In his book Post-Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity, Scott Galloway, Professor of Marketing at NYU Stern Business School examines how the global pandemic accelerated digital transformation by several years. And the evidence is all around us. We’ve seen consumers quickly adopt grocery delivery, at-home spinning classes, and touchless payment. Pre-pandemic, our idea of “workplace” was already coming untethered from the office, and now most white-collar companies are at least considering hybrid models, if not full-on digital headquarters.

Customer training, the often dreaded, always necessary process of helping professional users get comfortable with, and build mastery of, any powerful software tool, was on a slow march toward improvement pre-pandemic. Learning Management Systems iterated year after year, adding features and becoming more user friendly along the way. SaaS platforms fostered whole communities of power users to share knowledge, usually culminating in annual jamborees complete with live entertainment and food trucks.

Now, the entire apparatus will emerge from the pandemic transformed. We can trace the watershed moment in software training to three pandemic knock-on effects that ultimately showed the way to a brighter future in professional education:

Shift in audience perspective

Customer software training used to be a very technical, detail-oriented exercise. To truly demonstrate the value of any given workplace solution, following a months-long installation and migration, we had to gather in a classroom setting to teach end-users everything about the product. Show them every detail. Drill into every single sub-menu, setting and option.

After more than a year of forced remote work, we are now, as a collective workforce, much more comfortable with giving and receiving information through a screen, collaborating digitally and time-shifting to include colleagues on the other side of the world. This new perspective must inform the way we structure customer training from now on.

As consumers, we welcome on-demand TV shows and fitness classes, so we can have command of our days and evenings and consume the content in a manner that suits us best. For modern customer training to “stick”, we need to apply the same logic. End-users no longer come into training with the expectation to see EVERYTHING the tool has to offer. They just want to learn about the features that apply to their job function and the key tasks at hand. So just like a binge-worthy streaming TV show, we can break the training content out of long classroom sessions into user-friendly, modular content chunks that are easily searchable. Indeed, online learning platforms like Pluralsight and LinkedIn Learning have started to normalize professional education in this way for technical teams, and beyond.

Easier access leads to flatter exposure

The old, in-person customer training model required heavy travel, and long days in hotel conference centers and featureless meeting rooms. Then the few admins and other power users that soaked in the training had to pass on what they learned throughout the company, which inevitably lost fidelity given it was second-hand information. With today’s mix of live instruction and on-demand learning modules delivered to any number of devices, companies are empowered to expose every single end-user to the training content most relevant to them.

Beyond the obvious savings in travel and lost time, democratizing customer training can lead to more users throughout the company, at all levels, feeling comfortable enough with the software to apply it to their specific job or function in new ways. We now see users digging into training content with an outcome in mind and figuring out how to work with the tool to produce it.

Nimble, authentic-feeling content

Finally, the expectations around good, worthwhile content have changed dramatically. Thanks in large part to user generated content like the videos on TikTok, unpolished but passionate podcast hosts, and light education/entertainment content like Masterclass, pop culture is pointing the way to a style of short-form video clip that works perfectly for customer training.

Just like consumers, professional learning audiences now put a greater emphasis on valuable information and authenticity than slick presentation. Light blocking, subtle camera moves, and sparse sets are all we need to create compelling, short clips that teach users about their new software and how it can solve a common problem. Short clips also create opportunities for those of us in customer training to learn and iterate quickly on the content side. We can easily edit, or completely re-shoot, a given learning module based on new developments or a change in interface.

By embracing these developments during the pandemic, we have already taken the first steps toward creating a more open and inclusive learning environment for all. Greater flexibility coupled with a deeper understanding of end-users' requirements means the future of customer training is certainly bright.

Lee Miles is Chief Customer Success Officer of Sitecore. You can follow him on LinkedIn