Throughout my years as an instructional designer developing product training for software companies, I have seen both good and bad reasons for product training. It is often the case that the need for training is not clearly understood, but the desire to have something developed is. Here are my thoughts as to when you should and shouldn’t develop product training.
Bad reason number 1: Inadequate product documentation
When the product documentation is not adequate, often there is a higher demand from customers for product training. Customers need to be trained on how to use the product because the documentation does not tell them what they need to know when they need to know it. Creating an excellent training program will not solve your customer’s problems. A good training program will cause the lack of quality documentation to be emphasized, and will create less satisfied customers. The better solution to your program is to create better documentation. That is, documentation that meets customer requirements. Good documentation tells the customer more than how to do something, it tells the customer when and why to do it as well.
Bad reason number 2: The product is too complicated
If customers need training in order to understand how to use the product, you need to ask yourself if the product is too complicated. That is, is the interface not intuitive and user friendly? Again, developing training for a product that has a poor user interface is a bad investment. Your customers will be much happier if you spent the time and money on improving the interface design rather than creating fancy training packages to compensate for poor design.
Good reason number 1: Training is money
If your product is has an excellent user interface and good documentation, but your customer still want training (typically, they want to be shown concrete examples on to use the product and they want opportunities to play with the features in a safe environment), and they are willing to pay for the training, then this is an excellent opportunity to make some money. Profit is an excellent reason for developing product training!
Good reason number 2: To increase sales
Sometimes, increasing the product knowledge within your customer base increases the speed in which your product gets deployed into the field. When increased deployments equals increased sales, then providing training is a great pro-active way to speed up the process.
Really good reason number 3: A product marketing tool
One of the best reasons to develop a good product training program is that training is a product marketing tool. Training can help you gain product advocates at the working levels within your customer’s organization. When the workers feel they can’t do there jobs without your product, that translates into sales. So, a good training program is a good grass-roots marketing tool. That being said, a poor training program is NOT a marketing tool at all. So, you need to invest in the design and development of a good program when you are using training as a marketing tool.