What is Customer Education & Why You Can’t Afford to Neglect It
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 on how to use 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 your customer how to use your product or software to achieve their goals. Customer education is an incredible value-add that should begin before the sale and continue after onboarding.
Customer education is a collection of resources, including:
- 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 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
When most people hear customer education, they think of the initial training a customer receives during onboarding. However, you can increase sales and retention by incorporating customer training during all phases of the customer life cycle.
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 so they can 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 3-4 weeks typically involve a lot of hand-holding 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, and 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 possibly 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 that develop true mastery with your product are likely to embed it in their process, renew, invest in upsells, and refer 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.
Why is Customer Education Important for Your Business?
A customer education program sets you apart from your competitors. Educational resources and communities can make the difference between choosing—and staying with—one product over another. Plus, with 60% of companies who see success with customer education only spending 10% of their L&D budget on customer training, customer education can be a low-cost investment with significant benefits.
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 onto 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, and that ultimately leads to customer loyalty.
Increase Product Adoption
The quicker your customers learn your product and use it 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.
have built a help menu everywhere within our product. So if our customers are overwhelmed, or they can’t remember what happen
ed 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 feedback from customers, some saying it’s like a quick phone-a-friend feature. While there are a lot of ways to streamline adoption, “Having something in the product is really critical to enhancing your learning program.”
Reduce Support Costs
A recent customer experience report showed that 83% 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% 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 the self-help feature mentioned above, 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.
Increase Customer Retention
A recent Forrester report revealed customer education drove a 7.4% 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 customers feel at ease with product changes and informed about new features. Keeping customers in the know is key to retaining them.
Many organizations can sell an amazing product but don’t go the extra step to help customers 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% increase in organizational top-line revenue. Thorough training promotes product adoption, satisfied customers, and frees up company time. Happy customers renew contracts, and your employees will 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 the VIP package mentioned earlier to paid training content on a specific topic or even unlocking a new feature early.
7 Tips for Building a Customer Training Program
A customer education program is a standardized way of teaching your customers everything they need to succeed within your product. Consider the steps below to scale your customer training.
1. Set Customer Education Goals
Defining objectives from the start will help determine the success of your customer education program. Common goals for customer education programs include:
- Decrease churn by x%
- Reduce customer onboarding by x days
- Increase upsells by x%
- Lower how-to calls about x feature
- Achieve x number of training certifications
- Reduce missed search term results by x number
These goals for education must be communicated to everyone working with the customer. At Quantum Metrics, customer education starts internally: “You have to build that internal knowledge first and make sure everybody understands why they’re there. Our CEO has asked everyone to take the customer’s fundamentals training because if you don’t know what product you have and the goodness that it brings to your customers, why are you here?” Chauncy bases a lot of her new program goals around customer usage and, as it matures, starts digging into whether high users translate to quicker product adoption.
2. Meet Internally to Plan the Base Curriculum
Creating a customer training program takes a team of collaborative and informed individuals. Everyone needs to know your product’s value and the value of informed customers because “The more silos you have, the harder everything is,” Chauncy said. “If you bring people together with the same message, data, goal, it’s just going to work.”
Assemble a customer education team to surface customer pain points and identify essential customer knowledge. This team typically consists of implementation, onboarding, and customer success managers who have background knowledge of customer needs.
Add these questions to your meeting agenda:
- What takes the most time for customers to learn? What comes easiest to them?
- What are common questions and challenges customers have?
- Are there any tools being underutilized?
- What features are customers using that bring them the most success?
- What resources or upgrades do our customers wish our product offered?
Use the information gathered to start outlining your curriculum. While different team members may have identified different success metrics, find common themes across departments. For example, if everyone mentioned that customers couldn’t figure out how to update their payment method, make sure your program includes support on updating account information. And suppose customers find that your lead tracking function is extremely helpful. In that case, it may be a good idea to emphasize that tool in onboarding and provide current customers with useful tips to maximize its effectiveness.
3. Use Customer Insights to Inform Content
In addition to talking with the internal team, your own customers are an essential resource when planning a customer education program. Asking for their input and then delivering on their requests is also an excellent way to build trust and show them they can grow with you.
Find customer insights by:
- Surveying current customers to see what they want to learn more about or understand better.
- Asking for feedback from customers who have churned.
- Go through support tickets or search data in your help center and find trends.
- Leverage Data Visualizations and learning dashboards to identify gaps in training.
For example, in WorkRamp’s Data Visualizations, you can see the top searches for terms, missed searches, and how many times people are searching per day. Knowing that ‘knowledge base,’ for example, is a missed search term, you can conclude users are having trouble finding your knowledge base. Using that information, your customer education plan could include directions for finding it or in-app guidance showing where your knowledge base is located.
4. Diversify Education Formats
Make sure resources are accessible, dynamic, and easy to digest. In the beginning, it’s helpful to give customers short, bite-sized pieces of information as not to overwhelm them. Customers don’t want to learn something complicated.
Common educational content includes:
- Videos of walkthroughs, screen recordings, and webinars. These formats are helpful for users who don’t have time for reading or who learn visually.
- Training manuals with processes and frequently asked questions. These resources are typically located in a company knowledge base and are essential for companies who don’t have learning management software.
- In-app guidance like help widgets and interactive walkthroughs. These tools help customers get immediate answers and will eliminate the need to stop in the middle of using your product.
Different formats work best for various expertise levels. When building Quantum University, Quantum Metric’s customer education platform, Cay Ford, found it helpful to offer training in various formats like video, audio, and text so that learners can choose their preferences.
5. Take Advantage of Learning Software
Save company time and appeal to your customer’s learning preferences by using a learning management system for customer education. Organizations that use technology to revamp the customer experience can increase customer satisfaction by up to 20% percent, according to a survey of over 3,600 consumers.
LMS software has plenty of tools to help streamline customer education programs. Check out some of the benefits of using an LMS for your customer education program below.
- Creating a digital customer education program with an LMS takes zero web development knowledge.
- Adding new courses or updating existing content is easy.
- You can easily track who has completed courses and completed certificates.
- Customers can learn at their own pace and access training 24/7.
6. Track Your Education Efforts
Another reason many organizations use an LMS is their easy-to-use analytics tools. For example, WorkRamp’s analytics tools allow organizations to see the number of users, how far they have gotten in their training, their search queries, and so much more. These data points are a great way to understand how users engage with your training program and identify areas of opportunity.
Another unique user tracking tool is heat maps. Chauncy used this WorkRamp function when building Quantum University courses. She noticed users bypassed the ‘Getting Started’ button and went straight into the ‘Fundamentals’ course. With the heat map feature, she was able to see that only 31% of people scrolled past the fold to see all their options. So they used this information to add header links to the page, so the information was more visible.
In the early stages of her customer education program, Chauncy also found that users were getting stuck in a loop, trying to find their way back to the home screen. So the WorkRamp team was able to install a breadcrumb feature, which acts as secondary navigation, to show users where they are within the Quantum University application: “Breadcrumbs has been immensely helpful, and we monitor this,” Chauncy explained. “We have built-in a ‘can’t find my way home’ query just to make sure that it’s not still happening, and I’m happy to report there’s only one customer who couldn’t find their way home in the last week!”
Tracking user behavior and diving deep into analytics is the best way to see if your customer education program resonates with your customers. If you’re finding discrepancies in your goals and the results, you have an opportunity to fix them before customers get frustrated.
7. Continuously Improve Your Program
Your customer education program should be constantly evolving. As is true with most user programs, it’s something you build, monitor, learn from, and then try again.
Everything you gather from heat maps, missed search terms, help requests, and user feedback, can show you where to iterate on the current program to make it better. “This is version two of how many, I have no idea,” Cay Ford said while showing us her newest program. “Our product changes constantly, and we’re just trying to keep up. It’s not about building more; it’s about building better for our customers.”
While constantly monitoring and updating your customer education program may seem overwhelming, “Focus on what you need to prioritize for the most eyeballs, the most impact, and that adds true value for your customers.” Find your most significant pain points and start there. Customers will be happy knowing you pay attention to their difficulties and actively solve them.
Train Your Customers like You Train Your Employees
We all know the importance of well-informed employees, and it may be helpful to think of customer education in the same way. Onboarding employees and training customers are investments to ensure a system works well and people feel adequately prepared.
You can apply many best practices from employee training to customer training, such as:
- Create a central knowledge base where your resources live. Customers won’t have to go searching for information if they know there’s a dedicated product wiki.
- Assign new users an onboarding buddy (in this case, a customer success person). This person helps those in onboarding feel less isolated and like they have a person to lean on when they need assistance.
- Survey your users. The best way to know if employee onboarding is helpful is to talk to those going through it. Similarly, asking for feedback from your customers will show you what you could do to support them better.
Learn more about how WorkRamp can help you build and scale your customer education programs.
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