Measuring the ROI of Enterprise Learning for Customers, Partners and Professionals
The Three Key Pillars
of Learning ROI
As the learning industry matures, one question comes up time and time again in our conversations with customers about their learning programs. “How do we measure the business impact of external enterprise learning initiatives?”
With our experience across multiple learning segments, from professional training and customer education to partner enablement and more, we’ve isolated three key pillars that describe the value of customer learning, and, alongside real-world examples — the metrics you can track to prove ROI in each of these critical areas.
Core Business Impact:
Building and Retaining Revenue
Regardless of your use case, learning can have a significant impact on core business impact metrics, such as revenue and customer retention. For organizations who see training as their business, using a platform specifically designed for external audiences can help accelerate revenue growth. For companies that rely on subscription revenue, and train their customers on a complicated product, education is a proven way to improve renewal and upsell rates.
For Industrial Training International, a worldwide leader in industrial training courses and certification for construction use cases, investing in their learner experience had an immediate impact. Their direct training revenue grew 260% in the first 12 months on the Thought Industries platform, along with a 520% increase in subscriptions in a single year.
On the ITI Learning Hub, learners can access a wide range of professional training including VILT courses, customized learning paths for different segments, and even full industry certifications. Not only is this a better learning experience for employees, having all of their training content in one place, it allowed ITI to quadruple the amount of training content it was offering. “We’ve always had disparate systems for enrollment, grades, and course delivery. The opportunity to bring everything into one location is amazing. It’s hard to explain how valuable that is to us,” said Christina Lanham, Managing Director, UK & Manager of Information Systems.
The results of a robust learning program can be just as impactful even when training is not a direct revenue driver, for example in customer education. Enterprise SaaS company ZoomInfo has seen a 10-15% increase in logo renewals when just one user in any given account completes a course in the ZoomInfo University, hosted on Thought Industries. They also found a 5-10% increase in closing upsells.
Each of ZoomInfo’s 30,000 customers benefits from a dedicated space and their own bespoke training across all of their subscriptions, all from one University. On the back end, ZoomInfo has an executive dashboard where they can see all their customer data in a single screen across multiple products and channels, allowing them to analyze this information, and cross-reference it to pull out the data insights that help the team to prove value.
Which metrics should I be tracking?
Renewal rates: Compare educated cohorts and non
educated cohorts, and see how logo retention and
renewals are positively impacted by your learning
New training revenue: Drive new training revenue
with data-driven pricing models; engaging,
immersive learning; and the ability to create a
differentiated, premium product in the marketplace.
Upsell and cross-sell revenue: Use trained and
non-trained cohorts to analyze if education is
leading to more revenues through upsells and
We definitely found that accounts which had been trained had a greater propensity to buy, whether that was more seats, more credits, or more products. We’ve got to a place where we can prove that we’re an engine that does two things; provides ROI to the customers and is also strongly linked to revenue generation.”
Vice President of Customer
Onboarding and Education
Accelerating Onboarding and Driving Engagement
The next pillar is centered around learner engagement. This starts by acquiring customers through educational assets such as whitepapers and webinars, but continues along a journey where you deepen the relationship with these customers and transform them into champions of your brand.
The breadth of content that the Linux Foundation needed to support led to the business onboarding a number of different training tools, both homegrown and external, all intended for different use cases. The foundation has a catalog of more than 125 courses that cover topics from system administration to AI and blockchain. In addition, training content was deeply blended, covering in-person training, videos, labs, and written certification exams. Today, the company uses a single partner, Thought Industries, to author content and update the curriculum, manage sales and e-commerce functionality, and conduct tens of thousands of certifications, tailored where necessary to specific business needs.
Creating a more immersive, engaging product experience was good for their learners and for the business. “With our previous system, it always felt like we were living on the ragged edge of disaster. Thought Industries provides an integrated system with built-in authoring, e-commerce, and multi-tenant delivery capabilities that we needed to continue our growth. It’s a much more elegant solution than we had before,” said Clyde Seepersad, Senior Vice President for Training and Certification.
Supply chain management software company Arrowstream turned to a learning platform to try to speed up the time it took to teach new customers how to see value with its food service product. As a result, the company has seen a 74% reduction in the time spent onboarding and training. While some industry leaders worry about a drop in customer engagement levels when learning moves online rather than face to face, Arrowstream has maintained a 100% renewal rate since the launch of their learning platform, and has seen a 182% increase in customer log-ins, a powerful validation of their strategy.
Arrowstream was deeply focused on scaling onboarding and training, and took advantage of the interactive features available on the Thought Industries platform to create engaging learning paths for their learners. By guiding them through a sequence of milestones, they could support a greater number of users in getting up and running quickly, without the reliance on customer success or support teams. Once the on-demand training is completed, live training is available to discuss more nuanced use cases or get granular about specific business context, a much smarter use of employee’s time.
With our previous system, it always felt like we were living on the ragged edge of disaster. Thought Industries provides an integrated system with built-in authoring, e-commerce, and multi-tenant delivery capabilities that we needed to continue our growth. It’s a much more elegant solution than we had before.
Senior Vice President for Training and Certification
Which metrics should I be tracking?
NPS and CSAT: By tracking improvements in
engagement metrics, you can compare scores
between users who interact with learning and those who don’t. Happy users tell their friends.
Course completions: Engaged customers stay the
course — literally. Measure the rate of course
completions before and after improvements to your
university or content.
Product adoption: This could be anything from
monthly active users to customer log-ins and
product usage metrics. See how trained users are
more likely to engage.
Onboarding rates and Time To Value (TTV):
Compare cohorts to get data on onboarding rates
and time to value, and uncover whether, like with
Arrowstream, educated customers are getting there
Boosting Productivity and Lowering Support Costs
Ultimately, however impactful educating customers, partners, and professionals has proven to be, if you can’t scale training then you’re left increasing headcount to grow the number of learners you can support. That’s why this final pillar is about scaling your support operations through self-service and automation, to deflect the number of support tickets and allow your CS or customer-facing team to limit the repetitive conversations they have on any given day.
Software company Onshape understands the challenges of scaling professional training better than most. Before they deployed the Thought Industries platform, the CS team was only able to serve dozens of customers at any one time — engineers and developers who were tasked with learning Computer Aided Design (CAD). Today, they can serve thousands.
By upgrading its learning platform, Onshape can now allow students from more than 170 countries to access content from any device with a seamless and consistent user experience. Previously, training content was scattered across different platforms, and customer information was held in multiple databases. This made it impossible to measure value. A single learning platform made it much easier to quickly and effectively scale customer onboarding, and track and report on training behaviors to improve the program.
As part of the project, Onshape knew they had to deliver an exceptional user experience that their customers would embrace. “One of the challenges of bringing a new product to market after 25 years is that we faced a very entrenched market,” explained David Katzman, Vice President of Strategic Accounts and Business Development. “So, one of the big obstacles we needed to address was onboarding, or bringing people up the learning curve as fast as possible so that they could use our software effectively.”
Seismic was also focused on driving its ability to scale, and has used customer education to return 6,500 hours to the Customer Support team, and add hundreds of certified users, achieving consistency in product training and ensuring the high quality of the education being delivered to the end users.
Finding that the differences between individual team and department training styles were leading to inconsistent learning experiences, Seismic onboarded a customer education platform in order to reduce unnecessary confusion and friction. Business goals included empowering its extended enterprise and conveying a consistent and exceptional educational experience across its customers’ entire lifecycle.
Which metrics should I be tracking?
Ticket mitigation: Not only how many tickets are
coming into the help center, although that line should
go down, but also time to resolution (TTR) to the
Support costs: Trained accounts need less support.
Track support costs over time, and segment users
by those who engage with education and those
who do not.
Onboarding resources: The most repetitive
conversations happen during onboarding, limiting
how many customers can be trained at any time.
With the right technology, the sky’s the limit.
We’ve been able to successfully transfer the ownership of education development to a dedicated team with expertise in adult learning, while giving our Customer Success staff time back to focus more on strategic conversations and services work with their clients. This benefits both our customers and Seismic, and has dramatically improved the overall effectiveness of training and our internal efficiencies.
Customer Education & Community
The More Mature the Learning Function… the Deeper the Benefits Become
Through our industry research with IDC, we’ve found that the more mature companies are in their enterprise learning initiatives, the greater improvement they see in these essential metrics, across all three pillars.
More Maturity Means More Success Across the Customer Life Cycle
Companies who have reached stage 5 in the maturity model see a 263% increase in the number of brand champions, a 236% growth in customer satisfaction, a 178% boost to demand generation efforts, and a 52% improvement in product and feature adoption. They can onboard customers 43% faster than their peers, and see a 31% quickening of time to value.
The results are in, and no matter what organizational goal you’re looking
to achieve — customer learning is moving that needle.