In corporate America, organizations have been training customers for decades. Buy a new piece of construction machinery and the manufacturer will send out a trainer. Buy complex enterprise software (like an old-school talent management LMS), and the developer will send a trainer out for three days to train your administrators.
Of course, as many of us have experienced first-hand, customer education isn’t just for complex B2B sales. Want to learn how to grout tile for your home? Just head to Lowe’s on a Saturday morning for all the DIY information you need to complete your project successfully.
Over the past few years, however, customer learning has evolved away from live classroom training environments and into digital delivery. The learning management system (LMS) has become the backbone of customer learning initiatives — delivering elearning content, video tutorials, social learning scenarios and reference resources that can be created once and reused countless times.
The LMS also has one thing that no other method of customer training can offer — reporting. Knowing which customers have previously participated in training (or not) gives you the power to measure your return on investment.
How? Have trained customers purchased more or less than untrained? Have they called your customer support organization more frequently or less frequently? Have they renewed their subscriptions at a higher or lower rate?
In every industry smart organizations invest in providing their customers with relevant learning opportunities. Do you? If not, you’re missing out on at least five compelling measurable reasons to build your business case for customer learning:
5 Measurable Reasons to Invest in Customer Training
1) Increased Sales and Profit
The easiest, most cost-effective place to get a new sale is from an existing customer – not finding a new one. Happy, educated customers who see the value you promised will buy more of the same and related products. Customers don’t want to find new solutions. They just want the solution they purchased to work as expected — or better. If you can help make that happen through training they will keep buying.
Additionally, many organizations sell customer content as value-added service. The more complicated your core product or solution, the more opportunities you have to sell training to customers and turn your content into profitable revenue streams.
2) Shorter Sales Cycles
Customer learning helps organizations accelerate the sales cycle by letting customers do most of the sales work. Many companies also cross-sell by engaging active customers as learners. They provide a free library of training content for a purchased product as well as complementary products. As customers educate themselves they voluntarily absorb knowledge about other products and services (features, benefits and unique value proposition) without costly active involvement from the sales force or channel.
3) Lower Customer Support Costs
Every time a customer contacts your customer support — live, virtual or email it costs you. You may not be able to avoid all support calls, however, you can minimize the volume of basic support incidents by designing targeted learning that gives customers all the tools they need to get started with your product or service. Decreased support calls and trouble tickets translate directly into higher profits.
4) Increased Customer Satisfaction
Even if you have the best call center and online support in your industry, in the moment when customers seek support they’ve exhausted other options – and they’re probably annoyed by the inconvenience. Delivering learning opportunities for your customers gives them a self-service method of getting answers and implementing strategy. Recently, I transitioned to Quick Books and chose not to watch all the video tutorials on how to avoid mistakes and start off correctly. As you can imagine, I circled around in a cloud of confusion and frustration before I simply gave up. A few days later, I started fresh. After re-installing Quick Books and watching the recommended tutorials, I’m now up and running again, and I’m a much happier (and productive!) customer.
5) Increased Brand Reach
Even small companies can have a global footprint. However, it’s not feasible to travel around the world and train customers face-to-face. Using an LMS organizations can support mobile users, virtual classrooms, game dynamics, real-time social interaction and more. This gives you more flexibility to engage customers in learning, no matter where they’re located or what their preferences may be.
You can create communities of interest and encourage participants to develop skills, share their success stories and help answer others’ questions. You can wrap contests and awards around your learning programs to engage and motivate participants. The possibilities are endless. Ideally, you can build a growing global community of customers who are committed to your brand and help others learn about it too.
Smart companies encourage their customer to learn. When thoughtfully designed and delivered customer training is measurable, scalable and profitable. What’s more, customers love it. It’s really that simple. You shouldn’t wait. Your competition won’t and neither will your customers.
Thanks for reading!
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Editor’s Note: This post is adapted from content that John Leh originally authored as a guest post for the Expertus blog, Learning in the Cloud.