When we think of learning and development (L&D), we usually think of our internal, employee-facing initiatives. But L&D is about so much more than internal training. In fact, L&D leaders often find themselves involved in external customer and partner training (sometimes known as extended enterprise training), alongside the sales team, customer success team, marketing team and more.

While L&D professionals are pretty good at measuring employee training, that doesn’t always translate neatly to measuring the impact of customer and partner training, or even knowing where to start. It doesn’t help that the majority of learning technology is aimed at employee training, so not all teams will be equipped to easily deliver and measure extended enterprise training.

So, if you’re an L&D professional who has found themselves responsible for measuring the impact of external training, where do you start?

The Problem with Measuring Training

Some learning measurement challenges are universal, spanning both internal and external training programs. For instance, the L&D function has typically been skeptical of Kirkpatrick Levels 3 and 4. Instead of focusing on the behavioral and business impact of training, most focus on measuring the number of people trained, satisfaction levels and completion rates.

While measuring the impact of employee training is useful, it’s absolutely vital for training external audiences. Great customer and partner training leads to increased customer retention, so effective measurement of your training impact, revenue and satisfaction rates could spell the difference between success and failure.

The Difference Between Measuring Employee Training and Customer Training

Employee training is generally about behavior change, skills improvement and the application of new behaviors and skills in the workplace, creating a measurable business impact. Any bottom-line measures tend to be around cost savings and productivity, but many L&D teams find these difficult metrics to measure, as they often don’t have access to the relevant data and have a hard time establishing a solid connection between the two.

In contrast, customer and partner training requires the measurement of revenue and retention rates, along with a solid understanding of bottom-line and top-line impact. These are powerful metrics which are not generally available to the L&D team or are usually a few steps removed at best. As L&D teams usually focus on employee training, they may have little or no experience with measuring and interpreting this data, making it tricky to fully understand what’s working, what isn’t and the overall success of the program.

How L&D Teams Can Measure the Impact of their Customer Training Programs

Measuring the impact of customer training programs, while different to measuring employee training, isn’t as daunting as it may initially appear. Some of the metrics to measure include:

  • Comparing churned, renewed and expanded customers: Customer and partner training is usually focused on upskilling users to help them make better use of your products, which ideally can lead to higher retention rates. If your L&D team notices that customers who train more have an increase in renewals and expansions and a decrease in customer and partner churn, it’s a sign that your program is making a real impact.
  • NPS and transactional NPS: L&D professionals tend to be familiar with net promoter score (NPS) surveys, but they may not necessarily use transactional NPS surveys. These gather data at the point of a specific transaction, such as after the completion of a course, or once a user has earned a certificate. Transactional NPS helps L&D professionals pinpoint the impact of specific points in the learner journey (and can be applied to employee training programs for more useful data).
  • Customer reviews and satisfaction ratings: Users of extended enterprise training programs may leave feedback on review sites. There is a wealth of data to be gained from regularly checking for reviews, using both qualitative and quantitative data to identify areas for improvement.
  • Sales data: L&D may rarely work with the sales team but understanding the sales data for your customer and partner training (including cross-selling and upselling for accounts engaged in training) will help you understand the impact of your program.
  • Customer retention: Reducing churn is one of the main reasons for most customer and partner training programs, so monitoring customer retention is one way to measure the success of your initiative. This will include both renewals and contract length — for instance, do customers and partners engaging with your training sign longer contracts than those who don’t?

Making the Most of Your Customer Education Metrics

L&D teams understand the importance of connecting their learning management system (LMS) to other systems such as a human resources information system (HRIS) or learning experience platform (LXP) for employee training. The same premise applies to customer training — it’s vital to connect your LMS to other data sources, such as your customer relationship management (CRM) platform to know which customers are churning, which customer sales are up or down, which customers need more or less help and whether help desk calls are up or down. All of this can be impacted by your customer and partner training and ensuring your LMS integrates with these other systems can save you a lot of manual cross-referencing work.

The Bottom Line

L&D professionals may not be specialists in customer training, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do it — and do it well. Having the skills to measure the impact of customer training adds another string to your training bow and ensures that the L&D team becomes a vital source of information for multiple parts of the business. The better you understand your entire training offerings, for all internal and external audiences, the more effective you will be as an L&D expert.