Do you charge for training? Why or why not?
I’m actually a fan of having both a robust free training program and a robust paid training program. Deeply technical products can generally get away with a 100% training-as-a-business approach, but most of us in enterprise SaaS companies these days have to both enable technical audiences on technical information, and non-technical audiences on business process. If we’re going to keep churn low and adoption high, that means we have to reach audiences who aren’t invested enough to shell out money for training. Basically, they’re doing us a favor by showing up, and we have to act accordingly.
Programs that are 100% business focused can end up lacking the kind of reach needed to really move the needle on adoption, but, on the flip side, programs which are 100% free service focused tend to have a really hard time getting resources. Having a wing of your program that creates free adoption-style training assets makes sure you have the kind of reach you need to demonstrate impact, and having another wing that can convert that standard training into fee-based customized training means that you can easily shift from a cost center to a cost replacement center (maybe even an actual P&L one day). Resist the urge to separate these wings into two different groups. They’ll get a lot more done together than apart.
How do you motivate students to complete training?
I used to stress this so much. Eventually I stopped because I realized it didn’t necessarily matter if they finished. The problem with assuming that completion = adoption is that most of us don’t build our courses on solid quantitative data. We arbitrarily package certain features/use cases together and then – just as arbitrarily – start carving those up into classes of varying lengths and formats.
If I build a 60-minute self-paced intro class, that doesn’t mean that I scientifically know that 60 minutes is the length at which adoption magically improves. And we tend to think about our users as brand new – i.e. they’re taking a 60-minute class because they know literally nothing, so it’s all new to them. But most people jump into assets looking to answer specific questions. It’s not a failure if they jumped into that 60 minute course and did a selective 10 minutes of it.
I think the best approach is to do some regression analysis and figure out about how much time someone needs to spend in one of your classes to see an improvement in adoption. Then use that as your benchmark. (Somewhere out there a business analytics team is weeping, and they don’t know why).
What’s in your customer training toolbox?
Audacity – I use this loop background music for tutorial videos and to record voice over. I always record my voice over in snippets and use Audacity to clean it up. Then I put all of the tracks into Camtasia.
A blanket – I’m too lazy to build myself something to absorb sound (think medium-sized box lined with foam pads with a hole in it for your microphone. I was almost too lazy to type that). So instead, I record with a blanket over my head to absorb sound and prevent echo. It doesn’t look creepy at all.
PremiumBeat.com – For $50 you can get unlimited use of some great background music for your tutorial videos. You’ll even start recognizing some of them on TV commercials. It’s almost like being famous (but not really).
Camtasia – Pretty much the easiest video editing program out there. Super cheap too!
Adobe Connect or AnyMeeting – These are my favorite online classroom platforms. AnyMeeting is ridiculously cheap, and Adobe has a full suite of features for online training.
Pexels.com – Tons of free use high quality images for marketing emails, etc. I have the creative talent of a dead beetle, so Pexels is a lifesaver.
EDM Designer – Super easy to use, cheap email creation tool you can use to trick people into thinking you can code HTML. Unlike products like MailChimp, it doesn’t have proprietary html in the designs. So the HTML can be exported into any system. If you want something more heavy duty, Iterable is an amazing customer engagement tool that can handle email and in-app messaging.
What’s one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned about customer training?
I guess the biggest thing I have learned is that Training can’t exist in a vacuum. We need Customer Success, Sales, Marketing, and Product all aware of us and working with us. That’s actually incredibly hard to do unless you’re a tiny organization. Spend a lot of time talking to these people, and always start every conversation with, “What can I do for you today?”
Everyone needs help, and you want to be known as a team people love to work with. And don’t assume that just because you’ve got your Customer Success org totally on your side and in your camp today that it will always be that way. Change is constant, and if you stop working on your relationships you’ll quickly find yourself back at the bottom of the priority list and totally out of touch with their needs. Also, don’t forget to align what you do to company-level goals. A lot of us are educators at heart who see training as its own end, but that’s not the actual world we live in. (When will the world learn?)
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!