Companies are turning to training to retain customers and increase brand awareness.
While employee training and development is recognized as a critical factor of business success, Thought Industries' 2020 State of Customer Training: An Integral Driver to Business Success report suggests that training programs specifically targeting customers also may be a smart move for businesses' bottom lines. In the first quarter of 2020, Thought Industries surveyed more than 150 individuals from various industries and company sizes to capture a snapshot of the role customer training plays in business.
Training opportunities designed for external stakeholders are known as extended enterprise learning, and customers are key constituents among those stakeholders. Customer training opportunities can take the shape of certification programs, on-demand videos, virtual classes, or online tutorials, and they are markedly prevalent in the computer software industry.
Three-quarters of respondents shared that their company's use of customer training has increased in the past five years. Organizations likewise see the value in it, with 96 percent of respondents noting that customer training is important to their company and 63 percent ranking it as extremely important. For certain businesses, customer training has become an integral part of product rollout strategies.
Why the emphasis on customer training? Respondents pointed to loyalty as one reason. "Well-onboarded and well-trained customers are more satisfied, ‘stickier' customers that grow in value over time," the report notes.
Respondents also stated that customer training can increase brand awareness. Forty percent use certification programs; of those that offer such programs, more than half see brand awareness as an added benefit.
Despite its benefits, customer training is not without challenges. The top three are customer engagement and adoption, content management, and measuring business impact. Still, respondents are finding ways to tackle them. For example, although 43 percent acknowledge struggling with measuring the impact, about one-third are measuring adoption rates and renewal rates.
The tools and technology needed to develop a robust customer education program are likely already in the L&D wheelhouse, with a robust learning management system central to organizations' success. Fifty-seven percent of respondents have an LMS they dedicate to customer training, which can assist in managing content, tracking learner engagement, and scheduling sessions. The increased focus on that aspect of extended enterprise learning presents new opportunities for talent development professionals, including to partner with operations in a way that positively affects the businesses' bottom lines.