One of the pain points we hear over and over again from our customers (predominantly software companies) is that their training program isn’t scalable and it provides a plain, non-interactive learning environment that doesn’t work for customers. The training program doesn’t engage users and isn’t as impactful as they’d like. This leads to complaints, pushback, a mountain of escalations to the customer success team, and a sort of low-value perception in their training offerings.
They want to provide a scalable, hands-on, self-paced training program, but they don’t know how to develop or deploy it. There are a lot of moving pieces, particularly with regards to hosting virtual IT labs, you don’t have a ton of technical resources to draw on.
This blog post explains how you can develop a customer training plan that will help alleviate the burden on your customer service and IT team, add interactivity to your training offerings, while reducing costs and creating new revenue streams.
Involve Your Customers in the Process
Your customers are going to be the ones using the plan, so the best way to ensure it meets their needs is by asking them what they want from training. Discuss their learning styles and the type of content they’d like to see. Ask them pertinent questions that will help you develop effective training:
- Are there parts of our product that need more training than others?
- What kinds of training content work best for which aspects of our product?
- How long is it taking you to complete our training?
- What’s missing from our training program that other companies have?
Reach out to your customers via surveys and interviews to ask them these questions. You can then determine how to develop and implement a program that addresses the most pressing questions surrounding your product training, and begin understanding how to deliver a more effective customer learning experience.
Define the Goals of Your Customer Training Plan
Once you’ve worked out what you need to deliver, you need to define what success will look like. This could be an increase in product adoption, trial sign-ups, fewer customer service queries and escalations, the number of virtual IT labs spinned-up, or improved customer retention. You need to create quantifiable goals, rather than vague ones such as “get more customers”. This is where measuring ROI comes in. There are some simple equations you can use to measure:
- Retention rates
- Satisfaction scores
- Upselling and deep selling rates
- Production adoption and engagement rates
To learn additional ways to measure the ROI of customer training, take a look at our blog post, The 5 Benefits of an Effective Customer Training Program.
Choose a Customer Training Platform
If you want to be able to deliver an effective plan that achieves your goals, you’ll need to invest in customer training software. This is where your customers will access your training, so it needs to be intuitive and easy to use.
And if you’re a trainer at a software company, you will (more likely than not) also want to give your customers frictionless and hands-on access to our product (this helps drive curriculum retention and improves downstream product adoption). When evaluating a training platform, make sure it allows your customers to both access your training content and launch your software product.
Other features to look for in a customer training platform include:
- Low initial costs
- Speedy set-up times
- Course authoring
- Course delivery
- Learner metrics, such as enrollment, engagement, and completion
- Ability to offer courses tailored to your brand and style
- The availability of professional services
- A training and customer success program designed to ensure your success
Develop Your Content
Once you know what your goals are, you’ve heard what your customers want, and you’ve chosen a platform to support your plan, you can start developing your training content.
Ideally, your content should include interactive elements, such as:
- Virtual IT labs (or product sandboxes)
- Polls and surveys
- Peer-to-peer discussions
The first interactive element, virtual IT labs (or product sandboxes), is particularly important because it’s the key to driving curriculum retention and product adoption. They’re particularly useful because they can be tailored to different roles, learning paths, and departments. They can also include real-world scenarios that mimic how your customers will use your product in their day-to-day jobs.
In addition to product sandboxes, consider adding other elements that encourage your customers to complete the training, such as leaderboards where they can compete against their peers, badges and certificates that they can use to show they’ve completed the course, and discussions.
Finally, work out how you are going to deliver the training i.e. you might want to deliver self-paced courses, or only use instructor-led training for specific features, or likely a hybrid of both training delivery methods.
Optimize Your Training
Developing a roadmap shouldn’t be a one-and-done experience. Once you’ve rolled out your customer training plan, you need to consider where you can make improvements. Use learner metrics to get an insight into what’s not working. Are your customers getting stuck on a particular module? Are there areas of the course with a low completion rate?
Also, keep an eye on metrics such as the percentage of features that your customers use. If this percentage declines or you spot certain features that nobody uses, then that’s a sign that you need to improve certain aspects of your content.
Remember to keep an eye on the price of your training. You need to offer real value to your customers if you want them to pay extra for training.
You Can’t Build a Customer Training Plan in a Day
It takes time and effort to develop a roadmap and build a high-quality customer training plan. Developing an effective program will ultimately reduce costs and help you make the most of your limited resources, but only if you put careful thought into it and don’t rush the process.
You might encounter some minor disruption while you’re getting it off the ground, but it will be worth it in the long term when you reap the benefits in terms of reducing the costs of acquiring new customers, opening up revenue streams, and deepening product loyalty. A customer training plan can also result in turning fairweather customers into brand advocates who champion your product at every opportunity.