July 14, 2020

How to Achieve Remote Training Resiliency

Before COVID-19 responses canceled travel plans, Futura Implementation Specialist II Jessica Su would roam all around the country visiting customers onsite for a four day long, intensive product installations and training. Current travel situation aside, she hasn’t slowed down at all, learning to adapt to remote virtual installations and training aimed at delivering the best customer experience possible.

From Caffeine to Sharing Your Screen

When connecting with customers remotely, there’s always the potential for technical difficulties. Technology seems to have a mind of its own and not everyone speaks that same techie language. Su remembers an implementation day she had the week before starting a training session at Southeastern Electric Cooperative, Inc. in Oklahoma to teach Futura’s staking product, recalling “We were troubleshooting all the devices we would need for the remote training. The testing we did the week before set me up nicely for the week of training.”

Su worked on predicting any and all tech glitching scenarios, saying “In addition to the normal training prep, like having your curriculum and examples ready and making sure you’re well-rested, fed, and caffeinated, I also wanted to make sure I had a couple of backups to potential virtual disasters. I had at least two other options that were fast and easy to use. This would help us get back on track quickly if any technical issues occurred.”

While she recognizes the value of sitting back and letting the customer drive on their own, Su wanted to use virtual meeting tools that allowed her to take over hosting controls. “The remote tools that I used let me take over mouse and keyboard control so if they were having trouble using or finding something or happen to get hung up on a certain spot, I was able to take over with my mouse on their computer and demonstrate the process to them.”

Su continues, “One of the things I asked them to do was share their screen and learned that not all people follow the mouse with their eyes, like look to the left and move their mouse to the left. They’ll look first and then move their mouse.”

The ability to adapt to various technology platforms, especially the ones that the customer feels most comfortable with using also played a key role in her remote training and implementation. “I learned that sometimes you just have to let the customers use the tools that they already know how to use. During the two weeks after training, customers get one-on-one support with their implementation specialist, and being able to adapt to tools familiar to them helps get the most out of their support.”

Hitting the Virtual Wall of Exhaustion

Su incorporated frequent breaks into her virtual plan and started the training earlier in the week to account for them. It can take a lot out of someone to interact with another person all day. Virtual fatigue is real, and it takes more effort to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions and tone of voice through a computer screen.

“That was a judgment call that I made because I imagined how it would feel to sit and watch for eight hours, it would be exhausting. Whereas if I was training in person, I could gauge the room and figure out if they’re getting tired. I would then base our breaks off what I observed.”

She continues, “I actually scheduled in more frequent breaks and just stuck to that schedule versus trying to feel out if they’re getting overloaded. Normally I would conduct an eight-hour day, 4 days out of the week session. For this virtual training, I tried moving the schedule around a bit. We did the installation the week prior to training, which was practically its own full-day webinar. We started on Monday morning with training, usually, we would start Tuesday. I did that because I wanted to spread it out a little more. I wanted to do 5 six-hour days, instead of 4 eight hour days.”

Is it time to take Frankie out?

Knowing that communicating virtually would be completely different than in person, Su took the time before meeting with Southeastern EC to record herself. She made notes on her gestures and tone to see what she could improve upon as those forms of communication would be the virtual focus.

Su notes, “I recorded myself doing parts of the training and while it was awkward, it taught me about things that I do with my face. It showed me that there were certain elements that I should emphasize that I previously wasn’t. There were facial expressions and tonal changes that I had to do to supplement that in person interaction.”

“A lot of my hand gestures have become muscle memory and they’re all away from the screen. The motions had to be practiced to break the cycle of body language used during in person training,” says Su.

While she misses the face-to-face connection that would occur during lunch or after a training session with customers, she has found other ways to make a remote personal connection.

“I did let a few things of my own personality slip into my training session. Little quips since I didn’t have that time during lunch to tell them about aspects of my life like my new foster dog, Frankie. I’d say let’s take a 10-minute break so I can take Frankie out. I would show them Frankie on my computer through the web camera. During the week they would ask me if we needed to take Frankie out so I know it was working.”

Confidence in Connecting Virtually

The world of 100% remote installation and training is one that is just starting to be explored at Futura, but it’s an experience that has already proven to bring about a positive change for the company and customers alike. With the right preparation and tools, Futura can connect virtually and deliver cost savings to their customers through the elimination of travel expenses.

Futura’s training and implementation team continues to adapt to connecting remotely while maintaining high levels of trust and customer service excellence.

“The week of on-site training is all about agility and quickly responding to things as they’re changing. It’s the exact same when it’s virtual training, it’s just different things that you have to be agile for,” says Su.

Su continues, “Futura customers expect very high-level customer service from us and we are people the customers have to trust because we do a lot of things with their data and their data can be sensitive. They need to be able to trust us to login after hours and complete the work without errors. Creating that trust is really important for our customer service standards and making sure they consider us a trustworthy member of their team.”