When it comes to our customer education strategies, most of us are in reaction mode. This can get us into trouble because we make promises that are difficult to keep, work quality can suffer, and we could very easily neglect existing customers. The only way to avoid getting caught up in reaction mode is to proactively develop a customer education strategy that is aligned with the most important goals of the business. Only when we focus our efforts on what is most important, do we move the business forward.
What can customer education do to help drive towards the goals the business cares about most?
Find out what the business priorities are. Most people, education pros included, tend to work in isolation, in your own little world at the office. We only know about the projects we're working on and don't often have full visibility into how our work affects the business bottom line. In order to ensure the work they're doing is contributing towards business goals, you have to know what they are. Schedule time with other functional leaders and ask them to walk you through their business strategies. Ask them the following three questions:
What are the main priorities for your function this year?
What are some of the biggest challenges your team faces?
How does your team acquire new knowledge, skills, and experiences?
Once you know how they're working towards the business goals, you can focus the entire CE strategy on helping the business achieve those goals.
Understand your customers better. Most business goals are centered around increasing revenues and decreasing costs, however some companies turn that around and focus more on their customers. (Gainsight, a ServiceRocket partner and customer, made it their mantra: "Approaching business with a customer focus.")
By looking at your customers more closely, you can create education programs that really meet their needs. For example, instead of just looking at what skills or knowledge they lack, how about finding out why they bought (or are looking to buy) your product? You can educate them more effectively when you round out your customer view as you'll be fulfilling their needs more completely. Remember, well-educated customers tend to buy more.
Discover the "why" behind business goals. Business goals are usually supported by numbers and data, but what's missing is the "why" behind it. Why is your company going after a 5% increase in monthly subscriptions? Why is your sales team bundling training packages with support packages? Training pros always want to skip ahead to the "doing" phase of education, but by taking the time to look at the "why", you'll create better programs.
It's pretty easy to work in isolation and create what you think are great customer education programs. But without the perspective of your business goals, those programs will do nothing to move the business towards those goals. With exposure to your business goals ahead of time, you'll be able to better plan your programs. By understanding your customers more completely, you'll create programs that meet their needs more fully. When education employees are fully engaged with business goals, you'll feel better about your contribution to the business.
We'd love to hear from you, so share in the comments how your education organization is working towards business goals. What has been the impact internally to your team? And what about external impacts?