In this episode, we spoke to Ken Hirsohn, past president, current treasurer, and longstanding board member of the Computer Education Management Association (CEdMA). Ken talked to us about running customer education operations at Alien Vault, ServiceNow, Salesforce, and Veritas (Symantec). He has run multi-million dollar education operations with education as a P&L, and in this episode, talks about the ever-evolving role of training and integrating customer training with the entire customer experience.
As more technology companies realize the benefits to being more customer-centric, they realize that there's more to it than simply adding new roles to their organization. Sure, they need customer success (CS) managers and customer experience (CX) teams to work along with their existing customer education (CE) teams. But creating a true customer-focused organization that can deliver a full and robust customer-centric experience involves a little bit of art and science.
Being ahead of the curve
Ken's first exposure to customer success was at Salesforce, where they had customer service managers (CSMs) "selling" renewals and upsells to existing customers. The CSMs were an interesting hybrid of sales people and trainers, using a combination of content and helpfulness to "move" their customers to where they wanted to be (i.e. renewing their subscriptions).
Customer education has always been revolutionary
While the CSMs main goal was to meet their renewal quotas, they were doing so by being extremely customer-centric and delivering content to the customers that helped them be successful using Salesforce in their business. The library was made up of webinars on using particular functions of Salesforce, short emails or documents outlining tips and tricks on getting the most out of the software, and more. These CSMs had discovered a scalable way to pass along information to their customers that would help them be successful in their work. The customers saw and reaped more value from their Salesforce software, meaning they were more likely to renew the subscription.
The secret to making customer education stand out
Now that teams are more collaborative and are being united under the customer success banner, it's tempting to paint all customer-facing teams with the same brush and have them use the same tactics, processes, and procedures. To lump CE in with the rest of the success teams and only think of it as a use-once kind of resource. You must resist.
Especially when it comes to CE, which can often be thought of only at the top of the sales funnel, as a true educational tool that's only needed to explain your product to a brand-new prospect or customers.
But the CSMs at Salesforce discovered that you could use educational resources even with existing customers, getting them to renew and/or buy more from you because they saw the value of your products to their own business.
They stumbled on it almost by accident, and when they saw the effect it had on their renewal numbers, they continued to do it. As Ken explained on Helping Sells, that's the secret to making customer education stand out. "Make it easy for customers to get the tool (or information) they need to succeed at his job using your product," Ken said. "Then make sure they recognize the tool when they see it, whether it's a 5-day in-person course or a 3-minute video that explains the new feature you released last week."
That's the secret to making CE stand out in the customer success crowd: use it wherever you think it can bring value to customers. So share the content with professional services teams to help them on-board new clients. Create shorter education bits support teams can use when helping customers work through a new feature they're having trouble using. Publish a series of How To blog posts on the company website that use your product to solve a common obstacle companies in your industry have and share it for free.
Customer education can play a big part in successful customers
"One of the things I'm seeing now (in technology companies) is how they're changing the way they do business," Ken said. "Most companies are now thinking that CE must get involved in sales at all levels."
The next time you're wondering how to increase engagement with your customers, think about what you can teach them. Then go talk to your CE colleagues to see how they can help.
To listen to our entire conversation with Ken, listen to the latest episode of Helping Sells Radio.
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