Customer training for equipment and technology purchases has been a necessary requirement since the dawn of the industrial age. When ERP platforms arrived in the 1960s, teaching people how to use and maintain them was a significant portion of the expense. Manufacturing equipment, construction, and logistics industries; each has a need for intensive customer training.
Training for customers has moved online and shows no signs of slowing down. Just today we received information from one of our analytics vendors offering training in software that didn’t exist two years ago.
Construction equipment manufacturers from reciprocal saw makers to earth-moving equipment manufacturers provide training to customers on the safe and efficient use of their products.
It is easy to see it makes sense. If customers don’t know how to use your product, they won’t buy it. If you don’t train them on how to use it safely, you expose your company to fines and litigation.
Multi-Channel Customer Learning
Product training once happened in classrooms, on the job site, or in pamphlets. Today, it is online classes, video, and e-learning. The technology that enabled the shift in learning online has driven another phenomenon, the rise in consumer training.
The crafts industry is enjoying a resurgence driven by online learning. Sector leaders Jo-Ann, Michael’s, and Hobby Lobby each have a significant online learning presence and supplement it with group instruction in their stores. Jo-Ann offers “inspiration,” classes, and “Handmade with JOANN,” a collection of videos, local class schedules, handbooks, and guides. Hobby Lobby invites you to DIY Projects and Ideas, and Michael’s offers projects and ideas plus classes and events.
The crafts industry is one where consumer learning drives demand. The same happens in the homeowner DIY industry and in fly-fishing.
Benefits of Customer Learning
There are other benefits to customer learning that may not connect directly to sales, but they are measurable. Most of these ideas you can measure with your feedback programs and sales data.
People who know products and services well make better buying decisions and are more satisfied with their purchases. The right knowledge at the right time can shorten the sales cycle by moving the customer quickly through the consideration stage before they engage the sales team.
Reduced Support Costs
You won’t eliminate support calls, but giving customers the knowledge they need to get started with complex products and services will reduce calls. Not only do you save on support costs, but the higher satisfaction will drive revenue. You can use the support calls to identify shortcomings in training design or ease of use.
In industries where training has a tangible benefit for the learner, it often makes sense to charge a fee. Technology companies that offer training to their channel partners create a workforce with transferable skills. The professionals who earn certifications in those programs expect to pay for them because they assure their future employability. When those companies also sell their training to the public, they create a talent pipeline and goodwill in the community.
The potential to sell training exists in situations where the learning results in marketable skills and unique credentials.
You can use online social media communities to enhance the customer dialog in ways that will make your company more responsive and agile.
- By providing learning online and encouraging discussions, you can leverage the power of peer learning.
- Posting questions online about what could be improved can elicit feedback and show that your customers come first.
- Crowdsourcing ideas can be a source of innovation. Take that one step further with idea generation contests with tangible rewards.
- Responsive activity in the community will create advocates who will help you grow your brand.
- Discussions can alert you to problems before they become news.
Measure the Results
These benefits are not limited to the consumer market. Your B2B customers may be even more responsive to these initiatives, especially for complex products.
You need not jump in all the way at once. Take a small idea and test it. See what impact learning has on sales, satisfaction, and customer retention. Evaluate the return on your learning investment. You will find the benefits can far outweigh the costs.
Pixentia is a full-service technology company dedicated to helping clients solve business problems, improve the capability of their people, and achieve better results.