When we hear about corporate education, the first thing that comes to mind is employee training. This is the most common type of training since it has an immediate and direct impact on company performance.
However, the larger category of extended enterprise learning has become more and more relevant in past years, with organizations becoming increasingly reliant on third-party providers and retailers. So, what is customer training in this greater picture, and why is it important for your company? This article will answer these questions in depth.
What is customer training?
As the name indicates, customer training is learning designed specifically for the people using your company’s products or services. The point is to make the customer journey smoother, ensure client loyalty, and maximize your products' impact on the customers' life or in their organizations.
Depending on what your organization provides, customer training can take various forms: onboarding, brochures, self-paced e-learning modules, how-to videos, searchable knowledge bases, customer support, and certification programs. There is no universal recipe for customer training; it needs to be adapted to each product's specifics and the client's needs.
Why is customer training beneficial for companies?
There are several good reasons why customer training has become increasingly critical to organizational success. Customer training is related to higher loyalty, builds brand awareness, generates leads and, subsequently, revenues. It takes a lot of the pressure usually on the customer service departments.
That last one alone should be enough to convince any CFO to invest in customer training. Customer service is paramount to any company that wants to cultivate long-term relationships. This is no small feat with 61 percent of customers willing to change companies after just one bad experience. Many organizations have either invested in artificial intelligence (AI) solutions or outsourced their customer service in an effort to lower spending. However, these solutions are not always great since state-of-the-art AI is rather costly, and off-shore call centers may come with more disadvantages than perks. This is why, in addition to support, a quality customer training program is preferable.
Customer training best-practice examples
There are several ways of doing customer training right. Here are a few examples:
Red Hat is an American IBM subsidiary that offers open-source software products to enterprises. Since the company has a wide array of products, they provide an extensive customer training curriculum. This is categorized by country and product line, with customers given the possibility to purchase either one-year individual subscriptions created to help individuals develop technology skills or enterprise plans for teams. This establishes Red Hat as a solution provider and a partner in employee skill development.
Asana, a web and mobile work management platform, offers immediate troubleshooting assistance, live webinars with Q&As, video tutorials, and self-paced, in-depth courses. Having this wide array of support and learning tools ensures that customers can truly make the most of the platform and see the benefits of using it long-term.
Another effective way to deliver customer training is by addressing the pain points of the customer base. For example, Orange, a Telecom company, is offering in-person training to its elderly client segment to help bridge the digital divide gap between generations. In this series of learning events, the 65+ audience can learn how to configure their mobile devices and use them to their full potential. While this is a less sophisticated type of customer training than the first two examples (Red Hat and Asana), it is highly beneficial to brand image.
CYPHER LEARNING also offers comprehensive onboarding, a constantly updated help section, and the E-learning Integration in Technology and Education (ELITE) Certification Program since our clients are learning professionals interested in our platform and want to improve their online training design and delivery skills. So, we have created learning paths for instructional designers who want to validate their global competencies and network with other professionals.
How to build a successful customer training program
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to customer training, but there are some basic elements that will help your company build and offer the right learning solutions for your client base. And all these elements need to be present in your organization’s learning management system (LMS).
1. Find the right learning platform
To create optimal customer training, you need the right tools to help you. It all has to start with an excellent platform, ideally an intelligent learning platform (ILP). You will need an excellent course creation tool, various templates, media content, a well-curated and attractive course catalog, and a user-friendly interface. Furthermore, since one of your goals is to strengthen brand loyalty, you'll need a platform that allows you to create a unique, personalized space for your customer learning. An ILP has the added bonus of incorporating a mobile-first experience so your customers can access the modules anytime and anywhere.
2. Create personalized courses for your customers
You most likely already have a good idea of your customer base and what they respond to from your marketing research. Using that information, you'll decide what type of learning content works best and how it should be delivered.
The ILP gives you multiple options: micro-learning, self-paced modules, blended learning. For more advanced topics, you can deploy instructor-led training. It all depends on your customer's learning needs and how you choose to incorporate this type of training into your overall business strategy. The key to successful customer learning is personalization. Consumers are increasingly interested in personalization when deciding what products they use, and this trend also needs to be reflected in your learning strategy.
3. Set customer training goals
While some content might be the same, customer training differs from employee training where objectives are concerned. You have to set goals for each learning module, and it's important to track and report whether they are met or not. However, when your learners are also your customers, they can set their own desired objectives and learning paths.
For example, if you sell software, you'll have some users who aim for proficiency while others want to learn the basics of using the product because that's all they need. The best thing about deploying your customer training through an ILP is that the platform makes personalized recommendations based on individual user goals. This way, they have a seamless learning experience, and your instructors don't have the added task of following learner activity to recommend more online courses or other training materials.
4. Award certificates
The end of an online course or a learning path needs to be recognized. Your customers should have something to show for the time and effort they put into the learning program. Through the ILP, you can automatically award nominal certificates that showcase the accomplishment. Together with numeric mastery display, the certificates are a strong incentive for other learners to enroll and have the same achievement.
People are generally prone to sharing their achievements, so this is another aspect of customer training that can build your brand image and make your company known to a larger audience. Furthermore, the certificates you offer combined with the mastery displays for your customer training are a good way to demonstrate how well the program is doing – very useful when you need to show the ROI of training.
5. Create learning paths for certification
An excellent way to keep your customers engaged with the learning program is to offer complete learning paths that end in certification. Achieving mastery is one of the best drivers of motivation. You can make your training available as part of certification programs – as we do at CYPHER LEARNING with the ELITE program and, therefore, become not only a vendor but a partner for our customers. This works best in the case of Business-to-Business (B2B), but you can tailor certification to work for individual, Business-to-Consumer (B2C) companies.
For example, if your company is selling project management software, you can create a path covering: the basics of project management, how to build effective timelines and stay organized, ways to maximize productivity, and advanced monitoring and reporting. At the end of the path, you can award a certificate of completion or mastery. Offering such an advanced learning path ensures your customers will know all the features and benefits of your products and be more inclined to use them long-term due to their effort investment.
6. Create a portal just for customers
I've already mentioned the importance of learning personalization. This doesn't refer to the courses alone. The ILP allows you to create individual portals for customers – in the same platform, you can have different portals for your employees, contractors, retailers, franchises, and clients. In the case of corporate customers, you can design the portals to incorporate your brand as well as theirs, giving a better sense of a successful partnership. With each portal having its own URL, welcome page, logo, course catalog, and resources (both created in-house and external), you will deliver an excellent experience for each client.
7. Track and measure customer training
The ILP's comprehensive analytics make it easy to measure the KPIs you have for the customer training program and see if it works to your standards. Course analytics will show enrollment numbers, completion rates, statistics concerning the amount of time spent on each module, and activity reports. The latter can be used as cues to send automated reminders to users who have become inactive and offer incentives for returning to the course.
Assessment and mastery analytics will reveal how well the learners understand the information and to what level they can apply it on various tasks. The ILPs built-in and custom reports are easy to generate and interpret.
Customer training done right
In the current volatile business environment, competition is fierce, and organizations need all the competitive advantages they can muster. Setting up a quality customer training program benefits your company’s image and helps build customer loyalty and revenue. The secret to a quality program is having the right platform and customizing learning to fit your customers' needs.