The average number of software as a service (SaaS) applications a company uses climbed to more than 100 in 2021, according to Statista. What’s more, many of these purchases are coming directly from the departments that use the software, rather than information technology (IT), indicating that the growth is not likely to subside. With the proliferation of software comes the need to educate users on its features and enable them to get the most from it, also known as product training.

At the same time, product makers have a vested interest in driving product training among their customers to increase adoption and satisfaction, a win-win for both customers and vendors.

Product training offers many benefits to all companies, including a way to distinguish their product in the marketplace and ensure customers adopt their service or product successfully, particularly for new entrants. This means the field for existing products will become even more competitive, and companies that don’t engage their users in product training are likely to be left behind.

Further, users have come to expect product training when their company purchases a new software tool, so vendors have leverage when they offer product training as part of their competitive differentiation. Providing this type of enablement for their customers has been proven to increase retention and engagement, among other incentives. There are many ways to offer this, but by far, one of the most effective is by using a learning management system (LMS) that their customers can easily access to gain product knowledge.

The Benefits of Product Training

Product training presents numerous benefits to companies that offer it to their customers beyond claiming a competitive advantage, including:

Improved onboarding experience.

Just as employees are onboarded when they start a new job, new customers need to onboard with the products they purchase, so they can learn to access and leverage its key features. The Manifest reports that “a customer onboarding strategy is important for any business seeking to maintain satisfied customers and generate long-term value.” A survey they conducted found that 46% of users would be more likely to increase their investments in products or services after successful onboarding experiences.

Faster time to adoption.

Users that engage in some type of training on a new software product before diving in are more likely to adopt that product faster. Trial and error, which can lead to a poor user experience and lack of engagement, is reduced. In addition, training can be broken down by user type, offering users the specific information they need to see results from the software as soon as possible.

More engaged and stickier customers.

Not only do users that participate in some form of product training adopt more quickly, but they also tend to stay more engaged with new tools and solutions. The more a customer understands and trusts your product, the more likely they will be to engage with it more, and eventually purchase more from you or renew their contract. You worked hard to earn your customers, the last thing you want is for them to churn. Customers who understand how to get value from the products they own are more engaged and are less likely to churn.

Growth of product/brand advocates.

It’s been my experience working in the customer education industry that trained customers are your best customers. It’s a way to meet customers where they are, so they can realize value, and in turn, want to tell others about the solutions that make their jobs easier. Carla Bagdonas, the customer education program lead at Asana Academy (a Skilljar customer) firmly believes that, “Trained customers cultivate deep mastery of our product and become advocates and champions for Asana. In fact, one of the primary referral sources to our Asana ambassador program is our learning platform, Asana Academy.”

How an LMS Simplifies Product Training

Many software companies start training new customers using their customer success managers (CSMs) to walk users through the product, one on one, through regular calls. Then, they may work up to organized webinars where they can train several customers at one time. However, as they grow, they inevitably find that these measures are not scalable and they need a formal training program that can offer self-service options in an automated, standardized way.

That’s when many of them turn to an LMS, usually with an emphasis on eLearning. There are several benefits to using an LMS, including:

A One-stop-shop for all your training needs.

As companies grow, training can become dispersed among different people and departments within the organization. This results in a lack of standardization and makes it difficult to keep training content updated across functions. An LMS keeps everything streamlined across all administrators, with a centralized location to house content, creating a “one-stop-shop” for all training needs.

Integrate with existing tools.

One of the greatest advantages of using an LMS to simplify product training is its ability to integrate with many of the most popular software tools used today. This is important because companies need to keep track of internal workflows, data, and processes in conjunction with the training experience.

A Seamless experience through SSO.

Another reason LMSs have become so popular is that they usually offer a single sign-on experience (SSO), which makes access to a training platform seamless through a company’s website. This saves learners the trouble of creating a new account and remembering another password. Removing barriers to entry for customer education can help to increase training adoption, as learners are more likely to actually start and continue to engage with the training material if the experience is hassle-free.

Different pathways for different user types.

An LMS can store all of the content and serve up whatever is relevant to each user based on their role or the use case they’re interested in. Companies that use an LMS usually start with a few different learning pathways to accommodate different use cases. Later, they can easily grow their offerings as their training platform expands to meet future needs.

Metrics that connect training with product usage.

 To reap the benefits of product training — such as product adoption, engagement, and retention — you need a system to tie user behavior back to product training. Using integrations with popular data warehouses, these metrics can be tracked over time with an LMS. Thus, learning professionals can demonstrate the value of product training for positively influencing business outcomes with data, as well as justify the cost of an LMS.

What to Look for in an LMS

Not all LMSs are the same. Many are built for the needs of human resources (HR) departments and therefore focus on employee training. They also offer different features, so it’s important to understand what to look for in an LMS to deliver effective product training.

Here are a few things to consider:

Built for external training.

An LMS built for internal training may be effective for security or compliance training, skill-based training for job functions, or as mentioned previously employee onboarding. An LMS built specifically for external training is likely to have many features built-in that lead to an improved onboarding experience, and faster product adoption, engagement, and retention. External LMSs also help to scale the customer success team without adding headcount, and decrease support tickets, as common call center inquiries can be automated through the training platform.

Make it customizable.

The more customizable an LMS is, the more it can meet your unique needs and use cases. Customization is something that’s discussed upfront in the process of choosing a vendor so they can build the LMS to your exact specifications. That’s why it’s important to understand your training needs from the outset. Further, customization can enable you to match the look and feel of your LMS to the rest of your site, helping to create a seamless experience for users.

Look for integrations.

As previously discussed, integrations are key to getting the most from an LMS. In addition to popular customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, other common integrations that enable an LMS to work with your existing systems include:

  • Marketing automation.
  • Content management systems (CMSs).
  • eCommerce and payment gateways.
  • Customer experience solutions.

Make sure it supports a variety of content formats.

Not everyone likes to learn in the same way. That’s why an LMS that offers a variety of content formats such as courses, lessons, video, audio, webinars, virtual instructor-led training (VILT) programs, and more, is likely to be more engaging to your users.

Strong self-service features to help users find the content they’re looking for. 

Self-service options are a strong benefit of LMSs because they enable users to learn on their own terms. This means you need a system that doesn’t overwhelm users with choice but rather a robust set of functionalities, filters, and tags that can help them easily find the content they’re looking for.

Certifications

A more sophisticated component of LMSs is the ability to offer certifications for product training. This is especially useful for companies that produce software that is used by other companies.

Many companies have simplified and streamlined their training experiences using an LMS and found that trained customers are their best customers.

Often, companies find that the cost to set up and implement an LMS is more than offset by having an effective product training strategy that leads to positive business outcomes.

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