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Today's focus on "the customer" bodes well for customer training. You can gain a strategic advantage over your competitors with a well-designed customer training program. After all, we're in the “Age of the Customer”, and concocting just the right mix of learning for them will help ensure their success and your own.
Here we look at how improving customer engagement through training goes right to your bottom line, the role "blended learning" plays, what elements work for which customers, and how to refine your blend for the best outcomes.
As the report explains, you can think of learning as "engaging" the customer with your product or service. Investing in customer-valued learning generates brand loyalty, greater spend, lower support calls, a closer vendor/customer relationship, and higher renewal rates. In fact, a TSIA study showed that in one case, the renewal rate for a trained software subscriber was as high as 92%. While we can't be sure the gain is all from learning experiences, the data indicates that learning has a strong impact on customer satisfaction.
The blended approach to learning provides flexibility and in-the-moment learning. As customer training continues to move to a digitally-enabled online environment opportunities to advance are available anytime, anywhere, and from any device. Learning is no longer entirely classroom-based or focused on lengthy eLearning courses. Rather, customer education now uses multiple learning modalities chosen according to the nature of the content. This approach is called blended learning.
Learning approaches don't abandon classroom learning—certainly some learning experiences need hands-on, face-to-face instruction. But today's technologies allow a great amount learning to move online. Online modalities include on-demand learning, short single-concept microlearning, video, virtual classroom, and online social interactions.
The secret sauce is in the blend—choosing the approaches that best fit the learning content—and wrapping these together into an engaging learning experience.
|On-demand eLearning||Self-paced learning accessed by customers when they need the information||Overview with text and graphics to help customers learn about the product|
|Microlearning||Brief (2- to 4-minute) single concept, multi-model and in-context learning||Review one feature of the new software product with an instructor, text and graphics|
|Video streaming||Short real-time captures||Show the process for replacing or setting up a part of the software|
|Virtual classroom||Instructor-run, virtual online discussion or interactive presentation||A scheduled online discussion of best practices after customers have been introduced to the product|
|Online social interaction||Asynchronous discussion and collaboration with feedback||Blogs, online chat, FAQs, user group site|
|Performance support system||Help feature built into the software that intelligently knows when the user is having a problem and helps||A short help screen enables the user to solve the problem and continue in the application|
Here's an example of the features a blended learning module for a customer becoming familiar with new software might include:
While this example shows end-user learning, a similar approach for administrators, for instance, would use some of the same content and add extra material specific to their role.
A learning platform—most likely a learning management system—is an essential technology component for blended learning and it must be consumer-like in its ease-of-use. In other words, the platform shouldn't require any end-user training on how to take the training.
An LMS carries out many basic tasks. It enables customers to register for learning, see all the learning opportunities related to the product, and launch an appropriate blended learning module.
Those with administrator access can track the customer training by running reports. This lets them see metrics on the most-used learning content or pinpoint parts of lessons where users are spending a lot of time—which could suggest that the content needs to be revisited, streamlined, or made clearer.
In addition, a consumer-ready LMS has other features:
Customer success is top of mind for all companies. It drives renewals, higher product spend, and referrals of potential new customers, to mention just a few benefits. This means that the sales organization must understand the learning strategy of their company as well as the customer's strategy, be knowledgeable about training opportunities the company provides, and feel comfortable discussing the learning blend during the sales process. Training is no longer an extra that’s tacked on at the time of purchase. It’s now a service that is in development right alongside the software as it's being brought to life.
But it's not just sales that needs to understand learning opportunities and why they are important. The customer success management (CSM) role has grown with the continual movement of companies to "software as a service" (SaaS), a subscription model for software. If a customer is not "beyond satisfied" with the product, it's easy for them to move to a competitor—since there are no more perpetual licenses or installed software. CSMs are in a perfect position to emphasize learning opportunities, recommend starter learning—which is generally free—and make customers aware of more advanced learning that carries a cost. Professional services as well as customer support need to talk to customers about learning opportunities too. Learning becomes a partnership effort among Sales, CSMs, Professional Services, Customer Support, IT and the customer training department.
The top challenge in enabling good blended learning is to get the blend right. In preparation for creating blended learning, do the following:
About the author:
Claire Schooley, principal, Claire Schooley Consulting, and long-time Forrester analyst, specializes in workforce growth and development. She has over 25 years of experience in education and corporate human resources, focusing on learning, recruiting and performance.Contact Claire through her website or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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