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Data Matters, Especially to Customer Education Teams

Written by Julia Borgini

Published on January 19, 2018

Big Data. KPIs. ROI. Average whatevers. These days it's pretty hard to get away from numbers. Companies are using their data to uncover all sorts of information that's driving their customer success programs, sales and marketing, and even customer education. After all, there's only so many ways you ask for a customer's feedback after they take your training, right?

Your education programs help your audience gain the knowledge and confidence they need to use your products in a valuable way. In a way that helps them be successful at whatever they're using your products to achieve. The only way you'll know if you're helping them do that is to measure more than just the plain old numbers you're used to looking at.

But most customer education pros are data newbies and really hate looking at the numbers because it seems so confusing. But if you really want to succeed with your programs and help your customers succeed, you've got to learn to love your data and use it to drive growth for both your education programs and your company. So, how can you learn to love your data?

Understand the relationship between training and other areas of the company

Usually only sales or marketing teams track their data to see how it impacts overall business goals, so they know how they directly impact revenue generation, the economic value of employee behaviors, and more. Yet customer education can impact that and more, but only if you're aware of what your company's growth plans and goals are.

Customer education programs affect much more than just new customers and increasing upsells. That's because education programs are used at various times throughout the customer relationship, not just at the start.

How training affects other areas of the company

Think of it like this:

  1. When marketing sends out an email series using the quick tips from an intro training program, they increase their open rates.

  2. These higher open rates lead to higher clickthroughs to the landing page on your website.

  3. On the landing page, there's a clip from your intermediate webinar session that explains the benefits to your software product.

  4. After viewing the video clip, readers want to know more and so enter their information in the contact form at the bottom of the page.

  5. Qualified lead gen numbers increase because these people understand how your software can benefit them and they're curious to know more.

  6. The sales team has higher closing rates because of the higher quality leads.

  7. The professional services (proserve) team uses the onboarding training program you created to decrease the time it takes to set up the new customers. They can now set up more customers, more efficiently and move them to the next phase of the customer relationship.

  8. Product development uses customer support data to determine a priority list for their product roadmap and shares the roadmap with customer education.

  9. Customer education uses the development roadmap to stay ahead of feature development with training content that can be used by everyone at the company.

  10. Existing customers see this new content from your company and calls in to their account rep to ask about the new feature or to suggest a new one.

As you can see, customer education affects more than just new customers and customer education. It's used by everyone, at all points in the customer relationship, to help provide useful information to customers and prospects.

Understanding the relationship between education and the rest of will give you a wider perspective on your work and the effects it has once it leaves your team.

A real world example

Just look at Wishpond, an marketing technology company. After creating their Wishpond Academy, they discovered that customers who used it were upgrading from trial to paid plans at a rate 380% higher than customers who didn't use training.

Find out what numbers are available

Getting back to data and metrics, once you understand the relationship between education and the rest of your company, you'll want to get comfortable with the data these other teams collect and produce. Look at the numbers on a regular basis to get more familiar with them and to alleviate any fear or confusion you may have about it.

Get copied on the emails when teams send out the weekly reports. Look at your company intranet site to check out the reports published there. Ask your manager or colleagues to find out more about the numbers they're tracking.

At this point you're just looking at the numbers, so don't worry about how to create your own reports or dive deeper into what the numbers mean. Just look at it. See what your colleagues are looking at too so you're not afraid of all the numbers and terminology.

Learn more about your data sources and software

Next up is to look at your data sources and the software your company uses to track and transform it. Take a few training courses yourself to learn how to use the software so it becomes easier to control what you're seeing.

Where is the data coming from? Is it automatically tracked by the software because it's integrated with your CRM, sales, marketing, and other solutions in your tech stack? Or is someone manually entering the information? Are only certain areas of your company tracking data (such as sales and support)? Or are other teams tracking metrics too? What are they tracking?

What about the software your company uses? Do they use business intelligence (BI) software to gather and visualize all your data? Software like Tableau creates dashboards from all the data your company is tracking and presents it in digestible ways for different teams. You could create a custom visualization that ties your customer education efforts in to larger overall business goals to see where you're at.

The main reason your company bought the BI software is to help your colleagues manage the data and get a handle on it. They understand that data can be confusing and these software solutions are there to help you manage it all. Your colleagues have gotten more comfortable in this data-driven world, so now it's your turn. Eventually you'll know which metrics you need to track for your customer education team and how those numbers affect and are affected by the rest of your company. But for now, just get familiar with the tools available to you.

Start developing your own customer education metrics

As you get deeper into data and metrics, you'll start to develop an idea of what numbers you'd like to track for your customer education team and the programs you produce. Numbers beyond the standard satisfaction or NPS. Let's take a closer look at some of the metrics you should be looking at from a customer education perspective.

Churn rates + customer tasks

Your software company is already tracking churn rates, but are they also looking at the customer tasks that can affect churn rates? Probably not. But your customer support or proserve teams may already be looking at customer task usage, so it's time to put those two together.

When seen together, you may discover that churn rates are affected by specific features in your products because customers didn't understand how to use it and how it could benefit their workday. Groove, the online help desk company, took a deeper looking at their churn rates to see what they could do to reduce them. They were surprised to learn that customers who churned often spent significantly longer than average on a specific task in the Groove software. Instead of reaching out to the support teams, the customers were just leaving.

Customer support rates

Product development teams may think that increased customer support rates indicate a problem with the software, but customer education teams can take a different view of them. Higher numbers after the release of a new feature could indicate a lack of understanding of how the feature benefits customer and how it integrates into their daily workflow.

A clearer understanding of when the support numbers increase and decrease will give customer education pros a better understanding of where they could help with a targeted training program. Perhaps it'll lead to a new onboarding program that integrates with the new customer implementation process lead by your professional services team. Or a series of quick tips sent out by the marketing team as part of their prospect outreach program.

Behavior changes in software usage

This type of metric isn't available to all companies as it requires a tight integration with your software product. However if it is available, customer education pros could look at the data for features and workflows directly outlined in their education programs. We're talking about the numbers available not just after a new feature or product release, but general software usage numbers. After all, once you release a new feature, customers may stop using another one because the new one is easier to use or provides them a bigger benefit.

Seen another way, if a training course covers a specific feature in your software, do customers use that feature at an acceptable rate after the training? Does usage spike right after training and then drop off, or does it increase and then plateau?

Tracking software usage at all times will give you insights into when features are used more or less, leading to changes in your own customer education development workflow. You may scale up or down your new program development because you simply need to revise existing programs, or work more closely with marketing teams to publish shorter training tips to sustain new product knowledge after customers take training programs.

Customer success results

Whether or not your company has a defined customer success team or process, customer education pros can still measure the success your customers have with your software. Customer buy your software because it promises them a result that is important to their business, like increased sales, reduced costs, improved productivity, and so on. This is what they care about and what they'll measure to define their own success.

Customer education programs should help customers see improvement in those results, but only if you know what those results are. Work with customer success teams, sales, marketing — really, any team that has direct contact with customers  — and see what results they're looking for. Then, start tracking those results yourself and how they are impacted by education programs. Update or create programs that will directly impact those results and help your customers increase those numbers.

Final thought

When looked at in isolation, metrics are just numbers that don't do anyone any good. If you're not used to looking at them or just plain scared at the mountain of data your company tracks, that's okay. It's usually the sales and marketing people who look and use the data, but if customer education pros are now working with those teams to help the company meet their overall goals, it's time they looked at the data too. Data can be useful to everyone, it's time customer education pros learned how to use it to their advantage too.