Shifting Gears: Making the Switch from Employee Learning to Customer Training

Craig Weiss
Aug 14, 2018 6:00:00 AM

As an organization, you likely have your employee learning program running smoothly. Now, your company has decided to deliver customer training—free or paid—as part of expanding into new markets. It’s important to be aware that the modality, approach, and techniques for customer training are quite different from those you may be used to in employee training and development. As such, you'll need to change your mindset and current approach to how you provide learning. It's not as easy as it sounds. Your whole way of doing things, your focus on skills related to job role, compliance offerings—all must go.

The move into customer training isn't as simple as turning on a new light. It requires shifting gears in several ways: going modular, thinking like a customer, focusing on data, and pursuing a blue ocean strategy.

The five truths explored in this chapter will help you shift from a mindset focused on employee learning and development to a customer training orientation. Once you get there, you'll never look back.

Truth 1: Customers Bounce Around Within Courses

Eliminate the requirement that end users must complete your course. Customers will generally focus on what is of interest and relevance to them. For this reason, you should build your course to cater to the way they actually engage. You might consider eliminating assessments, for example, since customers are rarely fans of assessment. What does interest them is getting training on the product, service, or solution you are expert in.

Approach your curriculum development with a structured mindset where the content follows a chapter or activity format, which will allow customers to move around. You may see that they go right to one section—maybe even repeatedly—and ignore other sections completely. Guess what? That’s completely fine. You should allow them to learn and focus in their way, not yours.

Truth 2: Microlearning Works the Best, BUT...

Even when providing software training, focus on a specific topic and only one or two areas of interest in a course. Then, make sure it takes no more than 10 minutes to complete. Better yet, try to break the material up into two mini-mods at five minutes apiece. With this approach, you’re seeking to be as modular as possible in the learning you offer.

If you're training someone on how to use your software via a screen recording, make sure to add clear chapter headings to help learners jump around to the parts they care most about.

Better, create a "show me, let me do it" type of course. Those work the best in any type of software training where interactivity is essential.

Truth 3: Think Like a Customer, Not Like a Manager or Employee

Since customers aren’t a “captive audience” like employees, they are less likely to take training without some convincing. To be successful with them, you need to treat them special and truly understand how they think and what they need.

Here are some questions to answer: What does your customer need to know? What should they expect to gain from the courses, content, and activities you'll be providing? What’s in it for them? What words do they use?

I bet many of them think "training" is a four-letter word. In most cases, they simply want quick answers to quick questions. For them, anything over 10 minutes is probably overkill, unless it’s entry-level onboarding training. Microlearning was built for exactly this customer mindset. Think about when you have a question about a software application that you use. You don’t look for a “course.” If you’re like me, you look for a YouTube video or search for text answers.

If you can consider the learning you offer from that perspective—as the customer—you'll do far better than if you approach it from the perspective of an employee or manager.

Truth 4: You Must Focus on Data

The need to focus on data is true for employee training as well, but it’s especially true for customer training. Customers tend to bounce around in videos and eLearning, trying to find answers. They aren’t required to “finish” training for compliance purposes, so they are less patient with content that doesn’t help them right then and there.

Pay special attention to the trends in how learners engage and consume your material. If you notice that multiple customers hit a certain chapter in a course, this is a flashing light telling you that you need to create a course on that specific topic.

If they're stalling at a certain point, then it may mean you need to evaluate how you're presenting the information. That could be an opportunity to break it down further or come up with new ways of explaining those concepts.

Truth 5: When Charging For Your Training, Go Low & Imagine a Blue Ocean Strategy

A sure way to build mass is to focus on lower price points, perhaps keeping your pricing below $50. If your cost per seat comes in at $10, chances are good that you are already making a profit. If your cost becomes at $25 a seat, then charge $35. (I made nearly $1 million dollars and never went above $25 a course).

People like subscriptions, especially if they can pick the bundle of courses they want. If you are putting together a few course bundles, make sure your naming and promotions strategies make sense and encourage engagement and progression. For instance, you could utilize course naming modeled after college curriculum. 

With that approach, a beginner course would be called "101"—never "Entry" or "Beginner." Intermediate courses, would be numbered with "201”; and, for "advanced" offerings, go with "301." The reason this is appealing is that people never really see themselves as beginners, intermediate, or advanced; they will always think they have a higher skill set. So, abstracting away from descriptors of skill level actually increases your potential audience.

Customer training is both useful and beneficial. Once you are deep into this type of training, you will never want to go back to providing employee development. And, if you are one of the folks who must provide both, you will most likely find yourself working on the customer training side more and more. This is because it delivers a level of satisfaction that employee training will never have.

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