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Education Services

What Is Customer Training? A Quick Guide

Best Practices for a Successful Customer Training Organization

4 min read
By Maria Manning-Chapman
It’s simple: customers who love your product or service are customers who know how to use it. What’s not so simple is how to teach them effectively—this is where customer training comes in.

While there’s no shortcut to success, providing your customers with dynamic customer training goes a long way. A well-run customer education organization enables customers to achieve faster time-to-value while improving the customer experience. This will ultimately help drive product adoption.

But what does customer training entail? Here’s how your customer training organization can give customers the tools they need to thrive with your technology.

This blog will explain:

What Is Customer Training?

Customer training, or customer education, is a function within the company that provides the content, instruction, guidance, and practical application needed to build the requisite skills, knowledge and competencies that enable customers to effectively use the product.

Although the name “customer training” implies it’s only for customers, the education organization is often also responsible for training channel partners and providing technical training for internal employees.

One example of customer training is onboarding, introductory training that establishes a first impression with the customer.

Customer onboarding: the process of introducing customers to your software, services, or products. Setting your customers up for success from the get-go is an important aspect of customer training, and is crucial to the overall customer experience.

While customer onboarding is an important part of customer training, it is only one piece. Customer training takes on many different forms, with a wide range of ongoing educational offerings to help optimize the customer’s use of your product/service.

Why Customer Training Is Important

Customer training is imperative, as successful customer training can have an impact on customer adoption, retention and renewal rates, which all contribute to company revenue.

The reasoning here is simple: If your customers don’t know how to use your product, they probably won’t.

Without training, it is likely that customers won’t be using your product effectively. And when the customer doesn’t use your product effectively, they won’t achieve their goals. Naturally, they then won’t be as likely to renew their contract or subscription or recommend your product/service.

Your goal with training in the early stages is to get customers up and running, accelerating their first time-to-value.

Time-to-value: a measurement of the time that it takes from when your customer purchases a product/service to when they start deriving value or benefit from it. This is optimized when customers have been properly trained to use the technology.

What Successful Customer Training Looks Like

The objective of a customer training organization is essential, as it is the basis of the education strategy. For education organizations, we generally see five primary objectives:

  1. Education services revenue
  2. Education services margin/profit
  3. Company market share
  4. Customer satisfaction
  5. Product adoption

For years, the primary objective of the customer training organization has been to generate revenue. But in 2020, the primary objective shifted to product adoption, as shown in the chart below.

Five-Year View of Education Services Objectives
Changing Education Services Objectives

Increased focus on adoption has put the spotlight on customer training even more. Expect to see organizations pour more and more into creating high-quality, personalized content for their customers.

To facilitate adoption and value realization, here are some customer training best practices that we see:

1. Drive Content Consumption

What matters most for your customer training organization is driving content consumption, which is what promotes customer learning and adoption. TSIA research shows that content consumption, for both instructor-led training and e-Learning, is much greater when learners are reminded to consume. For additional detail about this research, please refer to Driving Content Consumption and Learning Subscription Renewal: There Are No Silver Bullets.

Content development does not equal content consumption.

Drive content consumption by aligning content and offers with a product adoption curve or a customer journey map. This provides value realization throughout the product lifecycle.

2. Become a Revenue Center

We can categorize an organization as a cost center, cost recovery center, or revenue center.

Types of business models
Revenue-centered business model categories

Adoption and revenue are not mutually exclusive.

When product adoption is the primary objective of education organizations, the common misconception is that revenue takes a backseat and is no longer important. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Customer training organizations must be able to scale and fund their own growth, so generating revenue is important.

If the organization is effectively promoting adoption, then it’s generating revenue. As of today, our data shows that more than half of education services organizations are revenue/profit/margin positive. Driving revenue as well as adoption should be the goal for your customer training organization.

Ultimately, the customer training organization needs to generate enough revenue to fund its own growth.

If it can’t do so, it’ll never be able to scale, build more offers or afford the people and technology it needs. Since education organizations tend to be towards the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to budget allocation, it’s vital that customer training organizations are not stuck bargaining for the budget they require. 

So how does your organization drive revenue?

3. Monetize Customer Training 

One big answer is monetization. Especially in XaaS companies, there is a belief that “we can’t charge for training because it creates a barrier to adoption.” This is a misconception.

Charging for training actually has a positive effect on product adoption.

Why? There is no urgency to consume customer training if it’s free. If the customer has paid for the training to more effectively use the product they purchased, they are motivated to gain a return on that investment.

As far as pricing, consider using a value continuum with multiple price points for different levels of involvement and/or training. Just remember, training has value for the customer, so make sure you price your offering accordingly.

For more on what monetizing training looks like and best practices to get started, check out our webinar on the topic.

4. Track Its Contributions

Almost every customer education organization will tell you that driving product adoption is their primary objective, but data indicates that this might be more in word than in deed.

74% of companies do not measure the impact of training on product subscription renewal rates, according to TSIA’s recent Education Services Benchmark of member companies.

TPercentage of companies measuring the impact of training

This begs the question: How do you know if training truly does drive product adoption if you’re not tracking this type of metric?

You must track impact metrics, such as the impact of training on product subscription renewal rate. This way you’ll know whether or not your customer training organization is achieving its objective.

Once you do, you’ll have hard data to show stakeholders that customer training drives product adoption, accelerates first time to value and improves the customer experience.

Types of Customer Training Offers

Customer training is not one-size-fits-all. When developing training offers, it’s important to consider each customer’s goals and how they’re using your technology. Education portfolios commonly consist of five types (or modalities) of training, as described below.

These modalities may be packaged in any number of ways to create a wide variety of learning offers.

  • Public Classroom Training is training that is delivered in a physical classroom and is available to the public. Students register via the education website/portal and attend at the location selected during the registration process.
  • Virtual Classroom Training is the same as public classroom training, but is held virtually, providing another level of flexibility. Training is delivered via web-conferencing technology and includes access to a hands-on lab environment.
  • Onsite Training, also referred to as dedicated training, is training that is delivered to a single customer audience at the customer’s worksite, or a location of the customer’s choosing. 
  • Virtual Onsite Training is (you probably guessed it) live training dedicated to a single customer audience, but is conducted using web-conferencing technology. It often also includes access to virtual lab infrastructure, which enables remote completion of lab work. 
  • e-Learning is any form of online, computer/mobile device-enabled, asynchronous learning—meaning the customer can do it anywhere, anytime. This may include but is not limited to video, voice over PowerPoint, simulations, a hands-on lab environment, quizzes/assessments, etc. This provides the most flexibility for your customers.
Comparison of effort for instructor-led versus e-learning content
Comparison of effort for instructor-led versus e-learning content
As this statistic would suggest, another thing to keep in mind is not only what type of training would be most effective for customers, but also what is feasible for your organization to produce, especially if time is a variable. 

Consider all types of customer training so that you can build in more time and/or budget in order to create appealing and effective content. Before you set out building the content, look deeper into the differences between training types and the benefits of each.

Benefits of Customer Training 

Aside from aiding customer adoption, effective customer education benefits your company in other, more indirect ways. Successful customer training can:
  1. Decrease “how to” call volume into support. When customers understand how to use your technology, they rely less on customer support for help. With fewer “how to” queries in the queue, the support services team can spend more time with those customers that have more complex problems. Inevitably, this will improve the customer experience and, once again, increase renewal rate.
  2. Increase customer engagement. It’s simple—the more customers know about how to use a product or service, the more they will use it. Having your technology solutions become a part of their daily lives makes the education organization more and more invaluable. This is why continuous training, guided by a product adoption curve, is so important. 
  3. Promote expansion opportunities. When the customer training organization has proven that it can be trusted to help customers use products more effectively and to achieve desired business outcomes, customers will be more confident in giving additional products and/or services a try. This helps to create fertile ground for upselling and cross-selling opportunities for both company and customer training products. Make sure you flag accounts and follow up with Sales or Customer Success to take advantage of it. 
  4. Increase customer satisfaction and NPS. When customers experience success with your company’s technology, or even a new feature, not only is renewal rate likely to increase—so is Net Promoter Score.
Net Promoter Score (NPS): a measure calculated by asking customers, on a scale of 1-10, how likely they are to recommend a product to friends and family.

The more “wins” customers have using your company’s technology, the better the customer experience and the more likely they are to spread the word to their business partners. 

Though customer training requires work and resources, we see over and over again how the benefits of customer training more than justify the cost. 

Successful Customer Training Is a Threefold Win

Customer training might be an easy enough concept to understand, but building a successful customer training organization takes thoughtful consideration and hard work. 

Developing robust training offers, providing the opportunity to learn in a myriad of ways, and aligning training content with a product adoption curve becomes a threefold win. It pays off for the customer, for the customer training organization, and the company.  

 October 20, 2022

Maria Manning-Chapman

About Author Maria Manning-Chapman

Maria Manning-Chapman, is the distinguished vice president of education services research for TSIA. She has more than 25 years of education experience in the high-technology industry. Maria is well versed in the dynamics of running an education services business and has held leadership positions in operations, virtual learning, business development, curriculum development, delivery, and partner management over the course of her career.

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