Author: Oleg Miroshensky
Soccer instructors introduced the game through skill-specific drills. Kicking, passing and dribbling drills took over the actual playing time. The problem was that these players did not know how to transfer their skills to the actual game. Meanwhile, children, who played soccer on their own, never did the drills. Instead, they played all sorts of soccer-like games with specific objectives. These kids were able to execute the game strategy far better than their skilled peers.
Similar to soccer, we often train our customers on specific product features. And then expect customers to use our product in real work situations. Instead, customers feel lost. Scenario-based training can help customers gain practical skills with your product. Let’s find out how.
Several years ago I was brought in to create product training for a small Vancouver hi-tech company.
Their technology helped design accurate 3D models for prosthetic devices. For example, knee braces, spinal jackets, infant helmets. Traditionally, these devices were made by using a lifecasting method. It is called lifecasting because clinicians use plaster to create a life cast of a body part. Lifecasting gets quite messy and proved to be especially challenging with the children. Imagine a toddler’s reaction, whose head and face need to be covered in plaster.
The 3D scanning software came in to eliminate this unpleasant experience. There were other advantages, of course. Storing digital files was effortless, comparing to stacking loads of plaster casts. And the software saved clinicians loads of time by eliminating the plasterwork. Long story short, the benefits were obvious to the customers and the product was selling well.
For some reason, some customers, who bought the software, never made use of it.
This fact only became obvious when the software company tried selling a software upgrade to these clinics. At that point, the clinics were not interested any longer. And then the full story emerged. The problems began when medical personnel started using the software. There was a myriad of features and functions to learn. All the features were diligently documented in the user guide. However, the medical technicians, who were using this software, discovered that the user guide did not help them create specific devices, such as variations of a knee brace.
Having failed to obtain expected results, some clinicians were shelving the product.
Especially the smaller clinics. Not right away, of course. First, they would try following the user guide. When that failed, they would get help over the phone. Still, they could not figure out how to become operational with the complex software. And the smaller clinics could only spend a limited amount of time on learning. Because the new software was slowing them down, these clinicians often went back to their old tools. Product training was obviously an issue.
Then what makes product training effective?
Its relevance to the desired outcome. And the desired result for the clinicians was the ability to design various prosthetic devices. But why did the user guide fail to teach product application? Because the user guide format serves a different purpose. The user guide is a reference, similar to a thesaurus. Thesaurus works great when one needs to look up a certain word. However, the same thesaurus makes a poor resource for learning conversational language skills. Similarly, a user guide fails to teach product application skills.
That’s why product training should be scenario-based.
There was an interesting discovery made when we looked at the product learning goals from the users’ perspective. Most clinicians only dealt with certain device designs. For example, some customers would only create prosthetic devices for the knees and ankles. While others would specialize in infant helmets.
So we created specific scenarios relevant for various patient cases. Such as “How to model a knee brace?” or “How to design infant helmets?”. The specific scenarios did two things. First, clinicians only had to learn a subset number of features to become operational. Secondly, scenarios boosted clinicians’ confidence in the product. From that point on, clinicians looked at the software as an essential tool rather than an obstacle.
Scenario-based training allows people to get specific results faster and with less effort.
This shows customers that you go beyond just selling them a product. It shows your human side, the care about customers’ success with your product. And this realization creates loyalty whether you sell a product or train kids to play soccer.
P.S. You can see visual examples of the materials developed for this case study here.