What is customer training?
Customer Training is content designed to onboard, engage, and retain your new and existing customers that’s delivered in a programmatic fashion via in-person and on-demand channels. Customer Training is sometimes also referred to as Customer Education.
Whether your company is a fast-growing SaaS startup or a global conglomerate, customer training can be an essential driver of product engagement, customer retention, and growth. Investments in customer training are particularly beneficial for companies with:
- A complex product that users must learn how to use before deriving value;
- A product that requires users to change their existing behavior, processes, or workflows;
- A diverse user base with varied needs, experience levels, and/or job roles; and
- Products that are regularly updated with new features and capabilities.
Unlike internal, employee-focused training programs that are compulsory, customer training is often voluntary. For this reason, customer-facing programs must be highly engaging and effective.
What are the benefits of customer training?
In addition to helping your customers find continuous value in your products and services, a robust customer training program can have a huge impact across the business. Some of these far-reaching benefits include:
- Improving product adoption and engagement rates,
- Increasing customer satisfaction scores,
- Reducing support ticket volume,
- Driving lead generation,
- Incentivizing prospects, and
- Increasing renewals and expansion opportunities.
The right investments in customer training can be a game-changer not only for the health of your customers, but also for your organization’s growth and long-term success.
How do you deliver effective customer training?
There are three primary delivery methods for customer training: in-person, virtual instructor-led, and on-demand. Let’s take a closer look at each of these approaches.
Historically, when a new customer signed on, an organization would send an instructor onsite to the company’s headquarters to conduct a one or several day training session, much like a traditional classroom environment. While the proliferation of the Internet and digital opportunities have decreased the prevalence of in-person training, there are a number of situations that it is well-suited for.
- It’s an interactive format – students can ask specific questions directly to a live instructor and receive an immediate, personalized response
- Because the training is for a single company, live instructors can tailor the training to the company’s unique needs
- Gathering a large number of employees in one room, along with an instructor, enables valuable networking opportunities both between employees and with the instructor
- In-person training can be expensive from both an instructor perspective (flights, hotels, and other accommodations), as well as from a facilities and equipment angle
- It can be difficult to scale operationally due to limited schedules and geographic constraints
- Students often are required to spend multiple days and thousands of dollars out of the office
- In-person training often gathers a wide variety of job roles and experience levels in one room, making it difficult to ensure that the content is relevant and valuable for everyone
Virtual, Instructor-Led Training (VILT)
In an effort to harness the benefits of live training, but without the expenses of sending trainers onsite, some companies opt to deliver training virtually. Like live training, VILT is led by an experienced instructor who is there to both deliver the course content and also to answer questions and encourage discussion. VILT is often delivered in a webinar format, with the most engaging courses taking advantage of chat functionality, breakout sessions, polls, games, and other interactive elements.
- VILT does not require students to all be in the same location – or even the same time zone
- Virtual training is more cost-effective as it does not require financial investments for instructor travel or logistics
- Students retain the face-to-face, conversational element of in-person training
- Virtual training allows companies to offer more frequent training as team members who may have traveled onsite in the past have more time to deliver training or design the curriculum
- A live VILT session can easily be scaled by recording the session and hosting it on-demand for others to view at their convenience
- Because students are not present in a physical space, it can be challenging to maintain their attention and engagement
- Depending on the number of students in the course, particularly those with a large number of attendees, it can be difficult to host discussions among learners or encourage dialogue
- There is a segment of students who learn best in a live, classroom environment. VILT can be tricky for those learners, as well as those who are not tech-savvy
On-demand training, also referred to as just-in-time learning, is education that’s available to customers anywhere and anytime. It can include a mix of content types and typically involves video, interactive simulations, and downloadable guides. Some other resources commonly included are recorded webinars, infographics, slideshows, and blog posts. This format of training can be optimized for both desktop and mobile devices, and its ease of access means that geography is not a barrier to knowledge acquisition.
- There are no restrictions on time zones, locations, room capacity, or availability of instructors
- Learners can access content immediately and at their own convenience
- Training is consistent and not subject to fluctuations based on different instructors
- Because the material is available 24/7, students can revisit it any time they have a question or need a refresher
- On-demand training is easily scalable, allowing companies to reach an ever-expanding global audience without an exponential increase in costs
- Because there is no live instructor, students with specific questions may need to go outside of training and reach out to their CSM or Support team for help
- On-demand training is limited in its ability to provide hands-on experiences. Some topics, like operating medical equipment, require hands-on exploration and interaction.
- For students who are not tech-savvy, engaging with resources and training online can feel overwhelming and inaccessible
- A lack of face-to-face interaction can be challenging for learners, especially for complex products or when immediate feedback is beneficial
Given the benefits and drawbacks of each of these delivery channels, another strategy that many companies consider is that of a blended instructor-led (either in-person or virtually) and on-demand training program. In a blended learning scenario, most of the course material is provided online, on-demand, and then live, ILT sessions are held to discuss the material, answer questions, or otherwise clarify the training content. A thoughtfully planned blended training program can maximize instructor time while ensuring that trainees not only absorb information, but are also able to apply and develop their own knowledge.
What is a learning management system (LMS)?
Regardless of the delivery mechanism you choose to use for training, a learning management system (LMS) is a must-have. An LMS is a software application that provides a central hub for the hosting, administration, and delivery of your training content. The modern LMS can manage a variety of course formats — from videos and documents, to slideshows, quizzes, and even interactive learning labs. The use of an LMS streamlines and automates much of the onboarding experience and can significantly reduce the administrative burden of running a customer onboarding program. Plus it will free up your Customer Success Managers to focus on more in-depth questions and customer needs.
Depending on the platform, or a company’s specific training needs, an LMS might include features like course authoring tools, course delivery, course catalog, discussion forums, analytics, student registration, eCommerce, marketing automation or messaging, data integrations, and event and classroom space management. It also provides the ability to track and report on learner activities by connecting with other business systems such as your Customer Relationship Manager (CRM), marketing automation platform, and your helpdesk software.
Is your LMS optimized for customer training?
The original LMS was designed for HR purposes to deliver often compulsory training to internal employees. Think about security and IT requirements, compliance training, or other off-the-shelf courses like OSHA training. However, as we noted earlier, the target audience for external training is different and often engages with training on a voluntary basis. There are clearly different goals for internal and external training. So why would you assume the same systems could work for both? It’s time to reassess a “one-size-fits-all” approach. An LMS designed for compliance is simply not the best fit for customer training.
Skilljar: the best LMS for customer training
Unlike other LMS’, Skilljar’s platform is designed specifically for customer and partner training. With Skilljar, you get:
- Powerful integrations with all of your business systems,
- Great administrative experience that’s easy to learn and manage,
- Built-in certification engine,
- Comprehensive data and analytics,
- Secure, reliable and scalable performance you can trust,
- The best implementation services and support in the business,
- Strategic partnership to help your program reach new heights, and
- More detailed reporting and integrations than any LMS on the market today.
If you are interested in learning more about how Skilljar can help you build a best-in-class customer training program that meets your organization’s needs, request a demo below!