what is customer training and how to manage it guideVirtually every organization in the world has a training program in place to manage the development of its own employees. Most L&D teams are focused on helping their own people be the best they can be. However, if all of your attention is focused inside your organization, you are almost certainly missing a trick – and that “trick” is customer training.

In our guide below about customer training and how to manage it, we’ll dive into: 

What is customer training?

Customer training (also known as customer education) looks outside your organization to address an audience called the extended enterprise. This includes partners, resellers, vendors and, crucially, customers. Put simply, customer training is used to support, upskill and empower your customers to maximize their success with your products and services.

With a high-quality customer training program, organizations will likely see increased customer satisfaction, better-engaged customers and improved product utilization. Over time, this will lead to an increase in customer retention and loyalty, which will also support new customer attraction.

How to educate your customers

Did you know that 45% of organizations actively provide training to customers?

Customer training programs take many forms, both online and offline. Both may be considered as part of the overall customer training experience, depending on your customer audience, your product offering and the complexity of your training.

The content offered as part of a customer training program should be tailored to your unique circumstances, but generally, it may include:

  • Customer onboarding/training for beginners
  • Product updates
  • Certifications/qualifications
  • Use-case-specific training (e.g. for salespeople, for developers or for marketing teams)
  • Advanced training for experienced users

The content for your customer education program will primarily come from your own organization and its experts. You may even be able to tailor some of your existing employee training for an extended enterprise audience. Otherwise, your internal subject matter experts (SMEs) will provide the relevant training materials for your customers – your support team and customer experience team will be especially helpful here, along with your technical experts if you are offering software training.

Training could take the form of instructor-led and virtual instructor-led training experiences (ILT/vILT), eLearning, live webinars, pre-recorded videos, simulations, an online resource center or any combination of these. Whichever customer training program you choose, this can always be refined over time to provide the best possible experience for your customers.

Benefits of customer training

The benefits of customer training are vast, with huge potential for your organization.

There are many major benefits of a customer training program, including:

  1. Better customer onboarding in the all-important first weeks and months
  2. Customer attraction, retention and loyalty throughout the customer lifecycle
  3. Improved customer satisfaction with high-quality training
  4. Better-informed customers who make the most of your product or service within their organization
  5. Increasing the ROI of your organization’s training team
  6. Higher spend per customer
  7. Reduction of support time and costs
  8. A more positive impression of your organization and brand
  9. Building a network of “brand ambassadors”
  10. Increased word-of-mouth marketing

Ultimately, customer training proves to your customers that you are as committed to their success as they are, and that you are willing to use your knowledge and resources to help them make the most of your products and services. The more your customers know about your offering, the better for both you and them, as they become more knowledgeable, skilled and loyal customers, which in turn leads to better retention, higher satisfaction rates and happier customers.

Customer training best practices

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to customer training. What works for one organization may not work for another, so it comes down to knowing your customers and what they would find valuable.

When it comes to customer training best practices, there are three main areas to consider:

  1. The online experience
  2. The offline experience
  3. Performance support

The online experience will generally comprise virtual instructor-led training (vILT) and eLearning, on-demand resources and online events. vILT will usually consist of a trainer presenting to virtual participants, and may include presentations, Q&As, discussions or breakout sessions where participants break into separate “rooms” for more targeted conversations.

Webinars are a popular element of many customer training programs, allowing customers around the world to sign up and watch live demos, product training or how-to sessions with your experts. On-demand resources could include the recordings of these live webinars, and eLearning could take the form of structured courses, five-minute microlearning modules or formal certifications to prove competence.

The offline experience might include in-person training sessions and customer meetups, conferences or focus groups. This will be facilitated by a member of your organization, and they may be open for any customer to sign up or aimed at a small, specific group of users looking to solve a common challenge.

These classroom and in-person training sessions are best supported by a Training Management System designed to help you manage the operations and logistics for your customer training events including scheduling, resource management, assigning the best available trainers, collaborating with your ecosystem of experts, optimizing your training budget and reporting.

Performance support offers a “self-service” approach to customer education, with a resource center (usually hosted on your extended enterprise Learning Management System or your customer portal) consisting of PDFs, short videos, user guides and help documentation. This empowers your customers to take control of their own training and access what they need, when they need it.

Measuring the impact of your customer training program

It is notoriously difficult to measure the impact of extended enterprise and customer training. Fortunately, with the right tools in place, it becomes significantly easier to understand how people are engaging with your customer training program, what’s working and what isn’t.

Your learning technologies will play a vital role in your measurement of the impact of your programs. The analytics and reporting functionality built into today’s systems ensures you can monitor everything from signups to usage rates, and from which courses and events are resonating so you know where to focus your efforts.

For your eLearning, this will most likely be from your Learning Management System, whereas for your ILT and vILT, the Training Management System will be your main source of data collection and analysis. 

A Training Management System like Training Orchestra enables you to capture and report on the right KPIs and other critical data points to prove the value of your customer education program to stakeholders in your organization. Training Management System reporting provides a valuable insight into aspects of your program such as profitability, instructor and resource utilization rates, training spend investment and more, helping you better understand your live online and in-person training investment.

Customer training ROI

Customer training can be an extremely valuable part of your organization’s customer retention strategy. It can cost five times as much to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one, making it crucial to focus your engagement efforts on your existing customer base. Take a look at your churn rates – with the right customer training in place, you should see a decrease in churn, meaning lots more happy customers!

As we saw above, you can use your Learning Management System and Training Management System to pull key metrics about your customer training program. For your in-person and virtual instructor-led training, the TMS will provide detailed real-time measurements. You can then cross-reference this data from your systems with your customer satisfaction metrics, such as NPS or CSAT.

Ideally, you will find that as your investment in your customer training program increases, so do your customer satisfaction scores, helping you secure more budget to further expand the program.

Another way to understand the ROI of your program is to take a look at your customer reviews on sites such as Capterra, Trustpilot or G2 Crowd. Have your reviews improved since the implementation of your customer training program? If so, this is a good sign for your ROI.

Social media monitoring software such as Brandwatch, Pulsar or Brand24 will reveal public sentiments about your brand on sites such as Twitter and Facebook, which will show if your brand perception is improving alongside your customer training program. These will be important components of marketing your customer training.

Your sales platform will also reveal a wealth of valuable data about product upgrades, upselling, cross-selling and customer referrals. If your customer training program coincides with an uptick in customers upgrading their services, purchasing extra products or referring other contacts, this is a positive sign that your program is driving increased ROI.

Your customer training software will help you maximize the profitability and performance of your customer education.

How to manage customer education with a Training Management System (TMS)

Very often, a customer training program will be delivered using a Learning Management System (LMS). However, if your program includes ILT or vILT, a key addition to your extended enterprise training software should be a Training Management System (TMS).

A TMS such as Training Orchestra streamlines the organization of your training events, whether they take place in-person or virtually. With complex extended enterprise audiences such as your customers, this enables much faster, easier setup and management of your customer education events.

You can create training events for customers with ease, assigning an appropriate SME or trainer to each session, along with any necessary resources (such as a room, equipment, printed materials and virtual labs). Using Training Orchestra’s intuitive training scheduling system, any schedule clashes will be automatically flagged, enabling you to organize error-free customer training every time.

Your training team can also track and create reports on signups, attendance, trainer utilization, profitability and more. These reports can then be shared with relevant departments, such as the sales team, who can see which of their customers are engaging with your program, and stakeholders, who will get a clear insight into how your program is performing and the ROI.

A customer training program example

Imagine you work for A2B Cabs – a company that creates transport software for taxi firms worldwide. In the last year, their churn rate has increased significantly, and their reviews on software sites are becoming more and more negative. A2B Cabs changed their user interface around 18 months ago, but customers have been reporting that they can’t figure out how to perform their usual tasks.

The training team at A2B Cabs decides to create a customer education program to support its customers and get them back on track with the new interface, along with a series of new features they are preparing to launch. To do this, they adapt some of the courses and resources used to train salespeople at A2B Cabs, and set up a series of webinars hosted by their VP of Product to help train customers to make the most of the software.

Along with this, they launch some live, in-person training events, using their TMS to manage the scheduling and logistics, and to ensure that the VP of Product and other relevant trainers are available when they are needed, and kept up to date with where they are hosting and when.

The TMS integrates seamlessly with your extended enterprise LMS, which hosts a customer onboarding course, eLearning modules, product walkthrough videos, previous webinar recordings and other documentation. This makes the entire training process seamless, connecting your synchronous in-person and online training with a comprehensive online offering.

Six months after launching their customer training program, A2B Cabs finds that their customer retention rates have increased, their customer reviews have improved and their NPS scores are up – and all because they took the time to invest in their customers and show their commitment to customers’ success.

Ready to find out how to better manage your own customer training programs?

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For over 20 years, Training Orchestra has provided training software for 600+ organizations worldwide to help them automate and optimize their ILT and vILT customer training operations, addressing the complexities often found in: session scheduling, resource management, instructor collaboration, cost tracking and reporting. As a complement to your LMS, LXP and learning technologies, Training Orchestra’s Training Resource Management System can replace all XLS spreadsheets and manual tasks, so you can better manage training as a business.