How To Practically Lower The Cost Of Customer Training

Despite its importance, however, training budgets (both internal and external) are often the first place executives look when trying to trim expenses. It's hard to blame them; the results of customer training can, at times, seem intangible and hard to measure. Especially since there's no way to ever eliminate the need for ongoing customer service and support, it can be difficult to see the value in expensive up-front training.

There's nothing wrong with trying to lower overall spending on training, or on any other aspect of business operations. Problems arise, however, when executives don't make informed decisions about how to lower costs opting to just hack off pieces of a training program (cutting existing sessions, decreasing staff, etc.) rather than revise and re-envision the entire end-to-end training process.

1. Remembering Both Types Of Costs

Any training program (internal, external, or enterprise) is comprised of both creation costs and ongoing maintenance costs. If an executive thinks his company's current program is too expensive, they are going to immediately focus on ongoing costs: staffing and salaries, travel (for onsite training), technology licensing fees, subscriptions, and all other resources.

If those expenses add up to a mammoth amount, the knee-jerk reaction of any exec is to just make spending in each category smaller. By doing so, he or she avoids incurring the other type of cost (creation costs) which he already laid out when launching the existing training program. The result of such across-board-cutting, however, is usually a scaled-down training program with a lot of holes in it.

The approach ultimately puts your customers at a disadvantage. The smart way to lower costs isn't to amputate pieces of your existing program without replacing them; it's to start back from scratch with a more manageable budget in mind.

2. Creating A Sustainable Program

Traditional training methods are expensive: onsite training sessions require travel and printed training materials; synchronous online training require add-on technology services, like WebEx, and suck up valuable time from your employees.

All of those factors add up to a high-cost training program with little scalability. (And if you boost your prices to make up for the costs, you're likely to lose new business.)

A modern online learning platform can enable you to lower costs without losing quality. Switching to a cloud-based system where you can build courses and integrate them with your product through single sign-on capabilities helps you make training content more accessible, engaging, and up-to-date.

While this may require an upfront investment, it will result in fewer ongoing costs in the long run, due to lower licensing fees than traditional Learning Management Systems and less emphasis on onsite and synchronous training. The key is to set a realistic budget from the start and work with a technology provider who can help you craft a program to meet your needs.

When your customers can access your learning content on-demand, on their own schedules, they're also more likely to consume your content and move through it at the pace that feels right for them (rather than the pace your company feels is right for whole groups at a time). Ultimately, customers enhanced comfort level with your product can lower customer service costs in the long run.

Best of all, today's top e-learning systems come complete with reporting tools to help you measure customer usage, progress, and engagement with training content, so you can more easily track the value of your training efforts, rather than just focus on expenses. So instead of making cuts from your current approach, click here to learn about leveraging the benefits of a lower-cost, higher-value customer training program.

Why Revenue-Centric Companies Invest In Customer Training

Coined by the Chrysler Corporation to help establish relationships between members of the supply chain, the term 'extended enterprise' [1] has since been used in various industries and sectors. Over the years, the term has matured to encompass relationships that companies develop beyond the enterprise, involving both customers and channel partners.

Partners and customers are crucial to a company's success, so educating the extended enterprise proves to be productive and profitable for businesses that want to scale up. The revenue driven by extending training efforts beyond employees is a product of increased awareness and refined knowledge of an organization’s products, services, and brand.

What Are The Benefits Of Training The Extended Enterprise?

According to a study directed by University of Alabama professor Alexander E. Ellinger, supply management firms—or those that adopted the extended enterprise concept—consistently outperformed firms that did not.

But even as the extended enterprise concept makes its way into online training, a user study performed by Elearning! Magazine [2] found that only 53% of corporations use their Learning Management System (LMS) to reach channel partners and customers. This means there is still room for the corporate LMS market to expand into the extended enterprise learning space.

As companies embrace creative solutions to drive revenue, this is an opportune time to recognize the potential benefits of the extended enterprise in the online training space. Extending learning efforts beyond employees means helping channel partners and customers gain a better understanding of your product through certifications and compliance training.

Doing so can result in increased profits and lower support costs through more effective partnerships, and even helps companies attract customers that become brand evangelists with greater lifetime values.

What Kind Of Company Benefits From Extended Enterprise Learning?

Though the idea of growing your company's training efforts beyond internal training to increase revenue may seem far-fetched, it's actually applicable to a wide range of businesses.

Here are 3 key ingredients you can use to discern whether you're ready to train your extended enterprise:

  1. Expertise.
    A company's success can be attributed to its knowledge in the field, which is the first step to penetrating the extended enterprise space in online learning. There are many organizations that fall under this umbrella of experts in the field. Examples of non-employee learning types are identified by Talented Learning's [3] John Leh as commercial organizations interested in training customers or promoting eCommerce learning, as well as non-profit associations, public sector organizations, and academic institutions.
  2. Content.
    Training, especially eLearning-based training, requires quality content. As a thought leader in your field, you and your employees can serve as subject matter experts for content creation. For instance, you may already have excellent internal training content you can adapt to train channel partners or customers. Furthermore, you can even hire an instructional designer to help optimize these eLearning experiences.
  3. Customers and/or channel partners.
    Like expertise and content, customers and channel partners are extensions of thriving companies. Extending training to customers and channel partners offers an opportunity for branding, knowledge sharing, and collaboration. From a high-level perspective, expertise, customers, and channel partners are attributes that prosperous organizations share, which extended enterprise learning takes to the next level. To speed that process up, organizations should carefully choose the right learning platform to fit their business's training goals.

4. Choosing The Right Learning Platform

Armed with content, customers, and channel partners that are hungry for learning and have a desire to be more successful, the next step is selecting the ideal learning platform to design and build extended enterprise learning.

To do so, remember that extended training is often regulatory in nature. This supplemental underpinning means that enticing learners to take your training course must go beyond the confines of plain text content and PDFs. Make sure you choose a learning platform that enhances the learner's experience by underscoring usability on both the user and the learner's end.

Next, while you're likely creating exceptional content, you need a platform's help to make it more interactive. A meaningful learning experience requires self-paced learning options, coupled with a course builder that supports multimedia content, assessments, and other engagement tools.

This way, you can begin quantifying increases in customer satisfaction by helping your customers use your product/service, and you'll see a high return on investment across your channel partner relationships.

Get the eLearning Industry Complete LMS Buying Guide For SMBs.

Footnotes:

  1. Wikipedia: Extended enterprise
  2. Elearning! Magazine
  3. Talented Learning
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