How to Create “Customer Stickiness” Through Customer Training

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The New Year is officially in full swing and the race for revenue is on. At the top of 2015 agendas is customer service as a key gateway to keeping customers for the long haul. Forbes asserts that in 2015, “Not only will leadership make service a priority but increasingly we will see customer service backed with dollars, technologies and people resources.” The piece points to the growing crop of Chief Customer Officers to show just one way companies are taking action.

Companies aren’t stopping there, however. In the past several years, numerous top-performing companies, including the likes of Apple, have committed to customer training. In fact, recent research from Brandon Hall tells us that more than half (54%) of organizations are doing some sort of training for customers or even business partners. Are you – or your competitors – in on this key customer retention and development tactic?

Customer Retention And Fidelization Programs Making Empty Carts

The truth is, without effective customer training, your users may never unlock your solution’s full value for their specific situation. And that puts them and their revenue at risk. The overwhelming majority (93%) of companies responding to a Training Industry survey reported that they saw increased customer satisfaction — and 88% reported increased customer retention – as a result of customer training.

Based on the experiences of hundreds of Mindflash customers who use our platform for online customer training, here are a few best practices to get you going:

  1. Talk to your customers!What do they want to better understand about your product/service? Only with a good understanding your audience can you create compelling training content for them.
  1. Test the content ahead of time.First, send it to a beta group of subject matter experts and engaged customers. Then, improve it based on their initial comments before launching it publicly.
  1. Plan and resource for later updates. In rapidly changing markets, training content can get outdated quickly. Investment here will ensure that your courses remain valuable and impactful to your customers.
  1. Try carrots. Try sticks.Offer formal certifications, continuing professional education credits, etc. to customers completing your training. In some cases, you can require that customers pass training courses before gaining access to your phone support, or to advanced features.
  1. Tie training outcomes to bottom-line business results. Meaning, don’t report the total number of training hours completed to your CEO. She doesn’t care. What will get her attention (and potentially more resources for next year’s training program) are hard stats on customer satisfaction, retention and expansion rates, and support costs among trained vs. non-trained customers.

This process was successfully implemented at California-based Bluebeam Software, which develops solutions for paperless workflows. The company has long acknowledged the power of showing, and not simply telling, what its platform can do. The challenge was that live trainings and hour-long webinars were becoming increasingly difficult to schedule among Bluebeam’s own customers – their resellers. Salespeople often couldn’t find time to travel; the hour-long training call requests were challenging to schedule; and the team was having difficulty finding the meeting space to accommodate trainings in a timely fashion.

So in 2012, the company used eLearning software to deploy an online training system designed to help its resellers become influential and knowledgeable product experts. Adopting the eLearning software brought needed flexibility to the company’s existing training program. On average, companies with reps who completed this training have doubled their annual revenue for Bluebeam’s solutions. Resellers that have gone through to complete the company’s most advanced and specific training have experienced a 400% increase in product sales over the previous year.

Perhaps the greatest value is the “stickiness” that comes from this level of engagement, which translates into hard-dollar metrics such as engagement, retention and revenue — making customer training an important, available and, frankly, affordable strategy to gain some competitive advantage.

Looking for Training software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Training software solutions.

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About the Author

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Donna Wells

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Donna Wells is the CEO of Mindflash.com, a leading online training platform. She was previously CMO of Mint.com, the online personal finance service, where she was responsible for driving the company's growth to 2 million users from its launch in 2007 to its acquisition by Intuit in 2009 for $170 million. Donna has also led large marketing organizations for industry leaders including Intuit, Charles Schwab, and Expedia, where she was SVP of Marketing for the U.S. She started her career at American Express, where she launched the Gold Rewards and Platinum Corporate Card products for small businesses. Donna's work has won multiple Webbys, an OMMA award, and has been cited in Newsweek, Brandweek, and Web Marketing for Dummies. She was named one of the Top 25 Women in Tech to Watch by Accenture in 2009. For more insight from Donna, the Mindflash team, and the online training community, read more at The Daily Mindflash blog.

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