In 2006, Gartner EXP, the information technology research and advisory company, declared that enterprises must have an effective training strategy to facilitate a transition to their product, as well as to accelerate growth. In other words, it is vital to supply product training – great product training – to your end-users, your staff and your channel partners. In addition to everything else your company has to do just to move forward, there are so many reasons to object to adding training to the list:
1) We’re Not In the Business Of Training
Your company is in the business of creating innovative, cutting-edge technology; why should you be putting energy into something as mundane and unrelated as training and development for your customers and staff? Simple. If that amazing thing of beauty you’ve created is not clearly understood, your staff can’t sell it and your customers? Well, people who don’t buy something because they don’t ‘get it’ can’t really be called customers, can they?
For many companies, providing complete customer training, as well as their own employee training, is seen as a basic tenet of compliance with ISO 9001 and the principles of quality management.
2) Customer’s Not Happy Without Training? There’re Plenty of Fish in the Sea
While finding new customers is an integral part of doing business, customer retention is vital to any business success. Documented research has shown that the cost of acquiring new customers was five times the cost of servicing existing ones. The key to customer retention is customer satisfaction and an enormous part of customer satisfaction comes from having end-user training to ensure optimum use and benefit from the product they invested in, strengthening customer ties and accelerating product adoption.
3) Our Customers Are Technically Savvy – They Don’t Need Training
In 1999, Intraware Inc. (NASDAQ: INTR), the leading provider of Internet-based services to IT professionals, purchased a new sales force automation application for their company. The implementation of this software failed. One of the major reasons for the failure was the failure to provide end-user training.
“We trashed the whole thing and seriously thought about walking away at that point,” said Shaun Fenn, director of information systems sales for Intraware.
As a last ditch effort, Intraware decided to provide customized outsourced training for their end users. With the training for their staff, they turned failure into success; software worked well for the company.
While Intraware’s story is common, the positive outcome isn’t and underlines the need for technical training – even for the technically savvy.
4) But We Can’t Afford to Invest In Training
Companies that fail to invest in training for staff and end-users jeopardize their own success and even their own survival. Research published in the Harvard Business Review into the correlation between training investments and stock market performance showed that those firms that spend more on training most generally outperform other firms in subsequent years. For example, a series of portfolios of firms that made the largest per capita investments in training subsequently returned 16.3% per year, compared with 10.7% for the S&P 500 index.
5) We Made the Sale – The Client is Happy With Our Product
To sell your product or service, your sales and marketing targets the executive decision makers. You show them how your product meets their requirements and solves their problems and they decide to invest in what you offer. The decision makers are rarely the end user, the people tasked with using the product or service on the floor or in the field. In a way, your sale isn’t finished until you’ve sold those people also.
As veteran SAP Trainer, Shannon Hicks , stated, “If the project does not have end user “buy in” then it is doomed”. The fall-out is dissatisfied employees, decreased efficiency, an under-utilized, unproductive investment, the need for extensive support resources, less efficient business processes, and increased administrative expense…none of which produce happy clients.
6) We Supplied the Manuals – They Can Figure It Out
“When all else fails, read the manual”: it’s a common workplace joke – only funny because it’s so true. A 2001 IDC study found that without training, employees use an average of only 13 % of the features in their desktop software tools. That means the other 87 % of features the customer paid for are a wasted investment without training.
Analysis by the Gartner Group found, “twelve hours of formal training equates to 72 hours of self-paced training.” So the end-users, assuming they go to the trouble, will spend six times as long learning how to use new equipment or programs on their own as it would take to train them. Not the recipe for repeat business.
7) No Off-the-Shelf Training Fits Our Needs
Off-the-shelf training quite adequately covers business-based soft-skills where concepts are generalizable to a wide audience but for a unique product or service, you won’t find what you’re looking for. Neither will your clients. If you’re not training them, who is?
8) We Don’t Pay Our Technical Specialists to Sit Around Creating Training
No, and you shouldn’t. Every minute they are trying to do so, is time taken away from the key role you hired them to play in your company. And not having the background in training or education, how long might it take and for what results?
9) Generic Training Companies Don’t Have the Technical Background to Understand Our Products
True. While training companies are experts in instructional design, there may be a crucial gap in the ability to understand the technical concepts involved in your product and therefore to get it across; how can you convey concepts you don’t understand? But you need to make that knowledge transfer happen. A training design company with both a strong technical background as well as solid experience in training and training design is the answer. They can work with you to create effective, meaningful training for your staff, channel partners or your end-user that accurately reflects the knowledge necessary for your product or service.
10) 95% of Successful Tech Companies Provide Product Training For Their Staff and/or End Users – 95% of Unsuccessful Tech Companies Didn’t
Ok, that’s not a reason NOT to bother with training, but its worth mentioning, all the same.
© September L Smith, 2010
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Bassi, L. & McMurrer, D., (2007). Maximizing Your Return on People. Harvard Business Review.
Hepworth, L. Software Training Myths Rebutted, Brainstorm, Inc.,