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If you’re reading this chances are you’re familiar with customer training, but you’re probably hoping to dig in a little deeper. You want the what, why, and how this type of eLearning program can help your company. If that’s the case, you’ve come to the right place!
As an educational hub, we designed this guide to answer fundamental questions about customer training. It will provide some resources you can use to start planning a customer education program for your business.
If you have a question about any of the information we encourage you to join our Customer Training Network on LinkedIn. There you can connect with training experts, customer success managers, and course designers. You can ask questions and gain insight from a community of experts.
Companies in every industry are in a state of disruption. This is especially true for software, technology, and subscription-based businesses. They must now deliver value at every stage of the customer lifecycle in order to fend off competition and ensure sustainable recurring revenue.
The 3 Major Disruptors Impacting the Modern Day Sales Process
To attract and keep customers, forward-thinking companies like HubSpot, Salesforce and Onshape have developed training and certificate programs. This helps their customers accomplish business objectives. This approach to customer advocacy is having a positive impact.
According to Technology Industries Services Association (TSIA), companies with trained customers experience a 92% renewal rate. Compare that to the renewal rate for companies (80%) who have untrained customers and you can quickly understand why you can’t have customer success without customer training.
One cannot underestimate the importance of training in the customer success lifecycle, and starts as early as the presale period. But, what exactly is customer training? What types of problems can it help you solve? And what does a good customer training program look like?
In the following section, we define "customer training" and start you down the path of how you can develop a program for your company.
If you asked ten different people to define what customer training means to them, you’d undoubtedly receive ten different answers. No one actually has time to ask ten people, so we asked Samma Hafeez, Vice President of Customer Success at Thought Industries (TI) to help us out.
Samma knows a lot about customer training and support. Prior to joining TI, she helped brands like CareCloud, and BrightEdge build and strengthen their customer communities. When Samma described customer training as, “the process of educating your customer on how to successfully use your product or service to help them meet their business goals,” she convinced us. We had our answer.
“At its core, customer training is the process of educating your customers on how to successfully use your product or service to help them meet their business goals.”
- Samma Hafeez -
In addition to providing a very concise definition, Samma was quick to point out that customer training is an ongoing process that should help companies attract and retain customers at every stage of the customer lifecycle. This is particularly true during onboarding when training is critical for helping a customer use your product to accomplish quick wins.
We encourage you to check out 7 Steps to the Perfect Onboarding Program if you’re looking to get some tips your customer success team can use to ace their next onboarding. We cover onboarding in more depth later in this guide if you'd like to keep reading.
Now that we have a better understanding of what Customer Training is, we’ll dive into how developing a program can help your company.
Customer training is often considered a “value-add” that can help you differentiate your company. Besides giving your company a leg up over your competition, customer training can help you achieve the following results.
Onboarding is a critical time in the lifecycle of a customer. According to ChurnZero, 40% to 60% of software users only open an app once, then never log in again. With so much at stake, companies are now leveraging training to attract and keep customers during this crucial period.
In a recent Thought Industries article titled, "Why Smooth Onboarding is the key to Customer Success", we outline two important points that impact the success or failure of an onboarding program. These points are:
1) the moment when a customer purchases a product, and
2) the moment when the new customer achieves their first success with a product.
Shortening the timeline between these two events will greatly improve your company’s chances of keeping a customer over the long haul.
To help you shorten the distance between initial purchase and win, your onboarding team should
By following these training tips, your customer onboarding team will be better prepared to help the customer understand the value of your software as it relates to helping them solve their real-life business challenges.
In the next section, we outline ways your customer success team can use training to improve customer engagement and retention.
Once you have successfully completed the onboarding process, it’s important that you continue to find opportunities to engage with your customer. Help them find new ways to meet their business goals. This ongoing engagement between you and your customer should create a win-win scenario. The more you can help your customer solve problems with product training, the more they will come to value your partnership. They will see your company as a trusted partner.
As John Leh, a technology consultant, explains, “the investment in engagement has ‘measurable value’ because it feeds into keeping that customer. And the cost of keeping a customer is far less than it is to find a new one, he points out.”
These points are reinforced in the article, Customer Engagement, Retention, and Beyond. Written by Pat Durante, the President of the Customer Education Management Association (CEdMA) and a Senior Director at Talend, the feature outlines the role training plays as part of an effective customer engagement strategy. It helps companies improve their customer retention efforts.
Investing in customer-valued learning generates brand loyalty, greater spend, lower support calls, a closer vendor/customer relationship, and higher renewal rates. A surefire way to increase the success of your customer education program is to increase customer engagement through blended learning.
By offering different learning modalities like on-demand or self-paced learning, microlearning, and video streaming, your customers will engage with your content. This helps them advance their knowledge and use of your product. If you’d like to learn more we’d encourage you to check out, Design the Perfect Learning Blend for Customer Success.
Certification can be a very important component in assuring that your customers experience success with your products. In practice, certification can occur at different stages across the customer lifecycle, depending on how your organization decides to approach it.
Managing certifications—and the delivery of them—can become a complex proposition for any organization. From building completion rules and award criteria to managing recertifications and submittals, certificate management is no easy task to scale. To drill into this idea, we suggest you check out How to get the Most Out of Certification in the Customer Success lifecycle.
Now that we know what customer training is and how it can help your business, let’s talk about the 3 Key Steps of Building a Customer Training Program.
There are a lot more than three steps you’ll use when developing your program, but the following ideas will give you a solid foundation.
Before you schedule your first software demo or run out and hire a team of instructional designers and curriculum developers, you should take the time to identify what you want your customers to learn from your training.
As part of this process, avoid the tendency to be too broad in defining outcomes like, “we need customers to use our product more efficiently.” Instead, use S.M.A.R.T. goals. If you’re unfamiliar with S.M.A.R.T., it stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound.
A good example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal is sounds something like “we need get 80% of our new users to know how to create and send an automated email from our platform within 45 days of onboarding.”
Using S.M.A.R.T. goals will give you the opportunity to:
When building your customer education program, the technology you choose will play a key role in the success or failure of your program.
Barry Kelly, CEO of Thought Industries, offers a nice overview of the customer training tech space in his article titled, How to Assemble Your Customer Training Technology Stack.
While evaluating a long list of customer lifecycle platforms you’ll want to consider how your customer learning platform integrates with other platforms your company might be uses. (like HubSpot, and Salesforce, as well as meeting software such as GoToMeeting.)
When it comes to building out your technology stack make sure you weigh out key questions like
How relevant and engaging your training courses are will determine the success of your program. The biggest success driver here will be whether the training effectively meets your customers’ needs. If your customers don’t find your training useful, neither your company or your customer will gain any value from your program.
We put together a few ideas on how a software company could use different touch points to create engaging content to support you training program.
Training is the most important part of every customer success program, but customers don’t often have the time to master your product. As a result, they put off training until it’s too late. This usually results in expensive support costs for your company and unhappy customers.
You mitigate both of these unpleasant situations by taking a proactive approach to marketing your training program. According to Gordon Johnson, a co-author of The Ultimate Guide to Customer Training, “The solution is to treat your training programs like your company’s products and insert a healthy dose of marketing to drive training consumption.”
Below are 9 Ways You Can Promote Your Program.
There is no doubt that customer learning is a "value-add" that differentiates your company from the competition. In addition to helping you separate yourself from your competitors, investing in customer-valued learning generates brand loyalty, greater spend, lower support calls, a closer vendor/customer relationship, and higher renewal rates.
But, how do you measure and evaluate you success of your training program?
On one level you can evaluate your training by looking at KPIs such as the number of people who registered for a course, number of course completions, and even the number of training course offered in a given time period. But, are these numbers really going to help you understand if your company is getting a ROI from customer training?
Instead, Claire Schooley, a long-time Forrester analyst who specializes in workforce growth and development, emphasizes the importance of using deeper metrics to evaluate the value of your program. In her piece, Measuring the ROI/VOI of Customer Learning, Schooley suggests that companies focus on bigger business metrics like
To reach this level of insight, it’s important that stakeholders from across your organization align and work toward the same goals. If you have any questions about evaluating your customer training program, schedule a call with one of our training advisors now!
Onshape's project team knew they had to deliver an exceptional user experience their customers would embrace. As David Katzman, Vice President of Strategic Accounts and Business Development explains, “One of the challenges of bringing a new product to market after 25 years is that we face a very entrenched market. So, one of the big obstacles we need to address is onboarding, or bringing people up the learning curve as fast as possible so that they can use our software effectively.”