What Does a Modern External Training Program Look Like?

What Does a Modern External Training Program Look Like?

August 19, 2021
Learning Technologies
Online Certification and Badges

A successful external training program is based on having the right Learning Management System (LMS) in place. According to Forbes, “LMS is used by companies of all sizes and in virtually all industries, including health care, government, higher education, and consulting.” Especially for larger companies with a vast customer base, LMSs are a proven way to keep customers aware, trained, and engaged with your product’s benefits.

Internal vs. External Training Programs: Not All LMSs Are the Same

Could your company simply use its Customer Management System (CMS) or even internal training tools with external audiences? Understanding the differences between internal and external training programs could help to answer this question.

Internal Training Programs

Human Resources teams use internal training programs to guide employees and in-house consultants who work closely with your staff. These programs typically cover topics such as security awareness and harassment in the workplace.

Additionally, employers may provide employees with skill-based training or performance management training. In most cases, this is preconfigured content related to a specific job function such as customer service, management, or IT. Companies often build completion of these courses into compensation structures.

Internal programs can also cover company-specific training, such as onboarding new employees and educating them on your product, company values, and office policies.

External Training Programs

Companies aim external training programs at their customers and partners. A training team or Instructional Learning Designer usually designs and conducts the training within the organization and finds the best way to deliver it to learners. External programs focus on decreasing inbound support tickets, increasing product adoption and retention, and improving customers’ time-to-value.

Customer and partner participation in these training programs is usually voluntary, so each course must be well-designed and engaging. Offering different content formats on-demand enables customers to choose how and when they learn.

The key principle in any training program is to get learners to understand the benefit of the training – the why. It’s not just to learn how to use a feature or function, but also to demonstrate the value that learning that skill will have on their ability to perform (internal) or increase time to value for your product (external).

More companies are focusing on external training programs in addition to internal training and finding that not all LMSs are equipped for both. Next, we’ll cover the most valuable features to look for in an LMS to maximize your external training programs.

Related: Why Customer Education Is Key To Increasing SaaS Adoption

Must-Have LMS Features for External Training Programs

A modern LMS should include features to help you strategize, reach, and track your customer education goals, including:

Alignment With Your Site Branding, Look, and Feel

You should be able to customize your training website so that it aligns with the look and feel of your site. Not only will it look more professional and credible, but it can increase conversions by seamlessly transitioning users from your website to the desired courses.

From a learner’s perspective, the company’s web pages and training portal or Learning Management System should feel like one connected experience.

Intercom Homepage and Academy

Skilljar customer Intercom customizes their learning platform, Intercom Academy (right), to create a seamless experience with their homepage (left).

Relevant Integrations

When choosing an LMS, many companies make a checklist of desired integrations, such as live training software, marketing automation software, digital credentialization software, and CRM solutions such as Salesforce. Not all LMSs include the same integrations, so be sure to ask what integrations are available.

One of the primary benefits of integrating marketing automation with your training software is the ability to offer a streamlined user experience. For example, you can schedule webinars, provide calendar links, and launch your events from one central location. Additionally, you can send customers email reminders and suggestions for related training events.

By integrating your LMS with your CRM, training teams can understand the value of their programs, such as:

  • The impact of training on customer satisfaction, churn, renewals, and growth
  • How training impacts product adoption
  • Response and reach of promotional training activities

Relevant stakeholders should be able to track program results without switching between multiple systems easily.

Flexible Content Hosting and Supported Formats

To engage users with diverse learning styles, you will want an LMS that can support a variety of original content in different formats.

People learn differently – some prefer video to audio or text-based formats. In some cases, one type of media may be better suited to delivering skills or information than another.

Related Content: Level Up Your Customer Education Content for Customers

You have a dynamic product as well. An LMS for external training programs should be able to accommodate flexible content hosting and the ability to support multiple content formats.

Content Discovery

When it comes to customer training, user profiles differ not only by job function or skill level but also by type of company. People have different needs, so serving the same content to them won’t make sense. This is where content discovery comes in.

Let’s say someone has a question about a plan to implement A/B testing for an upcoming email campaign with your software. In order to get the information they need and save themselves time, they could simply jump straight to the relevant lesson on email marketing and search for “A/B test” without having to complete the entire course on marketing best practices.

With a Learning Management System designed for external customer training, your customers can easily find courses that interest them and see the training progression through the course outline. Through a thoughtfully-designed catalog structure, advanced search functionality, filters, and tags your audience will be able to find the exact information they need, increasing course registration and completion rates.

Platform Accessibility

As discussed, customers expect a seamless experience when accessing education about your solution. An LMS for external program training should allow various forms of accessibility to the platform, including:

  • Single SIgn-On (SSO): Customers with existing product logins can enjoy a seamless experience with SSO (Single Sign-On), saving them time from entering their username and password each time to access product training.
  • Self-registration enables students to set up their profiles and find what they need without any help from your staff.
  • Access codes enable you to restrict access to the course catalog by certain users. If you use training as a lead generation strategy, you may want to offer a code to anyone interested in registration. You may choose to restrict content to some users, customers, or parts of the customer life cycle. Or you may wish to charge a fee for some courses, but not others. Access codes give you flexibility and security.


In the age of virtual learning and hybrid workforces, the ability to offer online assessments, badges and certifications is taking on new importance. This feature can let you automate testing (quizzes and proctored exams) and recognize learners for their progress and knowledge. At the same time, they will be able to share their badges and certifications on LinkedIn and use unique verification URLs to access each certificate. This can help to grow awareness for your company and establish it as a thought leader in a specific field.

Zendesk training and certificaton

Skilljar customer Zendesk is creating value for its employees, customers, and partners by offering online certification for Zendesk users.

There are a number of reasons why an organization would choose to pursue a credentialing program for customers as well, including equipping them with the skills needed to both effectively use your solution and problem solve on their own. This can reduce the workload on your internal teams by turning your customers into product experts. Plus, a certification program creates a standardized set of requirements that all partners must adhere to in order to maintain their partnership

Are you ready to boost customer training experiences with a Learning Management System purposefully built for external customer education? Skilljar provides companies with all the tools they need to onboard, engage, and retain customers at scale.

Request a demo now.

Ready to take Skilljar for a spin?

Take an interactive tour of Skilljar, or book your demo with our team.