Customer training traditionally is part of the education services wing of corporate environments. As such, training professionals who focus on external training audiences have often focused on revenue targets and had to defend their resources by demonstrating their success and profitability within the scope of their work. This profit is typically an extremely small fraction of corporate revenue.
According to Forrester, we’ve entered the “age of the customer.” Businesses are embracing customer success principles, and customers have more choices than ever when it comes to selecting products and services. This phenomenon, coupled with the rise of the subscription economy, puts product adoption and customer value at the forefront of corporate executive conversations, as revenue from existing customers outweighs new sales revenue. Moreover, poor onboarding and lack of product adoption is regularly cited as a primary reason for revenue loss and customer churn.
One of the largest and most obvious barriers to product adoption, and an essential part of any onboarding program, is establishing a customer’s ability to use the product and achieve the desired outputs. This focus puts training and education at the forefront of customer success and retention and gives training professionals an opportunity to impact the businesses they serve.
Since the primary objective of customer education is rapidly changing, so is the organizational structure of training teams. TSIA survey data has found that product adoption is the primary objective of education teams, with customer satisfaction being the second most cited objective. These objectives clearly align with those of customer success teams. As such, more and more customer training professionals are finding themselves reporting to customer success leaders rather than professional services. This shift has definitive pros and cons.
One advantage of reporting to customer success is that it alleviates some of the pressure to generate services revenue. On the other hand, in the absence of revenue, it’s imperative that training teams demonstrate the impact of their programs. Failure to provide concrete evidence of training benefits can hurt the team’s ability to expand its offerings, recruit budget, and establish itself as a cornerstone of customer satisfaction and value.
There are a few powerful, data-driven ways that customer education can demonstrate its impact on high-level business objectives. Included below are a few critical metrics and analyses that can help company leaders understand the impact of customer training.
1. Customer Satisfaction
When customer satisfaction is important to leaders, it makes sense to analyze the relationship between satisfaction and training. If the company collects data on net promoter score (NPS), use that data to see how NPS varies among trained customers and untrained customers.
2. Contract Retention and Expansion
What is the rate of customer retention among trained customers versus untrained customers? Do accounts with training activity spend more or less money with the company on an annual basis than the average untrained account? Demonstrating how expansion revenue correlates with customer education helps leadership appreciate the positive impact it has on customer health and long-term business growth.
3. Support Ticket Deflection
Customer support is an enormous cost for many businesses. The more support tickets customers submit, the more money a business is spending to support products that it has already collected revenue on. Additionally, when customers contact support, it means they are having difficulty and need assistance, which can negatively impact their satisfaction. Any sign that proactive customer training can reduce support tickets shows the impact of the program on the company’s bottom line. One common way to demonstrate this impact is by comparing the number of “how-to” support tickets among trained customers with those of untrained customers. “How-to” tickets request assistance with performing tasks, rather than reporting serious issues or product errors.
By performing these analyses, training professionals are effectively shifting the conversation from pure services revenue generation and positioning training as a more substantial part of overall corporate revenue. Regardless of whether a customer training team finds itself reporting to a services leader or a customer success leader, demonstrating the value of the work it is doing on a larger scale is a worthwhile exercise.