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Educating Your Customers

Distributors teach end-users.

In an industry that never stops moving, keeping up is a constant struggle. Having good training programs is of the utmost importance when it comes to keeping up with the times. This month, MHEDA Edge brings you two different perspectives on training. One is from a distributor about educating customers and one from a manufacturer about educating yourselves. Both offer valuable advice for keeping your company and your customers current.

At AHS, we recognize that we’re involved in an industry that is both fast-paced and rapidly changing, and we do our best to stay on top of current trends. It is not enough for us to be on the cutting edge—we want to take our clients with us. In an effort to make this happen, we developed AHS University, a training program designed to boost the industry knowledge of our clients, as well as our internal staff.

The training program is divided into three categories—webinars, workshops and seminars. The webinars are generally one hour in length and utilize state of the art technology, allowing clients to watch and listen to the presentation via their computers. Our workshops are held on-site at our Cincinnati, OH, facility and involve an hour of hands on instruction followed by a question and answer session during lunch. The seminars are our biggest undertaking, involving a halfday of live instruction. Having diverse program options provides our clients with the opportunity to take part in our training despite their often rigorous schedules.

Finding the Best Content
When creating a training program, the most important thing to consider is the content. You can have the most intricate training program in the world with the most engaging speakers available, but if the content isn’t there, your program will not benefit your clientele. It is crucial that you find out exactly what your clients want to learn and build your program with that in mind. There are three main ways I suggest accomplishing this.

1. Send a survey to all of your clients, asking them for topics or issues they would like your training program to cover. Obviously, there is no easier way to find out what your customers want than simply by asking them.

2. Lean on your sales and engineering staff. They are the people out in the field each day directly interacting with your clientele. This gives them an intimate knowledge of the problems facing your clients, and makes them an invaluable resource when it comes to planning.

3. After every training session, give attendees a questionnaire. This will give them a venue to express what they found useful and what they would like to see more of in the future.

The Ultimate Goal: Customer Satisfaction
Since your topics are taken directly from your clients, you will know ahead of time that the issues you discuss will resonate. So far, AHS has seen great enthusiasm surrounding our programs. Workshops have averaged 35-40 people per one-hour session. Seminars and webinars have attracted even greater participation. The webinars have averaged about 30 people per session and our live seminar had approximately 100 attendees.

As far as the overall concept of AHS University, thus far response has been great. Our clients want the knowledge, they want to learn ways to help their company succeed, and these programs assist them in their endeavor. Our clients realize this, and yours will too. They will truly appreciate the programs, and perhaps more importantly they truly appreciate your company’s dedication to the importance of education and staying in tune with the newest industry trends.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association
Kelly Blake Meet the Author
Kelly Blake is executive vice president at AHS, Inc. located in Cincinnati, OH. There she is responsible for establishing company goals, spearheading strategic planning and managing the marketing, business development and client services groups. You can find AHS on the Web at www.ahs1.com.

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