9 Customer Training Trends to Watch in 2022
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The past two years have been among the most technologically disruptive in recent memory. COVID-19 functionally removed the timeline for digital transformation and, almost overnight, distributed work became the new normal. Businesses were left with a simple choice — adapt to the new way of working or become obsolete.
There is little doubt that the effects of the pandemic’s disruption will be felt for years to come, and across all sectors. This is especially true of the training industry, which saw, among other things, exponential growth in the popularity of virtual training. The ongoing impact of these trends is perhaps most evident in how customer training software has evolved.
Yet, as we move into the new year, it’s important to remember that the pandemic’s aftershock is far from the only factor influencing customer training — revenue teams are beginning to realize just how impactful effective training solutions can be. With that in mind, here are the nine customer training trends that will define the upcoming year.
1. Customer Training Budgets Will Grow
For any company that sells software, customer training has always been crucial. Unfortunately, in years past, that fact didn’t exactly hit home with leadership. Historically, when a business aimed to cut costs, their training budget was often one of the first items on the chopping block.
This is self-sabotage in its purest form. Thanks, in part, to a shift in expectations created by the coronavirus, providing a positive customer experience is no longer simply a competitive differentiator. It is the bare minimum for businesses.
Customer training plays a pivotal role in that regard. Thankfully, evidence suggests that most appear to have realized this, as 96% of respondents to a recent CloudShare survey say that customer training is considered important in their company. Additionally, 82% intend to increase their customer training budget in 2022.
Ultimately, every other trend in the coming year ties back to this increase in budget. More money spent on customer training means better onboarding, more efficient use of professional services, and higher retention rates. More importantly, with the right customer training platform, it can lead to great innovation, born, in part, from deep insight into who is using a company’s software and how.
2. Engagement and Self-Direction Will Be Prioritized
In order to keep pace with customer expectations, businesses are doing more than simply investing more into their training budget. As you can see from the chart below, they’re directing a considerable portion of that investment into creating a more engaging training experience.
With virtual instructor led training (VILT), the goal is to make the training as realistic as possible. For instructors, this means direct-engagement tools such as over-the-shoulder view, in-platform video chat, and remote control. For students, it means providing them with a feature-rich personalized environment with which they can directly explore the features of your software.
Yet although VILT has many merits, self-paced, self-directed training is just as important for several reasons:
- Prospective customers are not always able to attend VILT due to scheduling conflicts.
- Larger software companies may have a customer base that spans multiple time zones, making it difficult (perhaps impossible) to schedule sessions that consistently work for everyone.
- Some people simply prefer the flexibility to learn their own way and at their own pace.
In our survey of training professionals, we found that over a quarter of training professionals rely on self-paced training 70-80% of the time. We predict that this figure will increase in 2022 as more businesses embrace virtual training solutions not just for training, but also for marketing outreach and demos. Few software companies will exclusively leverage one or the other.
Instead, customer training in 2022 will likely be a blend of scheduled live classes and on-demand, self-directed sessions.
3. The Rise of Dedicated Virtual Training Platforms
Whether self-paced, instructor-led, or a combination of both, interactivity plays a significant part in the effectiveness of customer training. As we’ve said before, hands-on software training will always outshine passive learning. Unfortunately, this is where many businesses have historically encountered trouble.
Building a hands-on training solution on a public cloud like Microsoft Azure or AWS is unsustainable untenable. Though powerful, public clouds simply aren’t a good fit for any brand of virtual training. Both before and during the pandemic, many businesses learned this fact the hard way — including several of our own clients.
They’ve since realized that although public cloud environments give you the house, only dedicated training platforms furnish that house. To put it another way, where AWS and Azure are generalized, virtual training software is purpose-built. Solutions like CloudShare are designed with remote training in mind, offering the necessary scale and feature-set to ensure a business’s customer training is as seamless as possible without putting an inordinate amount of strain on said business’s resources.
4. Hybrid Work, Hybrid Learning
In a November 2021 survey by Google, more than 75% of respondents expressed the belief that hybrid work will become the norm in their organization within the next three years.
This is hardly surprising. While many employees still greatly enjoy working from home, others can’t wait to return to the office. Wholesale abandonment of distributed work is not an option, but neither is indefinite telecommuting.
In other words, this will be the year that hybrid work takes center stage. Consequently, customer training software will increasingly operate in blended and hybrid learning environments. Businesses will continue to create impactful virtual experiences that engage prospective customers both online and in-person.
5. Deeper Analytics, Better Insights
Demonstrating a customer training program’s return on investment is the most important task facing any training department. Leadership needs to know that the business’s time, resources, and personnel are being put to good use. This typically requires the collection of an enormous volume of data, including:
- Customer demographics
- Usage details
- Usage trends
- Engagement/behavior patterns
- Success rate
Outside of a virtual environment, much of this information is either unavailable or extremely difficult to track. As a result, customer training teams had two choices. They could either take a surface-level approach and measure ROI in simplistic terms, or dedicate immense time and capital towards collecting more information.
In 2022, the proliferation of analytics and data science as a discipline coupled with the growing adoption of training software will vastly broaden the horizons of customer training analytics. For many businesses, this shift has already happened. And it goes well beyond a better ability to tie customer training to ROI.
Instead, the modern training solutions that will become the norm in the coming year will provide businesses with incredibly deep insights into every facet of their training, granting them a better understanding of their audience while also allowing them to identify potential opportunities and bottlenecks.
6. The Push to Mobile Continues
One might expect the pandemic to have slowed mobile adoption. Instead, smartphone usage continues to surge, driven by new trends such as contactless payments. But if mobile devices played a prominent role during COVID-19, their presence during recovery will be pivotal.
As more and more people abandon computers for phones, customer training will need to adapt in order to keep pace. By 2025, up to 72% of people will access the Internet exclusively via their smartphone. Of course, PCs will still remain relevant for business use cases — but companies are clearly facing an increased demand for mobile-friendly training experiences.
That doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore mobile users, however. Even now, mobile devices account for more than half of web traffic worldwide. If you haven’t already made your customer training mobile friendly, 2022 needs to be the year you do.
7. Businesses Embrace the Value of Microlearning
No matter what sector your business targets, your customers likely all share one common trait. They lack either the time or the energy to deal with long-winded seminars and hours-long training sessions. They want to know, as quickly as possible, what your software can do and how they can leverage it within their business.
Just as microlearning helps make workplace training more effective, it can be applied to customer training. Instead of having to spend several hours learning the ins and outs of your software, customers will have a collection of self-directed modules for them to reference whenever they have a question or encounter something unfamiliar. This not only makes for a less frustrating customer experience, but it also makes your training considerably more efficient.
More importantly, if your goal is to make your customer training more accessible, microlearning goes hand-in-hand with that.
8. Codeless Deployments Become the Norm
One of the greatest weaknesses of training environments crafted via a public cloud is that they typically create immense overhead. The day-to-day maintenance alone can distract IT professionals from other, more important issues. And when it comes time to create a training environment, there are usually only two choices.
- Pull from a list of premade, non-custom scenarios and environments.
- Task developers with creating a custom environment for every single prospect.
Neither is a particularly attractive option — which is likely why no-code deployments have taken off to such an extent. With a no-code training platform, your instructors can manage everything from spinning up custom environments to developing lesson plans, requiring no input from IT. As you might expect, this is a trend that goes far beyond customer training.
Codeless solutions represent the final stage of the democratization of IT. They are the natural endpoint of trends such as shadow IT and consumerization. They will therefore play a significant role not just for training departments, but for the enterprise as a whole.
9. Experiential and Immersive Learning Reach For New Heights
Virtual training labs were only the beginning. This year, training departments and sales teams will continue to explore new ways to create engagement and immersion. As a result, we expect that 2022 will inspire several innovations in the customer training sector.
Augmented/virtual reality is the first of these. Do note, however, that in spite of what proponents of the metaverse might insist, we are still a long way off from fully-immersive, interactive virtual environments. And although VR and AR have shown great promise in education as a whole, it doesn’t mean that they are in any way applicable to software training.
Even so, immersive technology continues to trend in the education sector. Training professionals are well aware of its potential, and greatly intrigued by how it might be applied. As a result, while we’re not likely to see classrooms rendered in full VR anytime soon, we do expect training organizations to make at least some modest inroads into AR this year.
And the results may well be applied to customer software training in an unexpected way.
A Larger Focus on Gamification
Gamification (bringing game-like aspects to a non-gaming environment) is far likelier to bear fruit for onboarding. Training professionals have known for years that it’s a powerful motivator for internal learners. Yet only rarely do we see it applied externally, to customer training.
As demand for more engagement and interactivity continues to surge in 2022, more training organizations will embrace gamified learning. By 2026, the global gamification market is expected to reach $38.42 million, up from $10.19 million in 2020. With that level of proliferation it’s only a matter of time before more customer training professionals begin to leverage it.
2022 might spell the beginnings of that.
AI & Automation Lead the Way
Last, but certainly not least, there’s artificial intelligence. Automation currently plays a significant role in customer training, alongside data science. AI and machine learning, however, have yet to see much use.
Yet the two technologies operating in tandem may be applied to customer training in some incredible ways. First, AI already helps personalize and curate content in marketing, a use case which could easily be extended to customer training to create a more cohesive customer journey. The application of AI through predictive analytics, meanwhile, could help businesses better-identify quit moments in their software and bottlenecks in their training.
The end result of these three technologies operating in tandem is deeper immersion — allowing customers to truly feel as though they’re part of the experience.
2022 Will Be a Great Year for Customer Training
Ultimately, 2022 will be the year that customer training professionals finally start to get their due. Expanded budgets will equip them with the capacity to more effectively prove out ROI, learn about their trainees, and drive conversions.
Armed with dedicated training solutions such as CloudShare, they’ll be able to provide better, more effective customer training experience than they ever could on a cobbled together public cloud platform.
What customer training trends do you think will dominate 2022 and beyond? Let us know on social media!
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