How To Build Training Programs That Actually Help Your Customers


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3 Steps to Building Training for Customer UtilityThe ultimate goal of customer training for fast-growing-software-companies (FGSC’s) is driving customer behavior leading to a significant return on investment through your app. According to ServiceRocket Head of Training Bill Cushard reporting on the Kirkpatrick 4 Levels Training Measurement model, only after you’ve achieved all previous levels of customer training measurement can you get to the holy grail of customer ROI.

Learner Satisfaction
Knowledge Improvement
Behavior Change

But how do you even begin to tackle customer ROI if your customers don’t already love your training–or even worse, don’t even use it? To link your customer training to business outcomes and ultimately business return, you need to build training that your customers will actually use. To do this, you’ll need to create courses that are personalized to your customer personas with respect to delivery method, individual users’ professional growth, and ongoing feedback. Wherever your company is in the software training maturity model, you can get started building training your customers will directly benefit from and love to use.

Step 1: Deliver courseware personalized to where your customers are along the technology adoption curve. According to ServiceRocket CEO Rob Castaneda, whether or not eLearning or in-person training (or some combination) will yield the best completion and success rates is dependent on the customer’s position in the technology adoption lifecycle. Understand whether your customers are early adopters and want to do self-paced learning, or need a more structured courseware approach like onsites or live training via LMS.

Whether or not your customers are asking you for training, it’s up to you to help identify both the format of training your customers need, as well as the course material that will be most important to their business outcomes. For many FGSC’s, self-service training and eLearning is the right fit on all levels.

For enterprise customers, however, you may need to take the same training concepts and material and deliver them onsite at the customer’s location in the form of a partial- or full-day workshop to allow for more interactivity and simultaneous company-wide learner completion.

Take Customer Success leader Gainsight for example. For Gainsight’s Pulse Conference 2015, Customer Success Evangelist Lincoln Murphy and Chief Customer Officer Dan Steinman will be delivering a live version of their e-learning-based courseware Customer Success University in the span of a one-day special workshop. This is a special event being delivered for the unique customers and prospect personas who will be attending the Pulse Conference. It’s the same material, with the same credential awarded at the end–just delivered in a different format to a highly segmented audience in a format more suited to that audience. The key to this step is to do the work upfront to understand your customers’ learner personas at any given point, and then to build your learning program around their lifecycle stage and needs. Remember: you can often repurpose the same content in different formats for your FGSC’s and your enterprise customer base as Gainsight has done with CSU–just be sure you’re delivering the kind of training that’s right for them.

Step 2: Provide training that aligns with and supports customers’ professional growth.

How do you identify the right kind of training as well as ensure your training addresses the needs of not just your customer’s company, but the needs of the individualized people representing learner seats at your customer?

According to Rob Castaneda, “When software is bought, it is bought at two levels: the first is for the company, and the second is there are humans buying the technology.” (Source). You need to be aware of the significant personal impact your training can have on the humans who represents seats at your customer.

Your Training has the power to impact your customers’ careers and professional development in a positive way–so position it that way! Be sure your customer knows you’re imparting new skills that are crucial to their success in their specific role, providing credentials that set them apart in their industry, and translatable knowledge that will help them succeed in their careers. All of this creates an urgency to complete your training successfully. Provide badging opportunities so your customers can use your training certification to distinguish themselves across social media. (If you haven’t yet, we go into more depth on social media for customer education in this article). The bottom line: You’re not just teaching features–you’re teaching skillsets that should arm people to be better in their industry. Customers will love to take your training if they’re learning more than the features of your product, but also about something that will help them advance in their professional careers.

Step 3. Create a Training feedback channel between you and your customers. Creating a well-oiled feedback channel (loop) between you and your customers addressing training topics is essential. This feedback loop will enable you to keep customers at the forefront of every new training course deployment or enhancement.

Asking your customers what they want out of their training and how you can improve their course experience is essential. To do this effectively, you’ll need to segment your customers. Group your customers by cohort for things like length of time they’ve been a customer (this can make a big difference on training outcomes! New customers may respond differently than longstanding customer base), type of customer, size of customer/number of users, NPS score, and customer app usage and community and support tickets. You can also segment by how many training modules a customer has consumed in order to see any iterative patterns that may bias feedback results.

Unsolicited feedback and solicited feedback are both really important to pay attention to; don’t just listen to the squeaky wheels! Collect feedback at regular intervals, not just at the beginning and end of training. You can test enhancements to your training to some of your customers and garner feedback, and once you’re happy with results, you can then expand new training features to more of your customer base. Feedback-driven tests are a great way to improve your courses before launching to everyone.

Also, be mindful that feedback can and should go in both directions. Show your customer their results and outcomes from training against the rest of their cohort and their own prior benchmarks. This can be invaluable industry feedback to your customer and can help them improve as well.

Final Thoughts

Always connect the dots from training data to other data inputs at your customer, including how various trainings lead to return on investment for both individual customer seats and your customer. Build personalized courses for your customers that are tailored to their place in the technology adoption curve, size, individual users’ needs, and the ongoing feedback they provide. If you do this successfully, you’ll be on your way to breaking down the silos between training and business outcomes and you’ll keep customers loyal to your software–and coming back for more training.

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Sarah E. Brown
Sarah E. Brown is the Senior Manager of Growth Marketing at ServiceRocket, which helps fast-growing software companies help their customers get the most out of their software through training, utilization and support.