In this edition of our Training Tips series, we asked Adam Avramescu from Checkr to share his insights about customer training!
How would you describe your customer education business model?
Although I’ve seen many Training Services teams build a healthy business model around cost recovery or revenue generation, I’ve typically worked at growth-stage companies that are much earlier in their lifecycle. For those companies, especially in Software-as-a-Service, your business doesn’t grow unless your customers grow – specifically to the point where their lifetime value (LTV) exceeds their CAC (cost to acquire customer). LTV/CAC ratio is something that I see board members obsess over; training cost recovery doesn’t keep them up at night.
Many companies, in their earliest days, can throw CSMs or CSRs at the problem. That leads to the company hiring lots of people who have to spend their time performing very repetitive tasks – onboarding trainings, re-onboarding trainings for new team members, and answering the same support tickets over and over. This takes away valuable time that CSMs can spend developing deeper relationships in their accounts and figuring out how to drive deeper value. It takes away time that CSRs can devote to answering trickier support tickets.
So I try to build customer education businesses around the idea of maximizing the customer’s lifetime value in a way that’s scalable. I focus on building scalable tools and resources like online academies, help centers, knowledge bases, and virtual group training where necessary. After that, I can focus more on the types of training activities that are more likely to generate revenue – on-site trainings or other courses that require customization for an individual customer, or certifications and other career-oriented offerings that can count toward professional development. If teams are going to take dollars out of their budget for training programs, those are the ones I find they’re more willing to pay for because they find the most value in them.
What are the signs of a successful customer training program?
Most people in a business have a fundamentally broken idea of training, because they’re just measuring training activity. They think that if you put a really smart person in front of customers and brain-dump on them, then the customer is magically “trained” and you will see results. I call it the “But I Trained Them!” effect. You’re sitting there weeks after the training, and the customer’s product adoption numbers aren’t going up, and you’re frantically refreshing the dashboard, perplexed because – well – you trained the customer, so gosh-darnit they should be using your product already!
That’s not how learning works.
We have to work to change the brain-dump model of training and show what really works. At its best, customer education provides a blend of new skills, motivation, and change management to a customer. Learning new software is hard, un-fun, or sometimes both. So a successful customer training is one that drives healthy customer adoption.
Customer Education isn’t just Product Training. It’s about helping learners succeed in their industry and get better at their jobs. It’s driving change management in their orgs. It’s about increasing desire and removing friction at every juncture so you’ll see more success.
When I was at Optimizely, we would run a recurring analysis of customer adoption of training vs. customer adoption of our product, and we would typically see a correlation where trained customers were both more likely to use the product and less likely to file basic-level support tickets. Now at Checkr, the product works differently – you don’t have to persuade people to run background checks the same way you have to persuade people to run online experiments. So I work directly with many of our Enterprise customers to understand what makes it difficult to run background checks and where they might not be able to use the features that differentiate Checkr in terms of making the customer’s life easier. I’m doing this in hopes that I can do the same type of correlation analysis that I did at Optimizely, but more focused on customer maturity and feature adoption.
So an effective training program should be measured not just by activity, but by how it drives outcomes for the business.
How can you help other teams to buy into your vision of customer education?
When I build education programs, I want to make customer education a competitive differentiator for the business. Many of our customers want to do more than just know how to use Checkr; they want to understand how to run better hiring and contracting programs in a regulated environment. So as I build the program, I’m building towards the types of programs that don’t just check a box on a customer RFP, but actually differentiate us in the market on the power of our education.
Similarly, we know that customers want to self-serve. The age of “customer delight” as a goal unto itself is over. I do think that support and education experiences should be delightful, but most customers (especially in B2B) don’t let delightful or “wow” experiences mask their frustration with needing to call support all the time, or needing to ask a CSM to manually retrain their team.
Even eight years ago, when we were still in the middle of the “customer delight” era, the Corporate Executive Board was running studies (which eventually became The Effortless Experience) that showed that 57% of inbound support calls came from customers who tried to self-serve first.
So if I can go to my business and talk about how I can scale customer success and support to focus on higher-value activities, reduce the customer contact rate, differentiate our product in the market, and ultimately increase LTV, those are more interesting conversations to be having with other teams than “I used this instructional design technique” or “I had this many people take this many hours of training last week.”
In our Training Tips series, we asked Training, Marketing, and Customer Success Managers what some of their best practices are to get the most out of a customer training program. Stay tuned for new Q&As each month!