Like marketing and customer service, customer training should be considered a mandatory part of any product’s strategic planning. A standard service in the SaaS and tech industries, training programs can be used to acquire and retain customers. A differentiator among competitors, education programs should be a prioritized focus when growing a product’s clientele.
In this article, we will cover the 10 steps to developing a successful customer training program.
What is Customer Training?
Customer training is the process of educating consumers to successfully utilize a product or service. Common in the SaaS and tech industries, customer training helps companies attract consumers and grow brand experts through intentionally designed learning opportunities. Often taking the form of courses, FAQs, demos, or guided efforts, learning academies differ in appearance and execution by company and product. Regardless of aesthetics, however, all successful education programs operate with the purpose of creating brand experts.
Customer training programs can be developed in-house or with the assistance of a Learning Management System (LMS). LMS solutions, like Raven360, offer an efficient and reliable solution to the development process.
What are the Benefits of Customer Training?
The core benefit of Customer Training is the ability to assure customers they will become experts in a product. A successful customer training program grows the confidence current and prospective users have in a product; this boost in confidence helps improve the product’s value proposition, as it gives users the assurance they will be able to competently and successfully use it. In marketplaces saturated with products and solutions, a well-developed customer education program can be the key factor in growing clientele.
In addition to this core advantage, potential benefits of customer training include:
- Training-led growth
- Better brand positioning
- Increased client retention
- Increased user engagement
- Enhanced onboarding experiences
- Revenue growth through an increase in sales, renewals, and up-sells
- Increased quality support tickets
- A greater abundance of brand experts and ambassadors.
How to Build an Outstanding Customer Training Program
1. Conduct Customer Surveys and Interviews with Your Ideal Customers
The first step to developing a customer training program is to identify the training needs of your customers. When doing so, companies should identify and prioritize the feedback of ideal customers - users that receive the most value from a product and enthusiastically recommend it to others; ideal customers are often referred to as brand experts or brand ambassadors.
These ideal customers should be surveyed to identify their areas of confusion and concern when using your product. Additionally, companies should learn what desired outcomes their customers have when using their product.
This information will serve as the groundwork for a program’s vision, preparation, and execution.
2. Define Program Goals
Before building a course curriculum, companies must first identify the short-term and long-term goals of their program. Goals should take into account the needs and challenges of customers in order to establish reasonable expectations. Additionally, program objectives should have defined measurable outcomes and established deadlines. Commonly, organizations define SMART goals, which ensure objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-sensitive.
The objectives and vision of a program should be used to guide all further decisions, as well as be re-evaluated over the education program’s lifecycle.
3. Choose Relevant KPIs
Once goals are set, companies should establish the key performance indicators they will use to measure the success and impact of their product. KPIs should be directly related to the program’s goals and vision, as well as relevant to the product’s functionality.
KPI’s will differ by company and product, but common key performance indicators for Customer Training Programs include:
- Overall Training Retention
- Customer Retention
- Audience Engagement
- Average Time to Completion
- Total Competence by Department
- Average Test Score
- Overall Cost of Training
4. Choose the Appropriate Platform
When developing a learning academy companies have two choices: develop in-house or utilize a Learning Management System (LMS).
Developing a training program from scratch gives companies full control of their product, but the process is costly and time-consuming. Alternatively, established LMS solutions have built-in content authoring tools to expedite the course creating process and offer course delivery methods for new and retained users.
The complete list of features, add-ons, and capabilities offered by LMS solutions differ by product and vendor, but can include:
- Interface quality - ranging from rigid to seamless
- Content creation tools
- Course Delivery Methods
- Dynamic learning capabilities
- Gamification tools
- Mobile learning options
- Offline learning options
- Advanced reporting
- Security tools
In order to create the best possible customer training programs, companies should ensure they select an LMS platform that best meets their goals and needs.
5. Create a Customer Training Team
When implementing a learning academy, it’s important for companies to intentionally create a customer training team. Members of the education team should be key contributors to different departments and should be brand experts in their respective focuses.
By selecting representatives of different backgrounds, companies can build a team composed of members with varying skills, experiences, and knowledge relative to the product or service. A diverse team of key contributors will ensure the training solution is designed with a comprehensive knowledge of the product, leading to a better overall educational experience for the user.
Above all else, it’s important to build a team of well-rounded contributors who are enthusiastic about developing a customer education program.
6. Gather Current Training Content and Identify Gaps
Before developing any new content, customer training teams should first gather and evaluate any training material already available for the product. Regardless of the department, teams should collect all relevant training content; by ensuring material is collected company-wide, the training team can develop a more comprehensive understanding of active education efforts.
When reviewing existing content, team members should be looking to identify gaps where new training needs to be developed; companies should also determine areas of improvement within their available training. In both cases, teams should additionally refer back to the survey feedback given by their ideal customers.
After reviewing the current content, identifying areas of improvement, and understanding the needs of the customer teams can begin developing their content creation plan.
7. Establish a Content Creation Plan
After evaluating existing current training content, identifying gaps, and understanding the needs of ideal customers, teams should develop a comprehensive content creation plan.
A content creation plan serves as a road map for the implementation and management of a customer training program. It should have established deadlines that meet the goals of the program, as well as have identified periods for testing and improvement.
When developing a plan, teams should prioritize the needs of their customers first, as well as any existing content requiring immediate attention. Teams should continue to update their content creation plan as they grow their education program.
8. Work Collaboratively to Create New Training Materials
When establishing a customer training team, it’s important not to utilize them strictly for products that have already been developed. Instead, teams should be a part of the product development process.
By being a part of the development process, the customer training team can incrementally develop content alongside the product team. As a result, users are able to access tutorials and courses the day new features and products come out. Proactively made training materials can decrease customer churn and increase client retention.
Monica Green, a Senior Director at Epicore Software, spoke about this step and reported that after integrating her customer training and product development teams the cost of education went down and the prospect of revenue growth increased.
9. Deploy, Test, Improve
Once training materials are complete and courses are prepared, organizations should begin rolling out their learning academy.
Once made publicly available, companies should begin to test their products to understand if their learning academy meets their customers’ needs. By understanding how customers interact with their training, companies can make informed improvements to their services. In order to evaluate the success of a product’s training program, companies should utilize their KPIs (established in step 2), analytic tools, and user feedback. When comparing analytics tools, consider the following possible actions:
- Using embedded tools to track how customers interact with the LMS solution
- Reviewing support requests to identify areas of improvement
- Comparing support requests with training taken; identifying the impact of courses
- Measuring customer satisfaction to determine real and perceived training needs
Asking customers directly what their pain points are related to training
After evaluating key performance indicators, customer reviews, and additional data points, customer training teams should adapt their solution accordingly. Timely and relevant updates that address user concerns will increase confidence among the customer base, further solidifying their relationship with the brand. Consistent improvement is imperative to creating a successful customer training program.
10. Provide Continuous Training
Customer training programs should not be considered a one-time endeavor. Instead, learning academies should be continuously improved to meet the long-term needs of loyal users. By proactively providing training and guidance every step of the way, companies can minimize churn and maximize overall retention - a recipe for increased profits.
Additionally, by monitoring the progress of individual customers, companies can target highly engaged users to up-sell related products or services. A vital piece of revenue generation, up-sells, and renewals are estimated to contribute anywhere from 70% to 90% of SaaS profits.
As companies continue to develop training, they should also continuously survey their ideal customers and re-evaluate their goals accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a customer training program?
Customer training is the process of educating consumers to successfully utilize a product or service. Through carefully curated learning opportunities (such as courses FAQs, and guided demonstrations), customer training programs build brand experts out of new and existing users.
Growing in popularity within the SaaS and technology industries, customer training has been a key differentiating factor among similar products.
Why is it important to train customers?
Training customers increases user competence and buyer confidence through practical education opportunities. Doing so has a plethora of benefits, including developing brand experts, increasing customer retention, and growing engagement with a product. Further, training customers has a direct impact on revenue, cost, and overall profit; according to Userlane, 70% to 90% of SaaS profits are generated through renewals and up-sells. Additionally, UiPath reports that for every dollar spent in training customers, companies can expect $12 in return.
How do you train customers to become product experts?
The best way to grow users into product experts is through customer training programs. Differing by product and by company, these learning academies can be delivered in a variety of methods, such as courses, demonstrations, FAQ sections, and more.
In order to best train customers, companies should intentionally develop their training programs to meet the needs of their base.