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5 Steps For Implementing Your First Customer Training Program

Written by Sarah E. Brown

Published on March 20, 2015

For today’s Fast-Growing-Software-Companies (FGSC’s), decreasing churn and increasing Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) hinges on your customer’s successful implementation of your software. This is crucial both at the beginning of the customer relationship and throughout the customer lifecycle. Yet nearly 50 percent of software implementations fail, resulting in avoidable churn. One of the best ways to move the needle on software implementation is to deliver superior Customer Training. But if you don’t have a formal Training program, your Customer Success team ends up delivering education to your customers on an ad-hoc, reactionary basis. These interactions are exorbitantly human resource-intensive and are ultimately unscalable.

Software companies who are still manually delivering Customer Training are learning the hard truth: If your company doesn’t yet have a formal Learning Management System (LMS), in effect, you are your LMS. And as anyone who’s tried it will tell you, in Customer Success, relying on 1:1 customer interactions alone just doesn’t work.

The good news is that the right LMS enables you to scale personalized training interactions and reach many more customers with the education they need to be successful using your software. Whether your customers are already knocking on your door asking for training or you’ve independently realized the revenue opportunities of implementing a training program, getting started doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are 5 steps for getting started with your first Customer Training program.

Step 1: Start Where You Are


Are you in the Reacting, Performing, Scaling or Optimizing phases of training maturity? Chances are, if you’re just getting started, you’re already on the Training Maturity model in the “Reacting” phase - reacting every time a customer has a training request. At this stage, all you need to start a formal training program is one smart, motivated team member who is ready to show your customers how to be successful at using your product.

A superior LMS will amplify the training power of this individual many times-fold. Factors to consider when starting your first training program: Where is your company in its maturity life cycle? How complex is your software or platform? How “Mission Critical” is your product to the business outcomes of your customer? All of these will affect the nature and depth of the courses you create out of the gate. (For more on the Training Maturity Model, check out ServiceRocket’s article on the topic!)

Step 2. Decide Which Course To Develop First

Remember: Even if your software/technology/application is very well-designed, your customers will still need training. Given this, focus on less on feature instruction and more on creating courses that help your customers get the right work done within your software to achieve their desired outcome (Customer Success).

Can your training teach a skill that is transferrable across your industry? An example of this done well is HubSpot, whose training focuses not just on feature sets but on Inbound Marketing as a whole, which is highly useful for anyone wanting to gain skills in the Inbound Marketing profession. In turn, Gainsight’s Customer Success University teaches the skills of Customer Success Management--deriving value from the training isn’t predicated on being a Gainsight customer.

Step 3. Define Which Roles Your Training Team Needs (Regardless Of Who Fulfils)

Whether you’re a ten-person or a 50-person team, you can implement training. But you will need to think about four training roles and whether the executive team, your Customer Success team, or dedicated Customer Education Managers (CEMs) will implement the training. These four roles include:

Course Developer: This role is needed because someone need to create the training materials. In the training world, this role is generally called an instructional designer. You can either have an internal resource perform this role, a subject matter expert on your team or hire an instructional designer.

Trainer: Unless you create all self-paced eLearning, you will need someone to deliver the training. Many early stage enterprise software companies have CSMs deliver training. As you grow, it will become necessary to have someone dedicated to training delivery.

Training Coordinator: The more live training you conduct, you more you will need someone to coordinate logistics with students, schedule sessions, respond to student requests, and other administrative and reporting needs on course activities. A talented training coordinator can make the student experience exceptional by ensure students and take care of from registration to follow-up.

Training Manager: Early on, a CSM could manage the training function, but as your training team is built, you will need someone to lead and manage it. The training manager should also be responsible for measuring how effective training programs are.

Step 4. Measure The Effectiveness Of Training

Along with predictive analytics tools, you can measure the success of your training by cohort and a variety of other ways. According to ServiceRocket’s Head of Training Bill Cushard, Training Professionals use the Kirkpatrick Four Levels Model in order to assess the effectiveness of Training. (Note: Jack Phillips contributed a fifth level to the final model):

  • Level 1: Learner Satisfaction
    • Training surveys showing how satisfied learners were with the training delivered. Note: While this is important and is good to know, it may or may not affect the customer’s actual behavior.
  • Level 2: Knowledge Improvement
    • Testing delivered to your customers showing whether they learned and retained knowledge delivered during training events.
  • Level 3: Behavior Change
    • Determining whether learners actually applied the training material to affect their behavior; this could include increased usage of a feature set, reduced time in a goal milestone achieved, and/or outcomes related to the specific reasons your customers bought your software in the first place.)
  • Level 4: Outcomes/Results
    • Looking at metrics like productivity increase and sales outcomes--whether the needle moved on the outcomes of your customer as result of training.
  • Level 5: Return on Investment.
    • The holy grail! Actually correlating training as a revenue center for you and your customers.

Using data from your LMS like Learndot, you can assess all five levels of the Kirkpatrick-Phillips model to show the ROI of your training. Keep track of which customers attend your training or consume self-service training materials, as well as how well they’re progressing at each level, and figure out which have the most significant impact on your customer’s behavior and loyalty.

Step 5. Roadmap Where You’ll Go From Here

It’s imperative to create and maintain a functioning feedback loop for your training. Through your LMS and across your product and all self-serve resources, ensure a single sign-on so your customer’s data are always being fed back to you to help you assess the ROI of their training events. Consider creating a control group to assess how customers who haven’t taken your training perform against those who have, and use your predictive analytics platform to tie all of these insights together with your other customer touchpoint data.

By continuing to build out your training with better courses tailored by customer usage data and feedback, you can continue to improve to tighten the feedback loop between Training and Retention.

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Originally published Mar 20, 2015 4:30:00 PM, updated Apr 15, 2015