For a roundup of the questions asked and answered during this webinar, scroll down to the bottom of this post!
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In our recent webinar, Skilljar’s VP of Customer Success, Sara Barnes, and VP of Marketing, Michael Freeman, discussed key findings and insights from the Skilljar 2022 Customer Education Benchmarks and Trends Report. Mike Howard (Sr. Customer Success Manager) and Cutler Bleecker (Customer Training Manager) also shared their perspectives on the latest trends and actionable takeaways to drive further success for your external education programs.
Key takeaways covered training audiences and budgets, training content formats (video, VILT, and quizzes), and measuring training outcomes.
View the on-demand webinar or read the recap below.
Benchmarks Report Overview
Michael Freeman kicked off the discussion with a high-level explanation of the Benchmarks Report.
Skilljar surveyed customer and partner education teams on trends in budgets, training formats, monetization strategies, completion rates, team organization, and more, resulting in a comprehensive report (over 70 pages!) to help training leaders see how they stack up against peers and drive their programs to further success.
Skilljar layered in anonymized insights and trends from our customer base, who, in turn, have a large base of learners. With data gathered over several years, we’re able to identify and share trends from the data, and anecdotally from our customers.
Download our 2022 Customer Education Benchmarks and Trends Report
Sara Barnes shared insights and trends from the Benchmarks Report related to training audiences and budgets.
One trend we identified is that the majority of survey respondents are serving more than one audience with their education program.
- 98% of programs are focused on training an external audience (customers and partners)
- 81% have an element of their program focused on customers (but they also have other audiences)
- 19% are focused on only one audience
The data suggest that product training and education is starting to become a much bigger focus throughout different areas within organizations. Other teams want to jump on board to offer more formal partner or internal product training, in addition to customer training.
The work customer education teams are doing and the impact their programs have on the business overall is becoming more known by executives, which is increasing their desire to invest in education. — Sara Barnes
According to Sara, there’s a huge benefit to not only having a primary training audience, but getting other audiences involved throughout an organization too. It helps to promote cross-collaboration and the sharing of resources within an organization, which ultimately drives consistency and efficiency in training all learning audiences. It also ensures everyone is speaking the same language, which has so many benefits to your customers and business.
Education teams are hyper focused on driving business outcomes through education and demonstrating the value and impact of their program. These efforts have a direct impact on their ability to secure additional budget to grow their teams.
- 75% of programs saw a budget increase from 2020 to 2022, which suggests that more executives recognize the value of customer education and see it as a cost-effective way to support customers and better scale their businesses
The more value that you can show for your education program, the more budget you can secure.— Sara Barnes
Tying customer education to retention and other high-impact metrics has a huge impact on aiding budget increases and future investments in training.
Content Formats: Video, VILT, Quizzes
Cutler Bleecker shared findings from the Benchmarks Report related to content formats.
Video continues to lead all other formats in terms of increased investment (time or money).
Clearly, video isn’t going anywhere as it’s a common way for people to consume all types of content. As the market becomes more saturated with video content, learners become less tolerant of poor quality video, so trainers might be looking to remain competitive by improving their production value.
According to Cutler, training leaders are trying to strengthen their current stronghold of video by improving the quality or quantity of their content, or both. When it comes to how people are spending increased budgets, they’re probably covering things like equipment, software training, and headcount. Additionally, added dollars might be going toward improving the accessibility of video or taking steps to localize video by creating different versions depending on the region.
That being said, there was lively conversation in the chat during this section and the point was made that one of the reasons customers really value training content is due to its authenticity and focus on really helping users learn. Companies should be mindful to not “over produce” and make their content so slick that it feels “salesy”. It must remain authentic to its purpose.
It’s important that we spend some of that investment on understanding our audience so we can make the biggest impact by providing learners with the information and the content that they need. Rather than spending tons of money on videos, it has to be toward a certain purpose that will yield results.— Cutler Bleecker
The data collected also indicates that on-demand training content will continue to increase. This type of content is not only scalable and helps reach a wider audience, but is asynchronous, meaning people can access it where and when they want, so it helps improve program reach.
Another takeaway concerns the growth in Virtual Instructor-led Training (VILT).
- We’ve seen a 500% increase in the growth of VILT programs in the last two years, largely due to the move to virtual work resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic created an immediate need to shift to virtual platforms for all business needs, including training. Companies have found that virtual training is a very effective way to shift from a 1:1 approach to training in favor of a 1:many approach, which is more scalable. It still provides the benefits of being instructor-led, but it helps customers fit training into their schedules and budgets by not needing to travel on-site to receive the material.
VILT gave companies a way to tailor their message to particular audiences and allow for Q&A, chats and other ways to engage when face-to-face learning wasn’t possible. However, Cutler offered, it remains to be seen if virtual learning will be enough, as there is some loss of the personal approach.
Don’t try to build a VILT program overnight. Start small and grow. Determine if this is something your program can benefit from, and then use your knowledge and passion to engage an audience, rather than relying on fancy graphics and transitions. — Cutler Bleecker
Quizzes and completion rates
Knowledge checks and quizzes are standard in training and are an effective means of learner engagement. Trainers want to provide an opportunity for people to check their understanding, and there are many ways to do this.
Quizzes could be in the form of a question or two at the end of a course. Or you can incorporate knowledge checks along the way during a long-form course to make sure the learner has an opportunity to validate what was covered in each section instead of waiting until the end. Quizzes can be graded or ungraded and administered through a Skilljar quiz, third-party integration, or SCORM content to add an interactive element to knowledge checks.
Completion rates are a standard metric for gauging program success, and the data shows that completion rates increase with the use of quizzes.
According to Cutler, it’s important to balance how often you use quizzes because you don’t want the learner to perceive them as a penalty to learning. Think about how many questions to include in your knowledge checks. Cutler advises keeping it to just a few, maybe at the end, and starting with some ungraded quizzes. Provide that opportunity to validate learning, just be mindful of overburdening users with content that may take them outside the learning experience.
Compare your completion percentage to your own benchmarks, not necessarily those of the industry. Look for peaks and valleys and determine what you’re doing that can lead to more of the peaks.— Cutler Bleecker
Measuring Training Outcomes
Mike Howard gave attendees some food for thought in the discussion of training outcomes:
- What impact does a training program have on your business’s bottom line?
- How do you define success for your training program?
- How can you get users to consume enough content to actually deliver the outcomes you’re promising?
Data from the Benchmarks Report shows that over the past year, on average, 29% of respondents’ total learner bases engaged with training.
To see how your organization compares on this metric and understand how much of the training you’re delivering is impacting users, you need to understand two things:
- What does an “engaged” learner look like in your organization? Is it the number of course registrations or completions?
- How do you define or segment your total addressable market? Is it your entire customer base or just new customers that need to be onboarded? Is it your partner base? Is it your audience of prospects? You need to know the size of each segment you target training to, so you can understand what percent of users are engaged.
We can’t have training metrics operate in a silo. It’s very important to actually tie training metrics to key metrics or successes that impact the business bottom line.— Mike Howard
Next, Mike discussed the top customer education success metrics training leaders are tracking now and want to track in the future. Based on the Benchmarks Report:
- The top metrics being tracked today are NPS and CSAT.
- The top three metrics training leaders want to track in the future are improvements in customer retention, product adoption, and product onboarding.
Customer satisfaction scores have been historically tracked, so it’s no surprise that these are measured as table stakes. But it’s interesting to see, as we look to the future of customer education, that new metrics will take on increased importance as we seek to better understand the correlation between training’s impact and business success.
When it comes to measuring customer education, it’s all about reducing churn and getting users to use your product as much as possible and remain sticky. They are much more likely to do that if they know how to get the most value from the product.— Mike Howard
Not surprisingly, the three metrics training leaders want to track in the future are also the metrics with the highest positive correlation between customers that consume training and improved business outcomes—product onboarding, product adoption, and customer retention.
NPS and CSAT ranked lowest for correlating with business outcomes, but this is because other factors tie into customer satisfaction, such as customer success, product satisfaction, price points, etc. Therefore, it’s harder to pinpoint training alone as having a demonstrated impact on customer satisfaction.
Customer education leaders should be tracking how training impacts product adoption and retention to prove the value of education to executive teams so they can get additional resources. Evangelize training across the organization by targeting these metrics that are so heavily tied to training and impact the business bottom line.— Mike Howard
The Importance of Cross-Collaboration
If you are a small or one-person training team, how can you increase the footprint and impact of training within the organization when headcount and resources are limited?
According to the Benchmarks Report, 80% of training leaders work closely with Customer Success. Mike believes we should get this number to 100%! It’s a win-win for training content creators to build out their academies and scale course offerings that deliver upon CSM needs.
As a CSM, you don’t have to give an hour-long demo on the product or explain new features or updates to each customer if there is good training content that can deliver this information.— Mike Howard
One area of opportunity Mike identified is for training leaders to work more closely with the Product team, since product adoption is heavily correlated to training. It’s important to know users’ current product usage based on existing functionality so you can measure the impact of training against any new changes or features.
Set up check-ins with Product on a monthly or quarterly basis, along with regular Customer Success check-ins. The metrics that matter most to you matter the most to these functions as well.— Mike Howard
Democratization of training results
How do you extend training data and metrics to other teams so they can leverage this data for their own needs?
Since most companies (~60%) are not using a business intelligence tool to track training analytics, find out what tools they are using and leverage these to funnel training data to the Customer Success team. This way, your internal stakeholders will be able to quickly see training analytics that are impacting their own roles as well as the business, in the same place they log into every day for their own metrics.
This strategy will work for Support teams as well. Pipe training data into the tools customer-facing service reps are using, such as Salesforce, Gainsight, and Zendesk, so that they can see what training a caller has taken and recommend specific courses to address their pain points.
Host a session with your Customer Success team about leveraging training data during customer interactions. Help them understand how content will answer a lot of customer questions and show them how they can easily find courses to refer customers to in real-time.— Mike Howard
Webinar Q&A on Benchmarks Report Findings
Our chat was on fire during this webinar as attendees had so much information they wanted to share with one another and the panel! Here are the questions asked and answered during the webinar.
Q: How many training teams are charging for training vs. including it within their respective tools/platforms?
A: We cover this in the Benchmarks Report starting on page 51. Overall we see about a 50/50 split between companies that monetize and those that don’t.
For the companies that do monetize, we see a blend of models: the majority may charge for some or most of their content while leaving a portion of their content for free. A common use case here could be having your courses associated with certifications, high-stakes exams, or advanced-level materials, while your “basic” training might be free.
Similarly, some other programs offer self-serve eLearning for free while charging for instructor-led training (virtual or in-person).
Slide 53 of the Benchmarks Report shows the different ways companies are handling training monetization.
Q: The report uses the term “learner base” when looking at active users. How do you define learner base?
A: We think of it similar to TAM (Total Addressable Market). The learner base is the pool of people who’d be likely a good fit/eligible for training. For example, if a training program is geared toward admins of a particular product, the learner base would be the total number of active admins in a platform.
Q: How do you maintain video content when products are constantly changing and updating video is more challenging than written content? Any tips?
A: It’s tough! However, it is manageable. One of the best ways we’ve found for keeping up with this is scheduling a recurring meeting with our Engineering team, Product Marketing, Customer Marketing, Documentation, Support, and CS representatives. We have a monthly meeting to discuss what’s coming, progress updates, and what resources may need to be updated or created (both internal and external). This call also helps us prioritize which content to focus on first.
Q: What metrics are teams using to tie customer education to retention?
A: Driving retention through education is probably one of the most common business goals we see among education teams. The key here is understanding the challenge you’re currently running into when it comes to retention, and this really depends on your business. If you’re seeing a high risk of churn, what’s causing that? Is it related to customer satisfaction? Product adoption? Time to launch?
From there you can work backward and see the metrics you need to track to drive success in that area. For example, for product adoption, do you have a ton of customers, but not enough are actually adopting the product? What training is needed to get them to adopt the most basic features that will bring them success? Focus on that piece first, then determine which customers are consuming that specific content. Do you see that their CSATs are higher? Are they more engaged? Are retention scores ultimately higher for customers who consume that content? The same goes for time to value.
Start to measure the impact on product adoption, or time to value, to identify shifts based on customers that are consuming content versus those that aren’t.
Download our 2022 Customer Education Benchmarks and Trends Report.
But wait! There’s more! Would you like to learn how to communicate the value of customer education across departments to ensure collaboration and gain support for increased training budget?
Don’t miss our next webinar on August 24th, “How to Build a Business Case for Customer Education”.