Customer training is a process along your customer’s journey, during all phases of the customer lifecycle. Training and education can play a pivotal role in increasing sales and retention.
I fondly remember my first visit to IKEA. I walked through the shop of dreams, it was magical. Each room was designed so perfectly, that we could only dream. Their kitchen area and the paraphernalia influenced me to think I could be a cook, an excellent one. (truth be told, I even struggle with frying an egg!)
If you have ever been on a trip/trek to IKEA you’ll know how the checkout can feel - overwhelming! Even more so when you’re mentally playing Tetris with your IKEA purchases and the boot of your car and you get home only to be snowed under your purchases trying to put it all together.
This event always reminds me of some software being demo-ed. The software is stunning and efficient. It’s all that I am looking for and even more, and makes me want to jump onto my computer and transform my day-to-day work using this ingenious tool. While most SaaS apps are incredibly powerful tools that can help make your job easier, their implementation and adoption can feel like that IKEA journey. The discovery phase can be a little too overwhelming.
As solution providers, you must be strategic about how you walk your customers to this stage and give them the right answers to their questions that will translate into the solution you’ve built and roll it out to your customers for use. Whether you are on a shopping journey or a product journey - it's strategy or the “how” you will help your customers accomplish their goals and mission that can consume the entire process.
Your sales team has spent weeks or sometimes months chasing down a lead, walking them through the sales process, negotiating a deal, and converting them into a customer. Then, you kickoff your service. Let’s hold it back there for a bit.
Now, your customer is already overwhelmed with multiple options and starting to feel unhappy about your product. Going further, chances are that they might run into a technical problem and couldn’t figure out how to resolve it. You have built the most amazing and powerful products that can be customized to meet your customer’s unique needs, the value and the ROI that they can add to your customer’s business are unmatched.
BUT - If you do not equip your customers with the right knowledge of how great your product is, how to use it, and how it can transform their business processes and make their lives easier, increase their productivity, save them time and frustration, you merely have a software that looks good only never to be used!
Even the most powerful products are useless unless customers have clear direction and helpful resources on how to use them. Customer training and education show customers you’re invested in their success streamlining product adoption and differentiating your offerings from your competition.
Going back to my trip to the dream superstore, the IKEA kitchen sure looks beautiful but not if I sit in that kitchen and order a take-out every day as the idea of using what I bought blows me away. On the flip side, imagine that the superstore provided me with a how-to manual for simple and easy arrangements. How about they added a cookbook with the easiest recipes that I could have gotten started with, or maybe how I can accessorize my kitchen with outside-the-box ideas. That's value! Adding this to my experience would have encouraged me to share my experiences with others on what I learned, encouraged me to become a user of their products, and nudged me to engage more with the brand.
Training and education as a part of your adoption strategy can do the same. It can fuel user adoption and encourage users to become super/power users or simply expand their knowledge. Your adoption strategy is based on the ‘how’ and that’s where you need to incorporate training into your strategy.
Getting users to adopt your product starts with discovery. And the best way to help them discover these hidden jewels is through continuous education. One of the core reasons customers churn out is because they no longer find value in your product. But sometimes, they simply may not understand the potential value they could be getting from your product. Consistently engage with your customers through training and education to show them how your product benefits them and how they could leverage it more effectively.
As your customers advance, their needs will decline and regrow. Constant communication and continuous education are key to continually proving your worth.
Training and Education is a multi-department effort involving your customer success, content, customer education, and marketing teams. Address customer concerns and questions on your blog or through webinars. Automate email campaigns to deliver educational and value-adding content to your customers, such as how-to videos, new feature releases, product hacks, learning academies, and more.
Most product managers understand the importance of customer churn, and how reducing churn is crucial to their growth. But far too many teams put their efforts into adding new features and attracting new subscribers, without fully understanding how those changes will impact existing customers and reduce their SaaS churn rate.
A strong training program can aid in combating churn. It helps customers feel at ease with product changes and keeps them in the know. Customers feel safe when they have such programs and resources that they can turn to when they hit the wall.
This drives customer retention and a data-backed report by Forrester affirms how customer education increased retention by almost 7.4%.
Reduce support costs
Here’s the thing. If a customer has reached out to support, it’s obvious, they’re stuck! They have reached a blind spot that keeps them from using the product to complete the task they are aiming at. That adds to the frustration, so much so that they give up on their task or sometimes even your product!
While customers want fast, effortless, friction-free responses to their questions, your customer support team can easily find itself underwater if the volume of support requests starts ramping up.
So how to deal with this?
A growing majority of millennial customers are moving towards self-serve support options. Years back, Forrester found out that 73% of customers in the US didn't want to call for support. The solution Forrester suggested: Double down on your self-serve support channels.
Offer relevant self-help resources including documentation, and in-app guides, and continue offering educational and training content to even your most advanced users. This will help keep your users up to speed while reducing the burden on your support teams.
A comprehensive training and education strategy can aid in proactively resolving common questions or the troubleshooting needs of your customers. Not only will customers feel satisfied, but your employees will have fewer monotonous questions lined up and have time for priority tasks. A frequently asked question section in your training manual can also help with common concerns going a long way in reducing the support team’s workload.
Customers who learn and succeed ultimately become brand advocates because they know you’re invested in their growth.
Welcoming new customers, getting them started, offering curated content support, product walkthroughs, installing help widgets, and gauging them with feedback surveys are a few ways to start off a good customer relationship journey, and build trust along the way that ultimately leads to customer loyalty.
A well-defined training and education strategy promotes product adoption, and satisfying customers, whilst saving your company a lot of time, effort and money.
This extra time might enable your sales team to focus on newer leads, and your marketing team to promote newer features and provide more upselling opportunities.
Most people think of customer training as the initial training a customer receives during onboarding and that’s it. However, customer training is a process along your customer’s journey, during all phases of the customer lifecycle. Training and education can play a pivotal role in increasing sales and retention.
Let’s take a look at the touch points where training and education help jump-start user adoption and lead all the way to great retention numbers:
A strong sales pipeline depends on allocating the right resources to the right places at the right time. And a robust pre-sales process can help you do just that. While sales often get the attention for closing deals, a pre-sales process is critical to the success of each opportunity and the overall sales organization. Pre-sales training, done well, provides prospects with a clear roadmap for the success they’ll achieve through your software.
Whether your customer is doing a free trial or just a marketing qualified lead, pre-sales training enables you to showcase how your product will help them achieve their goals.
For instance, if your prospect came to you for a lead generation tool that will help them close more leads, offer them training around topics that teaches how to take a lead through the pipeline from prospect to closing. This training can be given while they’re on a trial or while they’re still a lead because the principle of the education is the same--to offer a glimpse into the value that you provide through your software that aligns with their goals.
The goal for pre-sales training isn’t for your prospect to instantly become an expert in accomplishing workflows through your product, but to see that the overarching objectives they want to achieve are possible within your software enough to convince them to purchase it.
Your new product or SaaS solution has a learning curve and will definitely need a bit of initial hand-holding. When a customer buys your product, they believe they can find value in it. And a smooth customer onboarding affirms this belief that helps them define success. Onboarding involves introducing your product to the customer.
The end goal here is to reduce customer churn by helping your customers learn the tool quickly, find early success with quick wins in your product, and ultimately find value. Many companies provide high-touch onboarding for customers to make sure these goals are met, especially for their larger enterprise clients.
Training goes a long way in providing value to customers as early as their first touch points. From a customers’ point of view, training answers the question: what’s in it for them? Shows them how your offerings will address their pain points. This training may include use cases, customized training, supporting resources, discovery conversations, and more.
Remember the free how-to PDF guides and product data sheets offered by a website back in the day?
With user onboarding becoming the norm these product content pieces are readily available. This now becomes the first touchpoint of your user and customer onboarding, which can be as early as when prospects check out your website. Better user onboarding is instrumental in shortening your product’s time-to-value (TTV).
The training doesn’t end when the sessions are over
Training isn’t meant to make beginners experts, it’s meant to put them on the path to becoming experts. Your users should have the basic information they need to move forward and do their work. They should also know where to find answers quickly if they ever get stuck. This can be a website, a user manual you design, an always-open door to communication like live support, or an email inbox.
Connect your users to lots of excellent support and training materials. Having these resources readily available will go a long way to building the confidence your users need to make the most of your product, new or/and existing.
A well-defined training and education strategy promotes product adoption, and satisfying customers, whilst saving your company a lot of time, effort and money. When users engage with training and education, they feel empowered and individually own how your product is going to enhance their work eventually.
Empower your customers by first ensuring they will get adequate training and support from the beginning. Later implement a way for them to learn from your resources, their peers, and other mediums, and truly adopt your product, utilizing the software to its fullest potential.