Discover the 8 steps for effective external user training with Continu's LMS, enhancing engagement and strengthening business relationships.
Collaboration with outside customers, resellers, and vendors is more common than ever in modern business. Lots of organizations apply a consistent and strategic approach to their internal or enterprise training, but forget to apply that diligence to how they educate and train their external users.
Who counts as an external user? Your customers, network partners, vendors, franchisees, and outsourced team members are all external users. They may not be internal employees, but if they are central to your sales and operating model, then they are just as important to include in your training plans and content.
Your strategy to train external users is also known as extended enterprise training. When you consider these audiences in your learning and development, you’re going to see higher satisfaction, engagement, and unity on priorities and processes. You want each person connected to your brand to feel confident, supported, and informed, no matter their role.
If you’re convinced by the benefits and ready to implement an external user training strategy, here are 8 steps for an effective approach no matter your starting point.
8 Steps to Better External User Training
Put your best foot forward, no matter who needs training. Follow these steps for better retention rates, clear communication, and to create content your customers and partners won’t just skip through!
1. Define Your Audience
It may be helpful to keep a narrow focus in the early stages. Don’t abandon your plan to train all external users, but be honest that it will take some serious muscle and funds to completely revamp your external user training strategy.
If your business model includes customers, resellers, and contract workers, pick one group to focus on that you think will be a good test case or show clear improvements. Maybe it’s your franchise network that has increased in size recently through expansion into a new region. Or maybe you’ve noticed a lack of enthusiasm for a new product feature, and you’d like your customers or resellers to really see it in action. Whittling down your target group and testing to a smaller subset within that group will save you time and give you a chance to improve the content and delivery before pushing it out to all vendors or customers.
2. Start With Your Objectives
Set overarching goals and related training objectives for each group of learners you want to train. Do you want a higher percentage of your franchise operators to read your update on the sales reporting process? Set your goal at an 85% completion rate, and list your specific training objectives needed to accomplish that goal. Are you aiming for a change in their attitude, skills, or knowledge? Get clear on the outcomes you would like to see as a result of your training and choose realistic objectives to make success more likely.
3. Don’t Skip Your Training Needs Assessment
You may have assumed that you know what your vendors or customers need, but have you done your TNA? If your content has a low engagement rate or you’re not seeing any improvements in sales or satisfaction…your assumptions may be off base!
It can be hard to assess external user training needs because the groups vary widely; franchisee needs will differ greatly from freelance and contract workers’ needs. List out the groups you’re targeting. Match your own hopes for their performance with the reality of how much time they have to devote to training.
And honestly assess whether or not your external users are motivated to engage. Is your content scratching a real itch? Is it easy to find answers to their questions? Complete your training needs assessment to be sure your training content is exactly what your learners need.
4. Pick Your Platform
An LMS is pretty much essential for external user training, because your vendors, customers, or partners are probably spread across the world! Remote access and centralized storage are the best ways to share the right content at the right time with your external users.
Do you currently have an LMS that can flex to support extended enterprise users? You will need the capability to add more users, pick specific content for them, and give them direct access to that curated content. If you don’t have those capabilities, a leading LMS like Continu can deliver training to anyone connected to your organization, inside or outside. Continu provides the organized platform you need for external user training.
- The segmentation features within Continu allow you to toggle different settings for external users so they will only see the content that you designated for them. This means you can use your instance for a wider range of learners beyond internal teams using different filters and access levels.
- Learners can access their content on smartphones and tablets on the go, which is key for sectors like healthcare and manufacturing.
- Powerful search features allow learners to find the answers they need without scrolling endlessly through folders of content.
- Design and curate high-quality training materials right within the platform.
5. Create Your Content
Take a look at your existing content library for employees. Update and re-use the best materials, and keep things concise! Yes, your external users will still need to know the basics of your brand, but they won’t need the same level of detail as internal teams.
Aim the partner, vendor, or customer training content at different levels of expertise, and provide something for everyone, no matter their region or role in your network.
Your goal is to create valuable resources that they will want to try, explore, and above all, use! Respect their busy schedules and limited time by keeping videos, slides, and modules short and relevant.
Using an LMS makes it easier to upload, organize, and create training content. You can refresh your resources and share product or policy updates with every external user – no need for partners to constantly recycle old manuals or brochures when you share a new one. If your products get updated frequently, try these tips to be more efficient with how you update your training content.
6. Put the Learner First
Use a combination of self-paced learning, on-demand ‘just in time’ content, and virtual instructor-led training (VILT). The variety of formats also allows you to choose the best fit for each topic. For example, quick-reference guides are great for explaining procedures or comparing products, but a new vendor onboarding sequence will probably require some virtual group sessions or videos. Your external partners will appreciate the choice of formats that will vary depending on what information they need to access.
7. Keep Engagement High
Your external users have limited time for training, so make every module and interaction with your content count! Here’s how:
- Take their questions and feedback frequently. Share success stories from other partners or vendors to build connections and show external users that they’re just as much a part of your business as internal teams.
- Respect and celebrate their participation! Create sharable LinkedIn banner images, and certificates they can proudly display to show that they’ve put in the hard work to improve their knowledge or skills.
- Use notifications and integrations with their calendar and messaging platforms to stay on their radar and reduce friction to click, search, and watch training content.
- Make it fun wherever possible with creativity and some healthy competition.
Continu reading: 9 Ways to Gamify Your Company’s Training
8. Test and Track to Improve
Another benefit of an LMS is the wealth of data you can gather on learner engagement and progress. Instead of hoping that they read your manual cover-to-cover or pay attention in a seminar, you can actively track participation and see what content is getting skipped or ignored. You can take that information and draw your own conclusions on what you can adjust or change to support your external learners.
Balance deadlines and required training with information you freely offer (like a searchable knowledge base). But don’t get rid of assessments entirely. You’ll still need to measure learner comprehension in key areas and combine those quiz scores with sales and growth KPIs to find ways to improve your training program.
Extend Your Reach With Continu
Extended enterprise training is fully customized to your business model and needs. Your LMS should be too.
These top Continu features help you design your customized external user training strategy:
- Real-time monitoring so you can track partner progress and reach out to support any learners who may have dropped off in their training.
- Update & maintain a single source of truth for important information on products and new launches so all the learners in your network are included.
- Localize your Continu instance in 90+ languages to support global teams and partners, and maintain consistency and high levels of comprehension.