Customers come and go. It’s a painful reality in any business but especially in software as a service (SaaS) companies.

If you’re in the business of selling software on a subscription basis, you celebrate retention and suffer the sorrows of its opposite: churn. Churn is the percentage at which SaaS customers cancel their recurring subscriptions in a given time frame. Because it weighs so heavily into profitability losses (“Churn burns,” we say), it’s a dominant SaaS metric.

Here’s a simple run-down demonstrating how customer churn can result in millions of dollars slipping away:

Customer churn scenarios

What Causes Churn?

A blog post from software company Groove lists four retention killers: “bad customer service,” “bad onboarding,” a “lack of ongoing customer success” and “natural causes.”

Let’s set aside natural causes, recognize bad customer service is a recipe for disaster in any field, and focus on onboarding and ongoing customer success. The author of the Groove article points out that two of the most important milestones in the customer lifecycle are “the moment they sign up for your product” and “the moment they achieve their first ‘success’ with your product.”

A heavy dose of your churn is bound to take place between these two moments. It makes sense; the people who resell musical instruments on eBay are likely to be the ones who never learned how to play them, right?

One challenge is to shorten the gap between those moments, which is where effective onboarding comes in. However, while successfully onboarding your SaaS subscribers is important, anything that threatens continued customer success is sure to result in churn.

Customer Training Is at the Center of Onboarding and Ongoing Success

The importance of delivering thorough training during customer onboarding cannot be overstated. Master it, and new customers are much more likely to become reliant on your services and stick around.

To increase the quality of your onboarding, examine what a successful new customer path looks like. In some instances, it might be best to address the onboarding process using video conferences, tutorials and even “canned” training sessions.

However, if your software is a complex platform best learned in a hands-on environment, you’ll want to consider putting a virtual instructor-led training (VILT) solution in place. A VILT may be the best way to onboard multiple users at once, especially if they’re spread out across locations.

Of course, the key to achieving the long-term retention and, therefore, helping to grow your business at a faster rate also depends on ongoing customer success. Your focus on customer success should help cultivate enthusiastic clients who continue to renew their subscriptions, possibly buy more over time and refer new customers. Again, training programs, potentially offered in a variety of formats to meet the needs of different types of customers and learning preferences, can be critical to your success.

Live Training Offers Advantages

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn” (unknown; attributed to Benjamin Franklin).

VILT, delivered live, is a proven approach to decreasing churn. Live virtual training can be especially useful with complex solutions such as enterprise software. The effective transfer of information is enhanced when instructors and learners are able to interact. Live training also enables the customers to learn from each other and ensures that they are using the current version of the software.

Another undeniable benefit of conducting customer software training live, with a cloud-based solution, is that it can replicate a real-world application of the software. Instructors do not need to present customers with hypothetical lessons or even their best guess at relevant scenarios. Instead, they can offer actual instances of the software, in the environment it’s used and how it’s used. These demonstrations translate to hands-on experiences that sink in faster with learners and make for far more effective learning.

Training Scratches Everyone’s Back

Any software company aiming to reduce churn needs to stare down the issues that threaten customer retention and take a proactive stance to overcoming them. While customer training looms large for both successful onboarding and ongoing customer satisfaction, there are many other tactics to consider.

I’d like to close by citing a post by Elucidat CEO Steve Penfold, who offers a tidy list of reasons customer training is important:

  • Customers learn how to use the product. The opposite, of course, is they don’t. Customers who struggle with your product are bound to bail on your company.
  • Customers gather added value insights. More value leads to greater satisfaction, which leads to greater longevity.
  • Delighted customers become advocates. We hit on this point earlier, but it’s worth repeating.
  • You gather valuable feedback. In VILT environments, you’re going to learn more about how your customers use your products and services – which is the key to keeping them satisfied.