’t yet met’. Though less wide-reaching than previous efforts due to operational necessities, the research provokes interesting thoughts about our industry, some of which we’d like to share with you.

What do organisations use learning technology for?

We are able this year to look back on three years of results. Over that time there have been changes and shifts in attitude – more people are now familiar with the concept of Learning Architectures, for instance (62%, as against 52% in 2011). However some results have remained remarkably consistent over that time. Though we have seen small increases in the use of social media, informal learning and Web 2.0 technologies such as RSS and wikis, the main things that organisations use external suppliers for has remained pretty constant. The top three continue to be LMS, virtual classroom and – highest of all – content, content, content, both custom and generic. Indicating that change in the use of e-learning is steady rather than dramatic, this result is a useful counter to the picture that often emerges from blogs and conference platforms. L&D is undoubtedly interested in the newest developments, however in actual practice it is less febrile and buzzword-driven than you might imagine.

Expertise, innovation and creativity

Neither is the market anything like as product-driven as a glance at the exhibition floor of a learning technologies trade show might lead the casual visitor to believe. E-learning vendors tend to think of their trade as being all about fantastic products that help people learn. Their clients have a very different outlook, however. In every one of the last three years, when asked what they derive from their learning technology suppliers, far and away the most popular benefit clients cite is expertise. This year it is almost twice as popular as the next biggest benefit, innovation and creativity. The message for vendors is clear. No matter how great your products are as pieces of software, they had better be truly innovative and creative – and you had better have a pretty great service offering around them as well. Customers value the specialist expertise they find in e-learning companies above all – the expertise they don’t have in-house, no matter how active they might be in self-authoring content or how au fait with the technical possibilities of leading-edge learning technologies like mobile. Making this expertise fully available to clients is all about great customer service. Another stand-out result that has remained pretty much constant over time is in the response to the question ‘what is the greatest problem you encounter with suppliers’. Here, failure to understand the client’s business outstrips all other complaints, adding further emphasis to the point that learning technology companies of all stripes need to focus hard on customer service. What’s the takeout? Understand your client’s business, and apply your specialist knowledge and expertise to solving the client’s problems in a flexible and responsive way, if you want to succeed as provider of learning technologies products and services.

What the market thinks of LINE

Luckily LINE has built its business around these service values. As a result, this year’s survey earned us a crop of heartwarming responses such as the following. ‘I believe LINE to be a company that listens to the clients and when shaping its solutions, leads with the learning rather than the technology. As a result it appears to produce solutions that represent the optimal blend of technology and learning content.’ ‘A friendly organisation who push the boundaries of thinking in order to maximise technology for their clients” ‘Professional, creative, modern.’ ‘… Very professional and has an excellent reputation.’