Learning services in SaaS

Orchestrating customer success with Learning

Dive into the role of learning services in driving SaaS customer success. Explore new learning modalities, and learn how a successful SaaS learning platform can help improve productivity, net dollar retention, and value.

Orchestrating customer success with Learning

Today, the technical skill shortage in the workforce is more significant than ever. Indeed, over the next decade, this is only expected to increase—with a shortage of 85 million tech workers predicted by 2030,1 which will severely impede the ability of companies to execute digital transformations. This shortage is further complicated by the nature of SaaS innovation, in which solution providers continuously release features and extend product capabilities, burdening customers to upskill to ensure adoption and value realization. As such, providers have an increasingly critical role to play in reskilling and upskilling. When done effectively, the opportunity for value capture is substantial.

A report by IDC2 found that staff trained through provider-offered learning services see greater productivity, risk mitigation, and a reduction in infrastructure costs. According to the study, investment in learning and development can lead to a 59% faster deployment of resources, 44% improvement in productivity of DevOps teams, and 34% gains in infrastructure efficiency compared to those without training. Therefore, in subscription and increasingly consumption-based business models, learning services are becoming critical to orchestrating customer outcomes. Companies that can deliver, quantify, and communicate ROI on the solution deployed will be more successful in improving net dollar retention.

Learning services in SaaS: Ready to leave the nest and soar

Making the most of learning services

Learning services were traditionally positioned post-purchase, but due to these changes, it has evolved to command a more strategic role across the customer life cycle. In our experience, many providers do not invest to maximize the potential of learning services and have a myopic lens to the business potential. Instead, there is a real opportunity for learning services to punch above its weight and drive tangible and sustainable results by orchestrating outcomes across the customer journey—or “leave the nest and soar.” Below, and with numbers mapped in figure 1, we discuss this in greater detail.

  1. Awareness: Community events, forums, and expert sessions can influence brand perception and a provider’s ability to position its offerings. During inbound prospecting, free foundational courses can help customers understand product capabilities and their relevance in solving business problems, which can also improve the quality of leads.
  2. Evaluate: Do-it-yourself (DIY) assessment tools and customized learning pathways for individuals and organizations alike can help providers articulate a vision to deliver customer outcomes.
  3. Purchase: Learning services that are seamlessly priced and packaged—not as a separate line item—into the offering can improve the purchase experience and sweeten the deal.
  4. Train and onboard: Considering 63%3 of customers consider a provider’s onboarding critical to the purchase, the quality of content available at “first contact”—from on-demand training to certifications—can be vital to driving adoption.
  5. Adopt and consume: Product-related guidance delivered in the optimal form, at the right time—increasingly “in the flow of work”—can improve proficiency and reduce usage friction.
  6. Support: Communities, provider- and user-generated videos, and other self-help resources such as wikis can resolve issues quickly and deflect support requests; in addition, self-help is increasingly preferred by end users, even as admins continue to rely on traditional support.
  7. Renew and expand: Recommended learning based on persona, product, and use cases help build capability, position new use cases, and build deeper product affinity—which can support both greater renewal and incremental annual contract value.
  8. Advocate: Communities that support recognition, such as badging, networking opportunities, and exclusive access for “super users” and product champions (including access to product betas and website featurettes), can drive brand advocacy and in turn create new customers in the future.

Figure 1. Learning touchpoints across a typical customer life cycle

Learning services strategy: Align to organizational needs

Traditionally, enterprise software companies have monetized the strong market demand for their technical certifications and role-based learning content and operated the business to capture the financial returns available in the market. On the contrary, companies that view learning services as a driver of adoption and retention lead with large volumes of free content to proliferate learning, deflect support requests, and build community. Similarly, the scope of content can also vary from technical and product-focused to ecosystem, verticalized, and outcome-oriented learning.

In our experiences serving providers across the marketplace, we see providers coalescing around four archetypes, defined by their business models and content strategies: those that enable adoption, enhance competency, extend the knowledge base, and evangelize the business (figure 2). Each archetype represents a vision for the learning business and reflects a set of strategic choices and product, operational, and technical implications.

Figure 2. Learning Services Archetypes

Partners in learning services

Learning partners come in various forms—from specialized, independent vendors to scaled system integrators who resell not only learning but also products and other services. This model has been successful for providers and partners alike and continues to be a critical revenue source for most providers. However, some companies have expanded partnerships to co-develop content with their most trusted partners. Similarly, a whole new category of learning marketplaces, such as Coursera and Udemy, has emerged as delivery partners and are increasingly used to grow audiences for training and certification, especially in non-US territories. This paradigm has pushed companies to re-evaluate their partner programs to make them more inclusive and profitable.

Winning moves across providers

Five universal principles can collectively create customer engagement and drive provider success.

  1. Streamline the content supply chain: Customers consider content quality a critical barrier to developing and maintaining the skills required to ensure product consumption and value realization. A clear understanding of audiences, preferences, and interactions should actively shape topics, formats, and channels.
  2. Integrate platform experiences: Next, we increasingly see a convergence—in teams, technology, and content—across employee, partner, and customer learning. An integrated platform for all learners is critical for consistent brand and experience around a provider’s learning products.
  3. Enable seamless purchasing: Apart from creating right-sized packages of learning services, companies are enabling seamless, digital-first purchase motions, including auto-attach, outcome-based bundles, and on-demand credit purchases.
  4. Expand to entirely new partner types: While resellers and delivery partners will continue to drive growth, providers must expand to engage new types of partners, including digital marketplaces, educational institutions, independent creators, developers, and domain experts in design and delivery of learning offerings.
  5. Fold learning into the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) mission: Many enterprises today have clear DEI strategies, and learning services must be part of this mission. The most proven route is digital skills proliferation, including expanding access through scholarships, grants, and job placement programs.

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1 Michael Franzino et al., “The $8.5 trillion talent shortage,” Korn Ferry, July 2021.
2 IDC, The business value of Red Hat Certification, December 2020.
3 Wyzowl, “Customer onboarding statistics 2020,” 2020.

Get in touch


Marybeth D’Souza
Deloitte Consulting LLP
+1 317 442 4114


Gopal Srinivasan
Deloitte Consulting LLP
+1 650 720 5175


Rohan Gupta
Senior Manager
Deloitte Consulting LLP
+1 646 455 9632


Aftab Khanna
Senior Manager
Deloitte Consulting LLP
+1 415 260 0236


The authors would like to thank the following Deloitte Consulting personnel for their dedication and contributions in bringing this article to life: Yukti Batta, Jason Magill, Rahila Olanrewaju, Rahul Saxena, Kaushik Shekar, and Roxana Wolfson.

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