Blog Post

How a Training Needs Analysis Takes Your Customer Education Program From Zero to Hero

Robyn Hazelton
November 22, 2021
November 18, 2022
best practices for training needs analysis

Imagine you host a live training for customer onboarding. You deliver an excellent, info-packed presentation. Then the participant feedback rolls in …

“This was a lot more beginner-level than I thought it would be. I wish the training would’ve gone deeper into specific use cases.”

Ouch. It’s hard to get that kind of feedback—but it happens when we assume we know what our customers need and want to learn about.

So how do you ensure your customer education program delivers the right information to drive results? You conduct a training needs analysis. 

A training needs analysis is a systematic process of identifying and assessing gaps, or needs, of a specific audience to develop effective training. In short, it helps you identify who needs to be trained and which outcomes you’re aiming to achieve. It also helps you measure and monitor behavior to see if your training drove the outcomes you were looking for. 

A training needs analysis can help you create educational programs that help your customers and your company. 

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

  • What’s the purpose of a training needs analysis?
  • How to perform an effective training needs analysis
  • Putting it into practice

What’s the Purpose of a Training Needs Analysis?

Put simply, a training needs analysis helps you understand the problem training is meant to solve. 

In the customer education realm, a training needs analysis helps you develop effective customer training by understanding who needs to be trained, on what topics, and how. Without conducting a needs analysis, your training may fail to teach the right audience the right competencies. 

(Remember that example at the start of this article?)

If your organization is planning to launch a customer education program, the first step is to identify what business problems exist that customer education could address. 

Are clients churning? Is there an issue with low spend? Are customers failing to adopt your product or service? Are learners abandoning training midway through? (Learner abandonment was the No. 1 organizational challenge we uncovered in our recent survey of 500+ education leaders.) 

Once you’ve identified the problem you’re trying to solve, you can start to address the gap.

what are your biggest challenges, if any, when it comes to education?

However, you must think beyond your challenges. If you want your customers to actually care about what they’re learning, you’ve got to make it about them, not you. 

Let’s say you’ve identified the problem as low product adoption. That’s a “you problem.” But pretend most of your customers struggle with low employee engagement. And pretend you know, based on data, that customers who use your product for two hours every day improve employee engagement by 40%. Now there’s something that will pique their interest. 

As Alexander said in a LinkedIn post, “Give ‘em a reason to care.”

How to Perform an Effective Training Needs Analysis

To perform an effective training needs analysis, you must first identify the problem, as outlined above. And then you must understand: 

  • The cause
  • The impact
  • Who’s involved with that problem

There are a number of ways to do this, so take a look at different approaches to find what works best for your business. Remember that the ultimate goal is to discover the problem(s) you’re trying to solve with customer education. 

“It is important that you clarify the problems so you can ask your team the most critical question of all: Is education the solution?” - Laetitia Samuel, Senior Program Manager of Education at Intellum

1. Gather Existing Research

When conducting a training needs analysis, you first need to define the current state. 

Your business probably already has valuable insights in voice of customer data. If your product team is conducting user research, or your sales and customer success teams are gathering feedback about what their clients are struggling with, all of that information can help you understand what’s happening with your client base. Pair these insights with qualitative data (e.g., active users, retention), and you can start to understand why these problems may exist.

Ramli shared three ways to gather research to understand the current state of user onboarding:

2. Talk to Internal Stakeholders

Who in your business is closest to the customer? It could be your support team, your customer success team, or your UX researchers. 

Tell them about the problem you’re noticing, and ask them why they think it might be happening. Chances are, they’ve heard anecdotally why a customer is failing to adopt your product or why they’re churning.

3. Survey Your Potential Audience

There are many ways you can connect with your audience to understand why certain problems exist and where the gaps are, including focus groups, interviews, and surveys.

Focus groups and interviews are a great way to dig deeper and better understand your customer’s context. They can provide valuable insights you might not otherwise learn about.

Many companies opt to use surveys, as they’re less time- and resource-intensive. If you’re running a survey, send out as many surveys as you can. Our clients find they typically get a 20% response rate, and you need enough completed surveys to have statistical significance. 

Remember, the whole idea here is to better understand the problem you’re trying to solve with customer education—and why that problem exists.

Here are some questions you’ll want to gain insight into: 

  • What does the potential learner know? 
  • What do they need to know? 
  • What are their challenges? 
  • What are their motivations for learning? 
  • Where do they currently go for info? 

Putting It Into Practice  

Let’s go back to our opening scenario about a live training gone awry. Imagine it happens differently. 

Before the live training, you connect with your account managers to understand more about the customer’s background and experience, and you reach out to the customer to get a better idea of their goals and expectations. You take time to understand their why. You tailor the presentation to briefly cover the fundamentals, then dive deeper into their specific use cases.

This time, the feedback is glowing: 

“Thanks so much! We feel confident and prepared to move forward with your product.” 

And not only is the feedback great, but you see the results in product adoption. Customers are active in the product. They’re taking action on what you covered in the training. Feels good, right? That’s the result of training done right.

Continue Your Learning

A training needs analysis is critical to a successful customer education program—but it’s just the first step in a larger process. The Intellum Framework is a step-by-step procedure for creating customer education programs that drive results. Learn more about the framework.

About the Author

Robyn Hazelton headshot
Robyn Hazelton
Vice President of Marketing and Growth
Robyn is the VP of Marketing and Growth at Intellum and helps to ensure that every interaction an individual has with the brand is as awesome as possible. An experienced and trusted leader with a history of consistently impacting revenue, she's always talking about funnel management and biased toward action.