Even though SaaS company leaders commonly believe that well-trained customers would have high adoption rates, achieve better outcomes, and renew at higher rates, many of these same companies do not offer customer training during the on-boarding process. How can this be? If it is so obvious that training will help customers use software better, why wouldn't training be as important a part of the customer success process as services and support?
After all, software education thought leaders tell us how important training is. Robert Castaneda, CEO and Founder of ServiceRocket (a Pulse 2015 sponsor) often says, "Training is support before you need it." Senior vice president of Salesforce University, Wayne McCulloch, talks about how training is critical, "Education has never played a more important part in customer success than in a cloud-based organization."
In contrast to this expert advice and our own beliefs about training, too many companies do not make customer training a priority.
Developing and delivering training is hard, and it is easy to accept that training is not worth the effort. To the customer's detriment to be sure. The problem is a lack of focus on training analytics that shows evidence the investment made in training will result in outcomes that make training worth the effort. If only training professionals had a clear list of metrics that can be used to evaluate training programs.
It turns out, they do.
The 5 Key Metrics that Link Training to Customer Success
In fact, there are five key metrics that training leaders can use to measure the success of training programs. These measurements were introduced by Donald Kirkpatrick and further developed by Jack Phillips and should be used to in combination with each other to produce the data and insights necessary to evaluate training.
Here are those metrics:
1. Learner Satisfaction
If you have taken a training class, you have completed (or at least seen) the survey that was passed out at the end of the class asking for your evaluation of the training. On that survey were questions about the instructor, the content, the training space, and the overall effectiveness of the training. This is a trainer's way of understanding satisfaction. The assumption is that if learners are satisfied with the training, the training was effective.
2. Knowledge Acquisition
The next metric used to evaluate training is test scores. Trainers want to know whether students can demonstrate that they learned the material. The most common way to do this is through a test of some kind. There are many types of tests from simple multiple choice tests to performance-based evaluations. The metrics here can be the absolute score on a knowledge test or aggregate pass rates.
3. Behavior Change
Another important metric is to measure whether students can demonstrate the actions or behaviors learned in a course. For software trainers, this would be defined as product feature use. In other words, if a training course covers a specific feature in your product, do student use that feature at an acceptable rate after the training? At this level of measurement, you can begin to see the direct impact of training.
4. Results (Yes, Customer Success)
When results can be measured, trainers begin to collect insight into what customer success is all about. After all, customers do not buy your product for fun. They buy it because your product promises some result that is important to your customers' business. Results could include increased sales, reduced costs, improved productivity, or higher quality (which could be measured by error or rework rates). These are the results metrics your customer cares about most and the measurements they will use to define customer success. Trainers therefore should answer the question, "Do customers who take training see improvement in results?"
5. Return on Investment (ROI)
The final level of metric that trainers can use to evaluate training is ROI. If customers have positive results, financial improvements can be identified. When that occurs, it is easy to compare the financial results with the investment made in the product.
Evidence Says Training Works
If these are the metrics that SaaS companies should use to evaluate training, the next question is "Does it work?" McCulloch says it does. Salesforce.com data scientists have conducted numerous studies and have empirical data that shows customers who complete Salesforce University courses "unlock much greater value out of their investment in Salesforce and adopt the platform more." More specifically, in a recent analysis, McCulloch says that customers who send students to Salesforce University, see "increased productivity and service levels."
Not only do industry thought leaders like Wayne McCulloch share with us the evidence that training improves customer success, but training professionals have the metrics available and can produce the data necessary to link training to customer success.
Call for Comments
- What analytics do you use to evaluate your customer training programs?
- How do you know if your training is effective?
- What stories do you have of customers expressing improvements as a results of training they took from you?