What is Customer Education & Why You Can’t Afford to Neglect It
June 17, 2022
You’ve spent weeks, even months, chasing down a lead, guiding them through the sales process, negotiating a contract, and turning them into a customer. Then, finally, you kick off your service, but your new customer is already unhappy. They are overwhelmed with options. They ran into a technical problem and couldn’t figure out how to resolve it.
Even the most powerful products are useless unless customers have clear direction and helpful resources for using them. Customer education shows customers you’re invested in their success, streamlines product adoption, and differentiates your offerings from your competition.
What is customer education?
Customer education teaches customers how to use your product or service to achieve their goals. Studies show that continuous training increases customer satisfaction and product adoption and boosts renewal rates. Customer education is an incredible value-add that should begin before the sale and continue after onboarding.
A customer education program is designed to help people find value in your products and become advocates for your brand. It includes resources like:
- A customer academy or university where customers complete certifications and courses
- A knowledge base of information such as training documentation, blogs, case studies, and podcasts
- Live classroom training like lectures or webinars
- Interactive learning through product walkthroughs or in-app messaging with a customer service professional or a bot
Customer training can also include courses, tutorials and webinars, and certifications.
Customer education is particularly helpful for:
- Products with complex features and tools
- Products that actively release updates
- Products that require extensive support to set users up
How customer education fits into the customer journey
Customer training plays a crucial role in your business strategy. Training programs are growing faster than ever, with 60 percent of surveyed participants increasing their investment by 30 percent in 2021.
Customer education helps with three stages of a customer’s lifecycle:
It’s not enough to build great products; today’s businesses need to develop the right informational tools to compete in the marketplace. The promise of a robust customer education program builds trust and confidence in your company by:
- Showing customers around your product to see if it will work for them. Think product demos and free trials. If a customer signs on, they will already be familiar with the basics of your product and will be ready to hit the ground running.
- Identifying common industry challenges and showing how your product can solve them. Many customers will do their research even before they’re in the funnel. Having accessible case studies, blogs, or podcasts can position you as the market leader in solving their problems.
Customer onboarding might be the most crucial time in your customer education program. Onboarding is the time to help new users learn to use the product independently and start securing those all-important early wins.
For smaller companies with high-touch customers, the first 3 to 4 weeks are to get the customer up and running with a product. Larger-scale companies might opt for a university or academy model so new customers can get an extensive process with less human effort. Using certifications and courses helps monitor product adoption and quickly address customer problems.
The onboarding phase is also where companies tend to make the mistake of giving customers too much information. Your program is fantastic; you want to show your customers everything it can do. But if you show them every capability on the first day, customers will get overwhelmed and think there’s no way they could learn it all. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to share more with them as they get accustomed to your product.
Your customer education program should extend beyond onboarding, as you want customers to become experts in your offering. Customers who develop true mastery of your product will likely become advocates and recommend your product to others.
Encourage continued growth by:
- Creating VIP packages that include a subscription to your podcast, live events, or monthly virtual webinars. This is a great upsell opportunity as well!
- Regularly updating your blog or learning platform and notifying customers about new content
- Starting a Slack channel, LinkedIn group, or Subreddit thread where customers can interact and share best practices using your product
Whether training brand new customers or retraining existing ones, customer education should keep everyone up to date on the latest information and best practices.
Benefits of creating a customer education program
Customers never stop learning. They learn at every stage of the lifecycle, whether solving a problem, understanding why your product is the best, or mastering your product.
If you’re not there to aid the learning process, customers will educate themselves, which can be good or bad. If customers learn the wrong things, they may not adopt your product.
A strategic customer training plan can benefit your organization in the following ways.
Build customer trust
Helping your customers learn and succeed, especially before the sale goes through, shows them you’re invested in their growth. They should feel like your business is their partner, ultimately leading to loyal brand advocates who refer you to others who need a similar product.
Customer education helps build trust by:
- Welcoming new customers with a getting started guide, a curated selection of your most helpful blog posts, and essential product walkthroughs.
- Installing a help widget on your website or product so customers always have a quick solution to any problem.
- Sending frequent customer feedback surveys to gauge their satisfaction. If they feel unsure about your product, reach out to them and let them know you are working to solve their query.
A successful customer relationship starts with trust, ultimately leading to customer loyalty.
Increase product adoption
The faster your customers learn and use your product to their full advantage, the faster they will see results. Waiting for answers, misusing your product, or getting fed up and logging out completely are all things that prevent product adoption. Providing customers with information from the start will eliminate confusion and produce confident users.
Chauncy Cay Ford, Director of Customer Enablement at Quantum Metric, shared how they use customer education to streamline adoption. “We have built a help menu everywhere within our product,” he says. “So if our customers are overwhelmed, or they can’t remember what happened at that demo, no big deal, this help menu is always there for them.”
When users click on the help menu, they can search for what they need, and videos or guidance will pop up. Quantum Metric has received great customer feedback, some saying it’s like a quick phone-a-friend feature. While there are many ways to streamline adoption, having something in the product is critical to enhancing your learning program.
Reduce support costs
A 2018 customer experience report showed that 83 percent of consumers had experienced customer service issues like having to repeat themselves, difficulty using self-service, and trouble accessing an agent. Of the businesses surveyed, 68 percent agreed that their customer service struggles to keep up with support queries.
A comprehensive customer education strategy can proactively resolve common questions or troubleshooting needs, leading to happier customers. Not only will customers feel satisfied, but your employees will field fewer monotonous questions and have time for other pressing projects.
In addition to self-help features, it’s also helpful to incorporate a chatbot with AI capabilities. Customers can ask these bots common questions and eliminate the need to pick up a phone and wait for a customer support representative. When in doubt, a frequently asked question section in your training manual can also help with common concerns.
Studies show the average customer education program drives a 6.2 percent increase in bottom-line revenue and a 6.1 percent decrease in support costs.
Increase customer retention
Training creates “sticky customers” that continually adopt new features and renew subscriptions. You can also create certification programs facilitating product adoption, brand advocacy, and customer loyalty.
A 2019 Forrester report revealed that customer education drove a 7.4 percent increase in customer retention. A strong training program reduces churn for several reasons:
- Customers see no value in products they don’t know how to use, and consumers won’t keep spending money on products that don’t benefit them.
- Customers want immediate solutions to their problems, and when organizations fail to provide them, they will move on to a different solution.
- Customer education helps users feel at ease with product changes and informed about new features. Keeping customers in the know is key to retaining them.
Forty percent of survey respondents named customer education an important tool for reducing churn.
Many organizations can sell an amazing product but don’t go the extra step to help users translate it into results. When customer expectations haven’t been met, we see churn rates increase. A customer education program installs fail-safes so your customer always has somewhere to turn when they’ve hit a wall.
Drive revenue with upsell opportunities
Supporting your customers with education is the best way to maximize profits over time. Studies show that an established customer education program can lead to a 6.2 percent increase in organizational top-line revenue.
Thorough training promotes product adoption, satisfies customers, and frees up company time. Happy customers renew contracts, and your employees have time to bring in more customers.
Additionally, this gives employees more time to work on upselling current users. It’s much easier to upsell a satisfied existing customer than a potential one. Upsell opportunities could be anything from VIP packages to paid training content on a specific topic or even unlocking a new feature early.
Who is customer education for?
One could argue that customer education is essential for any company. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling software or hair care products; customers need guidance on using your product or service.
A survey by Thought Industries found that customer education programs were used across a mix of business models:
- B2B (83%)
- B2C (29%)
- B2B2C (16%)
- B2B2B (9%)
Companies that invest in customer education programs often meet the following criteria:
- Complex products that have a long time to value
- Products that require new behaviors or processes
- Products that add new features often
- Products you can upsell
- Products that require a lot of customer support
These companies also educate channel partners, outside professionals, and continuing education markets.
Customers who can easily understand your offering will be more likely to engage and quickly realize the potential gains and benefits. You’ll want to create a program that’s easy to deliver and evolves over time.
“WorkRamp has allowed us to take a different approach to training—it’s given us one magical space where we can put on our creative design hats to design and share learning materials with our entire community of customers and employees,”
— Chauncy Cay Ford, Director of Enablement at Quantum Metric
How to build a customer education team
Each customer education program is unique, so your team will differ based on your needs. However, stakeholders across your organization are crucial to a successful customer education program.
There are a few key roles that all programs should consider:
- Customer Education Lead. Responsible for creating the customer education strategy, building the team, and launching the program.
- Subject Matter Experts. Ensure your program is accurate and relevant to customers.
- Instructional Designer. Turn the concepts identified by SMEs into content and courses that assist customers in learning.
- Technical Lead. Manages your Learning Management Platform’s technical workstream and day-to-day operations.
- Executive Sponsor. Ensures your program is aligned with the organization’s strategic priorities.
While these roles are essential, customer education is an organization-wide commitment. When building Kustomer’s customer education program, Content Strategy Manager Krisi Thurston spoke with multiple leaders from various departments to understand what was going on.
“I wanted to be aware of what was available to me, data-wise, [and] what other leaders thought would be big needs in the future,” she explains.
How to launch a customer education program
1. Set goals
Customer education is a challenge. Without setting specific initiatives at the start, you risk executing poorly and struggling to understand the impact of your work.
So, what do you want to get from your customer education program?
Some common business goals include improving:
- Product adoption rates
- Customer satisfaction scores
- Net retention
- Renewal rates
2. Access customer onboarding needs
Knowing your customers is the key to creating effective content. Businesses often generate training materials that are hard to understand and don’t apply to the true customer journey.
To make a program that sticks, you need to know who you’re talking to.
Think about who your customers are:
- What are their goals?
- What are their fears?
- What content will help them do their jobs better?
- How do they consume content?
If you don’t know, set up customer interviews to help plan your content. Interviews offer great opportunities to understand:
- How people interact with your brand and product
- Customer pain points
- Common knowledge and skill gaps
- Where to improve your onboarding process
- What your customers want to learn
Although it may seem like a lot of work upfront, you can use this process repeatedly to build future courses and content. It will save you time and energy in the long run.
3. Find a subject matter expert (SME)
Once you understand your customers’ needs and company goals, find an SME to work with on course and module outlines.
An SME could be someone from your product team who understands product features and how they work. Or someone from your customer success team who works with customers daily. The goal is to gather information about how customers learned in the past and what worked and didn’t work. Ideally, you want one subject matter expert for each learning area.
4. Design the content
Now that you have an expert-backed outline, you can pass this information to your Instructional Designer. These folks are magicians in building interactive and engaging online learning experiences. They bring your educational content to life.
When creating content, Thurston recommends:
- Keep lessons 3 to 5 minutes long
- If lessons last longer than 10 minutes, break them into a new section
- Keep courses between 12 to 20 minutes long
Once your content is built out, it’s time to launch!
How to measure your customer education program
When you get your program up and running, you should track various metrics to prove it’s working. There won’t be any evidence of high retention or customer growth during the program’s first six months. Getting long-term business results takes time, but you can prove value fast.
Learn how to measure these key customer education metrics to understand the ROI of your program.
How to choose the right tech solution for customer education
Choosing the right learning management platform to support your program is key to success. Ask yourself the following questions when choosing a platform to invest in.
- How fast can you get learning content to customers? Consider how long it takes for the program to be ready for customers. Long implementation times can add weeks to your project.
- Can you brand the content and learning portal? A good learning management system (LMS) will let you add branding elements throughout programs to position yourself.
- What reporting features does it have? You can track key success metrics to measure the revenue impact of customer training. Some learning platforms integrate with Salesforce and other CRMs for in-depth reporting.
- Is the content easy to access on the backend? You’ll want a platform that makes content easy to create and manage in one place.
- Does it provide a fun learning experience? Features like certifications and social learning elements increase product adoption and customer engagement.
- Can it scale with your organization? Your ideal platform should be able to deliver exceptional training, whether it’s for 500 or 5,000 learners.
“I’ve seen a lot of LMS software in my day, and WorkRamp is by far the best: easy-to-use, great product, fantastic team, and scales for growing companies. Don’t overthink your LMS vendor selection process. Just do yourself a favor and implement WorkRamp.”
— John Ley, Director of GTM Enablement, Brex
Education is the ongoing driver of customer success
There’s no doubt learning content can make an impact on your bottom line. With the increasing complexity of today’s products and more competition than ever, your organization’s survival depends on whether customers renew or churn.
Helping new customers master your product transforms them from users to champions. And when people feel like champions, you’re more likely to engage, convert, and retain customers.
Want to learn more about how WorkRamp can help you build a successful customer education program? Contact us to schedule a free, personalized demo.
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