Before the pandemic, if you bought a new iPhone from Apple, you could learn all about its newest features in a free class at the Apple Store. Since April, however, the in-store classes have been limited at Apple Stores. Instead the training has gone online.
Apple isn’t the only company that’s changed its customer training. Sephora in-store make-up classes are now paid virtual sessions. Home Depot’s Homeowner 101 workshops are livestreams. Williams-Sonoma’s cooking classes and events are virtual now, and Michael’s crafting classes are all conducted via Zoom.
The pandemic has changed the way we connect with each other, and that extends to your customers as well. Even if your business isn’t a retailer, like the businesses mentioned above, chances are, the pandemic and its restrictions has changed your relationship with your customers, clients, and prospects.
Fortunately, extended enterprise training is a safe way to engage your current customers and reach out to new ones — even during a pandemic.
Why train your customers?
Customer training — or extended enterprise training — is always a good idea, even when there’s not a pandemic. According to research from the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), customers who’ve been trained will use your product more often, use more product features, and will use your product more independently. They’re also 92% more likely to return as paying customers.
The pandemic has added another set of reasons to provide training for your extended enterprise. Customer training expert John Leh of Talented Learning writes that he’s watched a shift in training as he’s taught his monthly webinars — businesses that only provided training to employees are now quickly shifting to external training for the extended enterprise: customers, partners and other third parties. Why? Because, he writes, they can’t afford not to train the extended enterprise.
Many recognize that their industry will never return to business as usual, so moving forward is the only viable alternative if they want to stay competitive.”
How can extended enterprise training help you connect with customers during a socially distant time?
Many businesses have changed their business model to stay competitive during the pandemic. This has brought plenty of new challenges within, from having to inform customers about changes to offerings to not being able to see new and existing customers in person.
Extended enterprise training is a way to reach out remotely. Here are some ways training your customers can help your business during the pandemic.
- Reach a wider audience. During the pandemic, your organization may have had trouble attracting new clients. Expanding your existing customer training so that it’s open to prospects as well as current customers is a way to reach beyond your current customer base. This can mean offering training to expand your product’s reach to a wider audience by offering some free courses to people who might be interested in using your product. Moz did this at the start of the pandemic, making its SEO training free to anyone for a few months while many people acclimated to working from home.
- Get information to your customers quickly and safely. When a new product comes out, or your current product is updated, how do you make sure your customers know how to use it? Real estate technology company booj, for example, uses training to educate customers about new releases. Your customers are more likely to understand the information in a course than they are to understand the same information as release notes or an email.
- Reduce service calls. The more your customers know, the less help they will need, both from your customer service reps (who might be a bit overwhelmed at the end of the year) and from field technicians. In the pandemic, it’s important to reduce contact wherever you can, and having more educated customers will mean they’ll be able to solve more of their challenges without in-person help from your employees, keeping both your workers and your clients safe and healthy.
- Help them become experts. If your certification courses aren’t online yet, this has certainly been the year to bring them online. Leh writes that he saw a huge uptick in the number of companies that need help putting their extended enterprise training online quickly in 2020. According to McKinsey, digital business leaped ahead 10 years in the first 90 days of the pandemic alone. Since then, those who’ve migrated to digital technologies and platforms have outperformed their competitors and peers.
- Improve your understanding of customer needs. Despite its obvious business benefits, training for the extended enterprise is really a way to connect with your customers. That means keeping your finger on the pulse of their changing needs, especially since customers’ needs have changed so much in the last year. By paying attention to customer feedback and quickly developing relevant content, your training can function as a conversation between you and your consumers, which is so important at a time when safety means we can’t have conversations in person.