Have you ever tried to use new software after going through the initial training on it - and still been confused about how it will help you achieve the outcomes that matter to you? Or figuring out how the new functionality released last month drive your business success? Or maybe you're still unsure about how the software helps you achieve your business outcomes, putting the renewal in jeopardy.
In these cases, the vendor missed a golden opportunity for their education and customer success teams. And this missed opportunity only increases the pain of churn for both them and you.
You're frustrated by the time you lost trying to figure out the software and the future productivity you may have increased if the software helped you like the vendor promised. The vendor is frustrated because they now have to spend more time, money, and effort on new customers, instead of investing in the education and customer success programs that would have kept you on as a customer.
In the past, vendors could get away with this approach because their customers were locked into contracts that didn't have much language around support outside of straight technical support. This classic approach lead to high dissatisfaction rates, and became just one of the reasons that customer success (CS) teams are popping up everywhere. The innovative tech companies are taking it a step further by bringing their customer education teams into the customer success workflow as customer success managers know education plays a crucial role in a customer engagement.
This is the "classic" approach most software and tech companies have been using for decades now, and why customer success has become such an important part of any business organization. Innovative tech companies are now bringing their customer education teams into the customer success workflow as customer success managers know education plays a crucial role in a customer engagement.
Pair Customer Education with Customer Success
A partnership between Customer Education teams and Customer Success teams can be extremely influential with both new and existing customers. Education programs can be used in any part of the customer relationship, making sure customers are fully engaged with their products and are getting the value they expect out of it. For example, using education with new customers to ensure high software adoption rates or as part of a new product/feature education program for existing customers.
Tips For Creating Customer Success-Focused Customer Education Programs
Be proactive, not reactive
Successful education programs are the ones that empower customers to be successful with your products at each stage of their lifecycle. They proactively get to know the environment and context their customers are working in and empower them with appropriate educational opportunities. "Training is support before customers need it," our own CEO and Founder Rob Castaneda says.
One way to find out this information is to look at your education program metrics. You'll find out more about your customers based on their learning habits. For example, popular programs tell you the topics or product areas they're most interested in, so you should ensure these are kept updated. Programs with low numbers may indicate a topic area that they're already familiar with or possibly that the format is not appropriate for their stage of use with your products. Staying updated with these metrics will keep you ahead of the curve when it comes time to create new education programs that'll enhance your customer's experience.
Uncover the Value of the Self-Directed Learner
A self-directed learner is one who knows the right question to ask to get the answers they need. One who knows where to look for information they require and how to find it easily and efficiently.
Why are they valuable to your business? A self-directed learner is valuable to you because of their reduced dependence on multiple functions within your company. They call customer support less often and need fewer hours with your professional services team. Customer education teams spend less time with them as well, although the time they do spend with them is more focused and targeted. Self-directed learners have higher product adoption and usage rates because they're already well-versed in your products and know where to find the answers to their questions themselves.
They are actively engaged with you, your products, and your education programs, which leads to higher revenues through renewals and product purchases. According to Gallup , "Organizations with high customer engagement typically outperform others by at least 30% (and also see 50% higher revenue too)."
Foster Collaboration with Other Departments
So far we've been talking about how the partnership between customer education and customer success teams is essential for creating a customer-focused education program. But what about working with the other teams in your organization that directly affect prospects and customers? Is there some way education teams can work with them to increase the success factor in their education programs? Yes!
Cross-functional teamwork helps each team that's involved, giving them a slightly different perspective into the health and success (or lack of success) of their customers. Here are a few examples:
Marketing teams understand the new-to-you prospect who may be considering your technology product for their organization, so they can help education teams create mini-courses to drive product awareness.
Product management teams have insight into upcoming product enhancements and can provide the information education teams can use to create targeted programs on those upcoming enhancements for existing customers, as well as incorporate it into current new customer programs so new customers can reap the benefits of it as well.
Sales teams can gain a more customer-centric view of their software products with education programs created specifically for them so they can nurture middle-of-funnel leads.
Support teams can share their top questions on a regular basis so education teams can create or update their education programs to answer them before they're even asked.
Many technology organizations only invest in partnerships between cross-functional teams for specific business goals like a new product launch. Creating an ongoing relationship helps keep that momentum moving forward all the time, and makes it easier to harness if you do want to focus on a specific business goal. You're already working together!
Think Outside of the Traditional Training Box
Online and in-person training are great, as are video tutorials, however today's learners are looking for more. Their social media activities in their personal lives is starting to influence their behavior at work, and their education needs are not immune. They want ways to connect with their peers and other customers to discuss your products and updates, as well a venue to share their own knowledge and best practices.
If you're able to create that type of online community in a framework or online property that you own, it becomes even more valuable to you and your organization. You'll be able to engage with your customers and gain plenty of insight as your customers talk and share knowledge, giving you plenty of ideas for future education programs (either new or modified existing ones).
One company who's really running with this idea is Gainsight. They've created the Gainsight Community, where their customers can get together and collaborate on their passion for customer success. More than 1,600 customers have started more than 3,300 conversations about the Gainsight products and services they use. There's also the Gainsight Customer Success University, where passionate customer success pros can take courses on customer success and get certified. These courses are not Gainsight-specific, but are for anyone new to CS or are looking to take their CS career to the next level.
Another company that's having fun with their training content is Werner, a maker of ladders and climbing products. They hired Hollywood stunt pro Dan Ward to help develop their ClimbingPro online training program, which has helped more than 500,000 customers so far.
Identify Potential Brand Evangelists
“Evangelists” are people (usually customers) who believe in your product so fervently they promote it aggressively to others. That's where customer education comes in. Customer education can be a driver of evangelism/advocacy because as customers become more comfortable with your tech products through education, they talk more often about their positive experience with it. When they hear their colleagues or peers mention a business challenge that your products solve, these advocates will speak up for you, spreading the word about your products. Add in some gamification aspects like badges, certifications, and one-click options to share info about you on social media, and your advocates will be doing your work for you.