While the value of customer education is well understood by training professionals, it can be challenging to get other internal decision makers on board. Often, the biggest hurdle to buy-in is securing a budget.
In our recent 2022 Customer Education Benchmarks and Trends Report, 75 percent of respondents indicated that their training budgets have increased in 2022. Further, respondents overwhelmingly agree that they expect to see budget increases over the next one-three years.
The data suggest that more companies rely on customer education as a success factor in product adoption, especially with the shift to virtual training during COVID-19 making Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) available, engaging, and more impactful than ever.
Whether you are trying to kickstart your training program or seeking to expand your existing one, the case for securing additional financial resources from key decision makers such as your CFO or leadership team often relies on one key capability: demonstrating positive ROI.
Not sure where to start? Read on to learn our recommendations for convincing decision makers to increase customer education budgets.
Step 1: Assess Your Current Customer Education Program
Before you can make a case for increasing customer education budgets, you must first understand where your efforts to date have been successful and where they are falling short. Chances are, leadership sees your customer education efforts as nothing more than a cost center. So to shift the internal mindset, you must demonstrate with data how training can actually be a revenue driver for your business.
For many companies, information is housed across multiple platforms, making consolidation difficult and proving the ROI of programs nearly impossible. CSM-led onboardings or live customer trainings are not scalable and increasingly becoming obsolete in the pandemic era.
If your system isn’t equipped to deliver the data you need or the content specific to your audience at scale, consider switching to an LMS.
But remember, not all LMSs are the same. An LMS designed for HR, for example, and used for employee onboarding isn’t designed to teach anyone how to use the product. With an LMS specifically designed for external customer education, companies benefit from:
- All the content and data they need housed in one solution, not scattered across different internal systems
- Increased visibility into program usage metrics such as enrollments, course completions, and monthly average users (MAUs)
- Lower support costs, as customers and partners can access a self-service platform to get their key questions answered
Step 2: Determine the Business Metrics You Need to Track
Once you’ve assessed what your current program is able to deliver, you must then determine what business metrics are important to your company’s success. For many companies, this includes customer success metrics such as customer satisfaction and retention, product onboarding and adoption, and reduced support costs.
An LMS for external training helps influence business outcomes through:
- Integration capabilities with CRMs, marketing automation platforms, and more, so that data is easily leveraged across systems to tie training to things like product onboarding and adoption
- Reporting capabilities that tie training with increased customer satisfaction and, therefore, retention
Step 3: Establish Program-level Metrics
After deciding on the business metrics to track and prove ROI, establish the program-level metrics that will impact these.
According to the findings in our Benchmarks Report, most teams use multiple metrics to evaluate program performance, with a focus on program-specific metrics, such as the number of engaged students, number of course enrollments, and completion rate. We also see a focus on NPS and CSAT for training.
While many program-level metrics are already tracked, there is a strong desire to measure education or training’s influence on customer total revenue.
Currently, only 26% of education and training professionals are tying their training to its impact on revenue. However, educators know there is an opportunity here, with over 70% of respondents planning to do more to measure training’s revenue impact in the future.
Teams are able to do this by attributing renewals or expansion opportunities to those accounts that are engaged in training versus those that are not.
Here are some real-world examples from Skilljar customers detailing how they leverage data reporting capabilities and integrations to prove ROI for their customer education programs:
Because Skilljar integrates with Salesforce, the Customer Education team at Asana is able to draw connections that prove the impact of their programs by:
- Tying customers who’ve engaged with education to NPS scores and early adoption, versus customer who don’t engage
- Tying the types of learning experiences customers are consuming to product behavior and usage metrics (adoption, average deal size, net retention revenue–NRR)
- Identifying opportunities for new business and expansion within accounts
Carla Bagdonas, Customer Education Program Lead at Asana Academy said, “Having that connection between Skilljar and Salesforce has helped us make a business case and prove ROI for education at Asana.”
Skilljar’s Data Connector allows customers to stream all training data directly into their own data warehouse and access curated Skilljar student analytics alongside any additional data points their team measures in one place. With this level of intel, customers such as Clever, an EdTech company, build reports to attribute the impact of training consumption on important account-based metrics such as expansion, churn, customer success score, and support tickets submitted.
As a result, Clever realized the following ROI for their training platform:
- Support ticket volume is approximately 25% lower for their District Admin users who have engaged with content vs. those who haven’t
- A 15-point increase in NPS for those users who completed course content vs. those who haven’t engaged with it
- Higher product adoption when they include customer education content in-product through links or in-product messages
Once you uncover the nuances of training success, you need to celebrate the successes, according to Tim Halter, Instructional Designer at Gong, a revenue intelligence platform. Halter said, “You need to build credibility for your training organization and communicate those reporting numbers throughout to prove your worth and build that trust both internally and externally.”
Gong’s education team sends monthly emails company-wide to let everyone in the organization know training attendance levels and what noteworthy courses the team is planning next. They also hold monthly check-ins with their enablement team.
A specific goal of MRI real estate software for moving to an LMS was having an integration with Salesforce for better customer data management and reporting. With Skilljar, student records for both partners and clients, course history, and certifications are sent to Salesforce, which allows them to link a student to a contact record, a client’s account, support cases, projects, etc.
Collin Bensinger, Director Education Services at MRI Software said,“Skilljar’s reporting package allows me to easily track my KPIs like revenue and course registrations/completions. Monitoring course performance is easy using the Analytics report section.”
Step 4: Present Findings to Decision Makers
Once you’ve secured a solution that enables you to gather and integrate customer training data with your own customer information, it’s time to extract results and present your findings to leadership to secure future training budgets.
This is a critical step for program owners to ensure your program is given the buy-in and funding it deserves. It also ensures your program is viewed as an important, beneficial component of the business.
When considering how to approach key stakeholders, keep these four core principles in mind:
- Use a mixture of quantitative and qualitative data, as well as data related to both leading and lagging customers, to correlate customer education activities with business impact
- Ensure metrics are tied to specific points in the customer lifecycle
- Aim to tie metrics to specific business initiatives and larger metrics being tracked at the corporate level
- When reporting, focus on the metrics that have the most variability or the ones showing the most interesting trends
The One Business Case for Customer Education that All Decision Makers Understand
Perhaps the metric that makes the most sense to decision makers in today’s economy is the cost to scale. Scaling a business usually means hiring more people and incurring more expenses. But an impressive ROI measure that many decision makers will take notice of is this: a learning management system allows you to scale without bringing on additional headcount.
Put another way, reducing the burden on Customer Success Managers frees them up to focus more on more strategic customer needs.
Depending on the size of the organization, Customer Success and Support teams are likely spending a significant number of hours teaching new customers how to use your product and often dealing with the same questions over and over. This isn’t scalable.
As your company’s primary connection with your customers, the Customer Success team is the external face of your company. It’s their job to ensure customers feel equipped and empowered to find success with your product from onboarding throughout the customer lifecycle.
While every customer deserves thoughtful, personalized attention, CSMs only have so many hours in a day and as the company grows, it may seem like the only option to maintain this type of support is to increase headcount.
But new employees can be expensive and additional hiring is not always feasible. So how do you maintain a positive, supportive customer experience as your company grows?
Self-service training enables Customer Success and Support teams to do their jobs better and more efficiently by freeing them up to handle more complex customer tasks such as, “How do I log on?” “How do I find the information I’m looking for?” and, “How do I get started using your solution?” can all be addressed through self-service learning.
Real estate software firm, Qualia, experienced this situation firsthand. Historically, when onboarding new customers, Customer Success team members connected one-on-one with clients, spending nearly half their time conducting training. However, within just one week of launching a formal training platform, including courses and resources tailored to different job roles, Qualia increased the productivity level of its CSMs by an estimated 30%.
By relieving CSMs of early onboarding responsibilities (which are now offered on-demand to customers), these CSMs can now focus more deeply on their accounts for maximum value-add. Less time spent on repetitive training activities means Qualia’s CSMs can more meaningfully help customers and support more accounts, reducing costs as the company grows.
In summary, here are four ways to help tie education metrics to business outcomes to convince key decision makers to increase the budget for customer training:
- Align internally on company KPIs to determine what success looks like (i.e., What are the company challenges that can be positively impacted by customer education?)
- Implement an LMS built to integrate with the tools your company already uses like your CRM or Customer Success platform
- Choose an LMS provider that offers data and reporting and will partner with you to understand and track metrics that prove your program’s impact on your business
- Consider options such as the Skilljar Data Connector, which can help integrate your LMS with important analytics tools like ChurnZero, Gainsight, Totango, Tableau, Salesforce, Hubspot, and Zapier to ensure you are monitoring and tracking the metrics you need
Want to learn more about how training professionals are measuring the success of their efforts and delivering ROI to their companies? Download our 2022 Customer Education Benchmark and Trends Report.