Customer training is the process by which a company teaches purchasers how to use a product efficiently. Online teaching modules can include brief demonstrations, tutorials, or written information on specific product operations. This process delivers the precise learning users need when it is most relevant.
Online customer training is most often provided to support software programs that can include accounting, word processing, management information systems, and database management programs and even SaaS platforms. Large companies, such as Cisco, General Electric (GE) and Xerox incorporate it into their product packages, and many also offer separate training classes to customers to support full product engagement. Software systems and similar products can be complicated to learn and, even if the user has experienced hands-on training, they are likely to have questions about specific functions once they are actively using the product. Online customer training fills this need.
Supporting the Customer with Online Product Training
There are several ways to provide online customer training to enhance their use and enjoyment of a product. The most common online training tools are:
- Online courses that include short modules which train the customer on how to navigate the system and maximize use of the features. These are delivered through online training platform.
- On-Demand training that becomes available if the user is taking too long on a task. When this occurs, a brief demonstration video or bullet point instructions appear on the screen to help the individual complete the section.
- Help or Support Center that contains a library of articles, videos, taped webinars and other information about commonly experienced challenges with the product and how to overcome them.
The Benefits of Online Customer Training
Many businesses report significant benefits from adding online training support to their product or as an add-on to it:
- 88% report an increase in customer retention.
- 82% experienced improved customer satisfaction.
- Overall higher training revenues were reported among most of the companies surveyed.
By helping customers better use their products, businesses have significantly improved satisfaction and retention.
The Challenge of Implementing Online Customer Training
Companies developing online customer training courses face a significant challenge. Although the global e-learning market is expected to be a $325 billion industry by 2025 and grow at over a 7% rate each year, getting customers to complete the courses are a challenge. For MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses, over 90% of enrollees drop out within the first two weeks. The rates are lower from colleges and universities, but even then a completion rate of 50% is considered exceptional.
To achieve the benefits of providing online customer training, product buyers must complete the courses. It is in the best interest of both the company and the end user that this occurs, but it is difficult to achieve.
7 Ways to Incentivize Customers to Complete Online Training
On-demand support and help centers are accessed as needed, and their availability is just as important as their actual use. These tools are perfect for quick answers to simple questions. However, for organizations providing comprehensive courses on how to fully use a product, either free or for an additional cost, encouraging to complete the class is both necessary and challenging.
Course completion is entirely voluntary and, without good reasons to do so, most learners will not finish the class. There are seven ways to incentivize customers to complete the courses:
- Provide Significant Value. The learner is probably working at least part-time but most likely full-time, so you want to address topics quickly and cleanly, with little fluff. Title each segment clearly so that the viewer knows what information they will receive when accessing it. Sections should cover one topic or a few tightly related groups of topics in approximately 6 minutes. Extended sessions should be broken into smaller intervals to keep the course units short and tight. Don’t forget to make it engaging by giving tips and tricks to use the product better, using graphics, music, and more to retain the viewer’s attention.
- Use Quizzes and Surveys. Provide tangible evidence that the course is valuable by providing feedback regarding customer learning and retention. This evidence could be a drawback if a person scores poorly on a quiz. However, the system should encourage the learners to review the session again or request “on-demand” additional training demos or other information needed for clarification. For example, if a person missed a question a window could pop open, providing the correct answer and links to additional videos or support.
- Stay-In-Touch. You should be able to monitor the customer’s status in training and if they have not completed it or not logged into the system within a specific period, give them a gentle nudge via email. Agree that the course takes time, but remind them that it will save them even more in the long run as they gain competencies in this area. Don’t push too hard, or they will leave and never return.
- Document Progress. Give the customer a visual of how much they have achieved in the course and what is left to complete. Use a visual such as a thermometer, circle or box that fills as each segment of the course is completed. Many people appreciate this feedback, and it provides an incentive to finish the course. If customers have agreed to complete a course within a specific timeframe, you can also use a countdown clock, but be careful. Many users find that this “ticking clock” adds too much pressure, and they would rather avoid the course altogether than face the countdown.
Gamify Course Segments. If there are processes or aspects of the product that can be confusing to distinguish from others, gamify this discussion to make it fun to learn. You will not want to do this across all areas of the course, but pick one or two that can be easily gamified, give them points to earn, and let them engage with the course on a new level. Having completed one game and knowing that others are coming up will keep learners moving toward course completion.
Incorporate Live Interactions. Give learners access to weekly “help session” hours where they can meet virtually with a product expert. To avoid the drawback of having one customer monopolize the specialist’s time, structure the process appropriately. Create 10-minute discussion blocks that the learner must reserve in advance, and require that the learner identify which course segment be discussed. Allow one discussion session per segment. Offer additional direct-support sessions for an additional fee if needed. This process helps keep people on track by providing “someone to talk to” which is what they need, to get over a hurdle and on to the next segment.
Offer a Reward. Promise a meaningful incentive for the customer to complete the course, and the type/level of reward should reflect the length and depth of the class. Many companies offer a completion certification but unless this has some value to the learner, such as a small bonus from their employer for earning it, a certificate alone is not a real incentive. You can offer certificates to retail, food or beverage chains to those who complete the course but this can become expensive. In the alternative, the names of the people who complete the course will become eligible for drawing for a prize. The award activity may be done within one company or region, but people need to know that they genuinely have an opportunity to win, for this incentive to work.
Online customer training benefits both the user, their employer, and the company selling the product, so it is indeed a win-win-win situation. Unfortunately, the voluntary nature of the process results in poor results with regards to course completion. Use learner incentives to encourage completion and if that fails, go to company leaders and document how much more could be achieved with the product if all learners completed their training.