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Customer Education

Why You Should Create a Customer Certification Program

You already invest in training your employees and helping them grow in their careers, but it’s also essential to train your customers to help them get the most out of your products or services. Dedicating time and resources to training customers can help you hit your goals and turn loyal customers into brand advocates.

Forrester Research found that formalized customer education programs drive an average increase of 6.2 percent in bottom-line revenue and 7.4 percent in customer retention and a 6.1 percent decrease in customer support costs. Ninety percent of respondents’ organizations had positive ROI on customer education spending.

If you want to see these kinds of results, consider creating a customer certification program, which allows you to formalize and incentivize your customer education efforts.

What is a customer certification program?

What makes a customer certification program different from other types of customer education? There are two elements to focus on. 

First, a certification program is usually more rigorous than a traditional customer education approach. For example, Quantum Metric created Quantum Metric University (QMU) to train and educate customers and partners.

QMU includes on-demand training modules, workshops, and certification programs to help customers use the product to its fullest potential. 

“My goal is for each Quantum Metric customer to reach what I call an ‘aha-doption’ moment, where they truly learn to embrace our product as their own to accomplish their unique business goals.”

 

-Chauncy Cay Ford, Director of Enablement, Quantum Metric

 

Secondly, a certification includes a completion badge that users can proudly display on their website and social media. It showcases their knowledge and provides marketing and an endorsement for your products and services. 

This lets customers be proud of their accomplishments while helping you build your brand.

The benefits of customer certification

There are several advantages to creating a customer certification program. Here are just a few to consider.

Users have the incentive to dive deep into your product or service

Having an onboarding process or user guide for your product or service is great, but how do you get your customers truly interested in the details of your solution? Some folks will only want to understand their particular use case because that’s all they believe they need.

But when you offer a certification, it changes the equation. Learning about how your solution can help users becomes a challenge and an accomplishment. Customers are now motivated and will find themselves discovering many additional use cases.

Not only do they feel proud of their accomplishments, but customers who understand your product or service are uniquely positioned to become advocates for your brand. Combining a certification program with a referral program is a powerful 1-2 punch for growth.

“When brand, content, and community are together, we start to see the real ROI of customer education.” 

 

– Tony Vaughn, Director of Customer Education, Qualified

The rigor makes the certification worth paying attention to

Participation trophies get such a bad rap in our society because people don’t have to work for them. We aren’t impressed when people brag about finishing a course or program we know isn’t challenging.

However, a certification is different. It denotes a more rigorous training process, and when you create it the right way—as challenging but not overwhelming—it’s also accessible to your customers. 

When your users display your certification, they’re showcasing that they cared enough to learn the details of something important—and that you care about helping them get the most out of your product or service. 

Certifications help reduce pressure on the customer success team

When your customers are certified, they naturally have more confidence and knowledge about your solutions. That means if something comes up, they know exactly where to go to get the answer, solve the problem, or find a particular feature. 

As a result, your customer success team won’t receive calls, emails, and service tickets for relatively simple problems. At the same time, your customers will be able to meet more of their own needs through your product or service, so they’ll be less likely to go to a competitor. 

An FAQ page or user guide isn’t enough to help your users find solutions. A well-designed certification program, however, covers more details and is easy to navigate so customers can find what they need when they need it.

Types of customer credentialing programs

There are a variety of customer credentials available, and seeing some examples can help you decide what kind you want to create for your customers. 

Consider your goals for the program and available resources when choosing what type of program to build.

Proctored certification

If you create a proctored customer certification, you create a wholesale deep-dive into your product or service. The exam for the certification, once course materials are completed, is monitored by a third party to ensure that it’s completed fairly and according to the rules.

The certification proves that the person who completed it has specific knowledge and proficiency, which can help them gain employment focused on your product or service.

For example, Salesforce has a variety of certifications available for Salesforce Administrators, Sales or Service Cloud Consultants, Platform Developers, and more. The exams are proctored, and having these certifications can help someone get hired at a company that uses Salesforce as its primary platform.

Non-proctored certification

If you want to create a detailed certification without setting up a proctored exam, you can create in-depth materials and have a simple online final exam. This can still be a high-quality, reputable certification, and you can require that students update their skills after a specific amount of time to maintain their certification.

LinkedIn’s certification program is non-proctored but still teaches important skills and helps someone become a LinkedIn “power user.” Certified users are also invited to exclusive networking events and beta testing groups.

Certificate of completion

Instead of certifying a specific level of knowledge, you could create a customer credential that shows the user completed a specific training course.

You can have a final exam to ensure the customer learned what you intended to share, but the process is far less rigorous than an official, verifiable certification.

Digital badges

You can create a digital badge for any certification program, or you can use them more casually for customers who have completed onboarding and fully implemented your product or service. 

A digital badge can have embedded metadata that lists the course, skills included, and criteria for certification. That makes it easy for interested parties to verify the certification.

QMU digital badges
Source: Quantum Metric

Digital badges are fun for customers to display on their websites and social media. They also bring positive attention to your brand and help customers become brand advocates.

We recommend creating digital badges for all of your customer certification program levels. 

How to create a valuable certification program for your product or service

Creating a certification program is something you can do in-house. It makes the most sense for your team to take the lead because you already know what your customers enjoy most about your product or service and what questions commonly arise. 

Choosing the certification team

Creating a customer certification isn’t a one-person job. Instead, you’ll need a variety of team members.

Consider who would be best for the following:

  • Project lead: One person should be in charge of leading the project and ensuring it gets off the ground and implemented
  • Executive champion: You’ll need someone to champion the idea to leadership and ensure you get (and keep) the budget you need. Your executive sponsor can ensure your certification program aligns with the business’s priorities as well.
  • Subject matter experts: Whatever you’re teaching, you’ll need experts to create and vet the material. 
  • Lesson designer: Adults have a variety of learning styles. The lesson designer will create modules that make sense for your target audience.
  • Technical experts: You need software to host the training and it will need to have an easy-to-understand customer-facing interface. An all-in-one learning platform like WorkRamp can help with customer education, sales enablement, and employee learning and development.

While each of these roles can be a different person, it’s also OK to have one person in multiple roles. For example, your subject matter expert may also be able to design the lessons. 

Determine your goals

Next, work with the project team to set your customer certification program goals. For example, you might want to have adoption goals (a certain number of customers go through the program by a certain date), rating goals (users rate the program out of five stars), customer retention improvements, and more.

Be sure the goals are concrete and measurable; otherwise, you won’t be able to show success. On the other hand, demonstrating success can help you get additional funding for customer education programs in the future.

Create your program

Once you’ve set your goals, you can work with your champion to get the needed budget and launch your project. 

This process includes the following objectives:

  • Create content around your most important features, as determined by customer feedback and input from your customer success team.
  • Determine the content mix and length: mix words with video, images, quizzes, and more to create an engaging experience, and keep modules short so customers can fit the certification program to boost engagement and retention.
  • Decide how you’ll roll it out. Often, it’s helpful to do a small rollout to a select group of customers and get their feedback. You can then improve the certification process or simply move forward with a larger rollout, depending on how things went.

Creating the program may take time, but be sure to keep moving. Customer certification programs can have a significant positive impact on your company’s results.

Measure results

Once you’ve started the rollout, it’s time to measure your results. What you choose to focus on depends largely on your goals for the certification, but you can also measure additional information.

Consider the following metrics:

  • Customer completion rate
  • How long it takes for customers to certify
  • Certification exam scores
  • Changes in support requests
  • Changes in customer retention
  • Feedback from customers about the certification process

These metrics will help you show that you’ve succeeded or tell you where you need to improve the certification program. Don’t be afraid of the data—it helps you improve so that your certification is truly valuable to your customers.

Read more: 7 Customer Education Metrics to Measure Your Programs

Best practices for customer certification programs

The outline of creating a certification program gives you a great starting point; knowing the best practices that others have used can help you reduce the learning curve and get great results faster. 

Here are some things to keep in mind.

Keep modules short

Microlearning is a major trend, and for good reason. In today’s work environment, free time is scarce. Having training that is available on-demand and fits into your schedule is essential. 

“Microlearning is the way to go. If there’s one thing people don’t have right now, it’s time.”

 

-Seth Jones, Customer Success Manager, Vanta

 

Microlearning also has a lot of advantages, such as providing reinforcement that makes the material easier to retain, and engage with, and improves comprehension of new ideas.

Use visuals and gamification to boost engagement

Very few people enjoy reading textbooks, and if that’s how your customer certification feels, no one will complete it. 

Instead, use videos, graphics, game elements, and more to make your certification modules fun and engaging. Include appropriate humor, quizzes, and interactive elements to make the training experience “stick” and the material memorable. 

These elements will improve completion rates and help your certification be useful and enjoyable for your customers.

Use the right technology

The technology you use to deploy your customer certification program can make or break your efforts. If you choose a platform that’s difficult to use or understand, your customers aren’t going to make the effort to be certified.

Quantum Metric, a continuous product design platform, created Quantum Metric University, a customer education academy with training modules where users can learn about the product and get certified. With WorkRamp, Quantum Metric has been able to:

  • Build 50+ product training paths in QMU 
  • Train and certify 75% of its customers on product offerings
  • Award 1,000+ certifications in the first year
  • Effectively onboard 90 new employees in 90 days
  • Democratize training content across the business 
  • Save time and resources with a consolidated internal and external LMS

Create the customer certification program your business needs

Every business is looking for ways to increase revenue and decrease costs. A customer certification program can do both, while also increasing customer retention and giving you a great tie-in for your referral program.

To have a successful program, however, you need the right platform. An all-in-one learning platform like WorkRamp can help you build internal learning and development and robust customer training. 

Ready to get stared? Contact us for a free, personalized demo. 

Anna Spooner

Freelance Writer

Anna Spooner is a digital strategist and marketer with over 11 years of experience. She writes content for various industries, including SaaS, medical and personal insurance, healthcare, education, marketing, and business. She enjoys the process of putting words around a company’s vision and is an expert at making complex ideas approachable and encouraging an audience to take action. 

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