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Customer training is a "value-add" that differentiates your company from the competition. This is because it's a win-win: Customers learn to use your product or service more effectively and you benefit from the revenue stream. These qualities are often considered by looking at return on investment (ROI) and value of investment (VOI), which have a well-defined connection. Unless your customers find value—their VOI—from the learning that you provide, you will not reap any financial reward—your ROI. The emphasis of this chapter is how to you can measure the ROI and VOI of learning throughout the customer lifecycle.Why customer training? The vendor movement toward more in-depth customer training experiences continues to evolve. Vendors have provided some end-user "feature" training but, in general, customer training has not been a high priority of software vendors. If training is included, it's often developed toward the end of the development cycle or just before launch. This "feature" focus of training also means that the users have a very narrow product exposure and often don't understand the context and higher purpose of the software—the real reason behind why they're doing it.Today, customers are savvier about what they need for training. Especially with subscription software, vendors have to do more than provide a product. The competition is fierce, and the goal for vendors becomes the added business value training provides to help retain and grow a long-lasting partnership with the customer.
The measurement process for external customer training programs is very different from the measurements used for internal corporate learning. The number of people registered for a course, the number of course completions, test scores, and the number of courses in the library are important to learning and development people. But the C-Suite wants business data that indicates that customer training influences business results.
They're looking for results such as:
To get results in these areas, you must focus on:
By following these guidelines, you'll be on your way to achieving a stronger ROI from Customer Training.
|Business unit||Role in customer training|
|Learning and Development||Based on customer surveys, data, and L&D knowledge of adult learning, L&D creates and/or acquires content and assembles it into a variety of effective user experiences.|
|Sales||Uses customer training as a differentiator in making the sale. Customer success managers (CSMs) explain the opportunities and suggest appropriate learning for new, intermediate, and advanced users. Sales stays up to date on present and future learning content.|
|Information Technology||Assures that the customer training technology is consumer-like in its ease-of-use, provides quick access 24x7 from any device, and supports learning in multiple formats (elearning, microlearning, social, virtual classroom, etc.).|
|Marketing||Uses market analysis to help determine what customers want. Continually informs customers about learning events and activities and how these add to their success with the product. Emphasizes increased productivity due to high-quality content that uses a variety of formats personalized to users.|
|Finance||Provides data on aspects of business, such as retention rate, product adoption, and how to apply tax. Financial analysis can assist in interpreting data and suggesting other areas of data collection.|
The customer training team working together decides on the program goals, works through technology infrastructure (build or buy), surveys customers, collects and analyzes data, and decides how to optimize training content to get those desired ROI/VOI results.
Companies provide some learning for free and leverage it to move customers to fee-based training that is more in-depth and developed for different roles. For example, sales uses free training as a strategy at renewal time. The ratio of fee-to-free training is generally about 75 percent fee-based to 25 percent free.
If you are providing some free or fee-based customer training and want to quantify results, look at comparison data between those customers who took or bought training and those that did not. Examine:
Because the extended enterprise market of customer and partner learning is young, vendors and companies have not yet explored all that can be done with this kind of technology. The results may not be all numbers-based. Even now, some companies are looking at gaining broader value from customer training by:
Salesforce has developed and marketed training successfully using a team approach. They say that training is core to customer success with their customer relationship management product.
Internal data showed the company that customers who invested in training on an ongoing basis got 80 percent higher ROI on their Salesforce investment. customer training provides education throughout the ecosystem, starting with an introduction to the platform and continuing with more advanced—and more appropriate—learning as users become more familiar with the product. The outcome: Numerous customers have chosen to build solutions on the Salesforce platform.
Although customer education is still in its early stages and company data isn't plentiful, findings from research firms shows that it's working. Even as far back as 2010 research data showed that the #1 factor in company loyalty was to reduce customer effort. This is testament to the importance of providing the right learning—easily accessible, short and to-the-point. customer training wins by providing additional revenue to companies, more brand-loyal customers, more use of product by customers, and an overall better customer experience.
Remember: Customers engage in learning voluntarily. They will access the content you provide and ask for more only if they know about it and the learning offerings help them understand and use the product to increase their productivity. Learning needs to continue through the customer lifecycle, leading to a closer relationship and solid brand affinity between the customer and vendor.
About the author:
Claire Schooley, principal, Claire Schooley Consulting, and long-time Forrester analyst, specializes in workforce growth and development. She has over 25 years of experience in education and corporate human resources, focusing on learning, recruiting and performance. Contact Claire through her website or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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