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Building a Brand-New Customer Education Function The Right Way

Written by Julia Borgini

Published on June 7, 2017

Last year Gainsight reorganized their post-sales teams to increase customer success. They wanted to put customer success first and designed their organization around customer needs. This included moving their training team to the "front" of the customer funnel, giving them more access to both customer feedback and product development. Gainsight already had a training team set up, but by including them in their customer success department, they were able to infuse the training team with customer success principles, setting them up for greater success down the road.

If you're working on creating a customer success-focused organization and are wondering how to set up your training team to be as successful and efficient as Gainsight's, keep reading.

Gainsight's story

In order to fully realize their plan, Gainsight identified three customer needs to focus on and created teams and processes to guide their work to meet those needs. Training was placed under their Onboarding team, as they could work directly with project managers who have an overall view of product timelines and activities, as well as the solution architects who were designing the products to meet customer use cases.

This approach works well for Gainsight as it puts training close to the front of the product design cycle, getting information directly from customers as well as product management at the company. They're able to plan for future work more easily, managing their own team work and resources more efficiently, all the while meeting Gainsight's CS mandates.

Determine your goals

The first step to creating a Customer Success-based training program is to find out what your company's Customer Success goals are. What are the customer needs that your company is trying to meet and exceed? Gainsight, for example, was working towards outcomes management, fast time-to-value, and solutions on-demand. The Gainsight training team's mission was focused on the fast time-to-value, so all their activities, goals, and metrics were geared towards that.

The purpose of your company's CS goals should be clear to you and your training team. Understand how training contributes to the goals and what metrics you should be using to measure your progress towards those goals.

Pick the right team

Once you know what you're aiming for, it's time to determine who are the right people to help you works towards those goals. Determine the skills you'll need to achieve those Customer Success goals.

By aligning your training team with skills rather than job titles, you'll ensure you won't overlook any candidate, either external or internal to your company. Customer success-focused training people have a collaborative mindset, are adaptable and flexible to changing customer needs. You want people who have the skills to design, create, and deliver useful training, who may come from marketing, services, support, or the customer success world. Alternatively, you may hire a dedicated trainer with an employee training background who is interested in transitioning to customer training.

Develop good processes

Help your team stay on track towards your goals through well-defined processes on how you design and develop training materials. Clear processes eliminate ambiguity and create accountability on your team.

Use this quick list to see what processes you may need to create:

  • What's the intake process for your training team? That is, how are new training requests handled by your team?

  • Who works with product owners to gather requirements?

  • Who designs content?

  • Who works with product/customer SMEs?

  • Who QAs training materials?

  • How do you measure the effectiveness of your training materials?

  • How are training metrics reporting and disseminated?

  • Who prioritizes changes required to training material based on customer feedback?

  • How does the training team handle ad hoc requests?

Choose your supporting tools

Since your training team is integrated with other teams, all working towards CS goals and customer needs, you're probably working with a shared software stack. CRM tools, multimedia management software, learning design tools, and, document management are all part of your toolkit.

In order to avoid duplicate purchases and cost overruns, establish some rules on software integration and management for the entire CS function. That way each team ensures they get the specialized software they need to do their jobs, but that any shared tools are available to everyone that needs it.

Determine training-specific metrics to track

While each team in your organization is working towards overall CS goals and the metrics that support them, each team will have individual metrics that they need to track. For example, at Gainsight, each team has a set of operational metrics they track and a set of cost metrics. The operational ones define the success for each team or function, while the cost metric determines how to budget for that function. Organize your metrics in whatever way works for your training team and CS functions.

Suggested training metrics to track

The training team at your company works towards overall CS metrics such as customer retention rates, monthly churn, etc., but it's important to develop unique training metrics to track as well. Suggestions include:

  • Onboarding training program completion rates: To track new customer onboarding rates.

  • Advanced training program signup and completion rates: To track and identify customers that are becoming product experts.

  • Time spent creating new training programs: To track training team activities

  • Billable activity list: Useful in determining billable costs for training team members and mapping them to any metrics and reports.

  • Number of training updates made based on customer feedback: This helps you track how well you're aligning to customer needs.

Measuring your team's performance helps you rate effectiveness and efficiency, as well as identify skill gaps and opportunities for improvement.

Customer success = company success

The success of your company is inherently tied to the success of your customers. If they succeed using your products, they'll continue to use them, so your company succeeds. This is why many companies are turning to official customer success strategies to help them with that.

The training team is just a part of creating customer success, so we hope these strategies have helped you set up your team for success too. With just a little planning and collaboration, your training team will be firing on all cylinders, creating a positive environment for your customers and leading them to even more success.

Originally published Jun 7, 2017 4:04:00 PM, updated Jun 7, 2017