Free Training with Support?

By Technical Support

A well-educated customer is a better support user: more accurate problem descriptions, fewer problems to begin with, no more lengthy phone tutorials, a better chance that recommendations will actually be carried out correctly…  With that, some support organizations are including “free” training with their offerings. Here are some possibilities. Try them!

  • provide self-service training on the support web site.
    Idea: provide short videos of training modules that can be played from the support web site. The videos can be taped on a relatively low budget and the quality doesn’t need to be very high for short footage, and you can repurpose existing videos such as webinars. They can be free for all users or reserved to holders of support contracts.
    Pros: relatively inexpensive for short videos or repurposed footage; very helpful for short topics (e.g. how to change a printer cartridge; how to set options); always available to customers; low effort and low cost for the customer.
    Cons: not practical for complex training; requires a good search function if you have many; could create conflicts with the training organization (although you could create short videos that do double-duty as advertising for longer courses)
  • hold regular webinars on popular topics
    Idea: support staff (or others, if you can coax them to do it!) lead webinars on specific topics. They can be up to an hour in length and include a question and answer period
    Pros: relatively low-cost, especially if you can offload common questions that would otherwise require 1-1 assistance; support engineers will appreciate the variety, at least some of them will; low cost for customers; can be repurposed into self-serve videos
    Cons: requires some amount of infrastructure (registration, online system); more staff-intensive than self-serve; complex topics cannot be covered in an hour; requires a minimum number of customers to be worthwhile; some customers will not want to wait for a scheduled webinar
  • include space-available training with the support contract, at no charge
    Idea: as long as space is available in regular training classes, why not allow customers to attend at no charge?
    Pros: great for in-depth training; uses training seats that would otherwise go to waste; may encourage customers to attend classes on a fee basis; makes the support offer more attractive
    Cons: it may make it difficult to sell training classes at the regular price; customers still have to travel to the training class and pay for the travel expenses; because the training is on a space-available basis it makes it hard for them to plan their time and they have to wait for months for a seat
  • offer free reserved seats for training events with the support contract
    Idea: include a number of reserved seats in the support contract; the seats must be used within the year
    Pros: good for in-depth training; a wonderful addition to the support offer; customers appreciate being able to hold a reserved seat
    Cons: requires an arrangement with the support organization that will involve money transfers and some kind of tracking system; the training organization may oppose the scheme if there’s no appropriate compensation; customers may fail to show up since they are not paying for the training (hint: impose a no-show penalty like you would for paying customers, through which they forfeit their free days)

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1 Comment

  • James Burr

    While customer training lowers support costs, it doesn’t follow that it should be included in the support contract for free. In some research I conducted amongst b2b customers of high value complex systems, I found that customers resented “free” training bundled with the support contract because their organisation had a separate training budget. The support contract budget holder felt that he was being charged for something he didn’t want to fund. So my conclusion is that you should plan your offering to resonate with the customer and not allow it to be driven by the desire to improve support gross margin.

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