Back to Work or Staying Home: What is the Future of Business Support & Learning?

Tameka C. Johnson, Vice President

4-Minute Read

While there are signs of improvement in the management of the healthcare aspect of COVID-19, the effect of the pandemic on how and where business is done is still in a state of flux for many.

Recently, we investigated remote support and learning in the manufacturing sector.  For many companies, the sudden shift to work from home and need for virtual support meant that what was once done in person had to be managed remotely.  The typical go-to-market support and training approach had been upended, so a hybrid approach was already being implemented, combining on-line offerings with in-person training.  Specifically, we sought to understand the following issues among the target audience, and, in this case, those receiving support from manufacturer field sales personnel.

Perhaps as important, if these WFH trends outlive the pandemic, it is critical to understand, how if at all, their go-to market strategy would need to be modified. What is the bet? One wager is that this environment is temporary, and things will “return to normal.” That is the “ride-it-out approach.” But what if the remote methods curated over the last year have shown that a permanent shift in the support/learning landscape is acceptable or even preferred?  Consider this:

  • While in-person sales calls were a standard part of the process, suppose your customers never really preferred (or have learned not to prefer) the “in-person” model. Admittedly disruptive to their daily responsibilities, some are appreciating that the information conveyed in these meetings can be dispersed via email or the telephone in a timelier manner because no travel is required.  Also, those needing support can reach out or respond at a time more convenient for them. 
  • Many different types of firms are realizing that huge travel budgets may no longer be feasible based on declines in company sales/revenues, or more interestingly, these budgets may no longer be a requirement. The week-long (read: time away from the office) conference/convention that also required a large real estate footprint (hotel space) to accommodate legions of professionals may simply no longer be needed, as all manners of meetings and decisions are increasingly being successfully managed via the myriad of teleconferencing software and related tools.

In addition, while in some cases tectonic shifts in strategy, customer service/technical support, and education occurred, the business world did not stop. As we have continued talking to customers and their supplier partners in other industries, we also see how understanding the support/learning landscape is applicable to numerous other industries.  Companies have had to learn to adapt to all types of sales and support.  Successful companies are using proprietary research to fully understand what types of shifts may be temporary and which are likely to become the new norm.  Through in-depth qualitative interviews or quantitative research, Merrill Research can help you understand not only your external customers but how to support them in a way that positively affects your business.

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