Customer Education: How to Educate Customers Profitable for Businessby@strateh76
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Customer Education: How to Educate Customers Profitable for Business

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Customer education is content designed to attract, engage and retain new and existing customers. It is delivered programmatically through in-person and on-demand channels. Businesses should invest in customer education if they have a complex product that users need to learn to understand the value.
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Customer education is a win-win for customers and businesses. The customer gets more pleasure from the product (because he or she understands it better), and the business gets more profit due to better feedback, outreach, and purchases. Many companies use customer education as a growth marketing tool.

A prime example of how customer education helps businesses and customers is Slack. Workplace, launched in 2013, has shown tremendous growth over the years.

At the Bay Area Customer Success meetup, Kristen Swanson (VP of Customer Insights at Slack) discussed how customer education at Slack works. Here are some interesting quotes from her story:

Education was the core of Slack as a product. If you're just getting started with customer education, find one ticklish problem of your customers and try to remove it. Feel the rush of energy, create the solution and see how it takes root.

I see customer education as the jet fuel for CSM. We do what we can to help build better and faster customer relationships.

What about sales: as customers move from a free product to a paid product, the more mature they become in their use, the more likely they are to say, "Yeah, let's invest [in the paid version]. That's why it's natural to support educational programs for sales and marketing departments.

Of course, customer education isn't just crucial for big SaaS companies like Slack, Checkr, Box, and Optimizely. Here we can even discuss whether they would be big WITHOUT customer education...

But that's a topic for another discussion. The fact is that customer education is important and necessary for companies of any profile and size.

What companies need customer education?

Customer education is content designed to attract, engage and retain new and existing customers. It is delivered programmatically through in-person and on-demand channels. Businesses should invest in customer education if they have:

  • Complex product that users need to learn to understand the value
  • Product that requires users to change existing behaviors, processes, or workflows
  • Diverse user base in terms of needs and roles
  • Products that are regularly updated with new features and functionality
  • Assortment of pre-sales and cross-sales products
  • Products that require extensive support

For all these cases, customer education is crucial.

How to create a customer education strategy for your company?

Working on customer education involves several steps:

  • Auditing the current state of customer education
  • Searching for problems
  • Selection of tools
  • Allocation of resources
  • Developing and testing solutions

Let's discuss each in more detail.

An audit of the current state of customer education

One way or another, you're already talking about your product and how to use it somehow, even if that process isn't formally called customer education. Before you create something new, it's important to delve into what's already happening.

So, how do you audit the current state of customer education in your company? Focus on these questions:

  • What educational resources do users have right now?
  • Where are users finding answers to their questions right now?
  • What tools do you use for customer education?
  • Do you provide on-demand guides?
  • How is the learning process structured at each stage of the customer journey?

Regarding the last question, write everything, step by step, from the first email you send after signing up (step 1) and beyond. Then look even further back to step 0: how is the training built for users who haven't yet become customers? How do you inform them about the product? How do you explain that this is the right product for them?

At this point, it's clear that customer education involves a lot of company resources. Which teams are involved in customer education? These are tech support, the sales department, and the marketing department. Talk to these teams and find out what they do for customer education:

  • What tools are used to educate customers?
  • Is there a training management system and/or customer support center?
  • What information do users come in for, and how does it happen?

The most important thing at this stage is to put all the information on two shelves:

  • What we already have and how it works
  • What we don't have and whether we need it

Calculate each tool you have and determine its impact on customer success. At this stage, you'll probably have a pile of information: records of support calls, lists of questions from online chats, statistics on the most viewed articles and guides in the blog and knowledge base, and personal opinions after interviews with marketers and sales managers.

Identification of problems in customer education

As you gather information, you will notice some patterns, repetitive phrases from different specialists, and typical questions in documentation and conversation records. Usually, at this stage, it becomes apparent that there are problems in the customer journey that need to be solved. For this, it's important to capture the results of your research. First, simply collect in one file all the problems you can identify. Next, you will need to analyze, prioritize, perform risk management, and plan the implementation. But for now, we're at the identification stage, so...

Examples of typical problems in customer education:

  • For SaaS: high churn rate 3-7 days after signup (it can mean users are not adapting due to onboarding issues)
  • For eCommerce: low percentage of cross-sales and pre-sales (it can mean users are not aware of other products offered (for smartphone - adapter, protective case, speaker) or services (reflashing, software installation)).
  • For any product: a high level of support requests after using a product or individual feature.

The goal at this point is to find problems in your specific product (or part of it).

When you have a list of problems, it's time to develop an action plan to solve them. To do this, you can use a special matrix: it divides users into segments based on the audience volume (for how many users it is relevant) and risks (how critical the problem is). The result is 4 segments:

  • Large audience and high risk
  • Large audience and low risk
  • Small audience and high risk
  • Small audience and low risk

Based on this segmentation, you can understand what type of customer education is needed and prioritize the work on it.

Case 1. High volume, high risk - it is when you have a lot of end users in a regulated environment. Options for customer onboarding with customer education:

  • Training with a certified program, for example, as in Google products - Google Ads, Google Analytics, etc
  • Constantly available knowledge base for refresher training as people use your product
  • Training led by a virtual instructor to explain more complex topics in a more interactive format

Customer onboarding is one of the most challenging aspects of the path to purchase.

Case 2. High volume, low risk - it is when you have a high volume of end users, and the end goal is broad product adoption. Options for customer onboarding with customer education:

  • Series of training led by a virtual instructor, which is especially useful when the geography is wide
  • Step-by-step guide inside the product (with pop-ups or other types of prompts) without separate customer onboarding content (as a knowledge base)
  • Short videos with micro-tips and tips for individual tasks and situations, easily consumable and digestible

You can develop effective training by carefully analyzing your user base and determining their position in the matrix.

Case 3. Low volume, high risk - it is when you have professional users whose mistakes are very risky for the brand. Options for customer onboarding with customer education:

  • Online calls or mini-conferences to model situations and solve specific problems
  • Webinars with experts with narrow custom training (for example, how to use solution X specifically for online stores with an assortment of 500-1000 items or for corporate websites of car dealers)
  • Certification programs with specifications (Google Advertising training is a great example).

Effective training will work for your business and solve current problems.

Case 4. Low volume, low risk - it is when you have a narrow segment of users with custom queries but not critical to the brand (for example, users who use SEO tools for PPC). Options for customer onboarding with customer education:

  • A knowledge base with a section for custom tool use
  • Segmentation and subsequent training through an email course specialized exclusively on the demands of the audience
  • Documentation for technical support to quickly resolve current issues

Practical training can not only solve current problems but prevent new ones.

Choosing tools for customer education

When you know your customers' pain points, it's time to develop a plan to help them overcome them. To do this, you'll need the right tools and resources. Customer education tools you may need:

  • Learning Management System (LMS)
  • Blog
  • In-product guides
  • In-product notifications
  • Email newsletters
  • Knowledge base outside the LMS
  • Customer success team
  • Metaverse learning

The format of content for customer education will depend on the goals, audience, complexity of the product, and level of user knowledge:

  • Webinars - great for getting familiar with the product interface or when it would be helpful to ask a person to explain a complex topic
  • Recorded screen demonstrations - ideal for sharing step-by-step instructions for complex customizations or interfaces
  • Infographics (PDF)- an opportunity to rework existing marketing content for high-level overviews or quick facts
  • Presentations (slides) - an opportunity to upload previously used content during in-person training
  • Tests and surveys - they help measure comprehension and help engage and retain users in the training content.

For example, SaaS customer education might include:

  • Post-registration email - initial navigation about what the service can do, how it can help, and where to find more information
  • In-product tooltips - step-by-step prompts in the interface when the user first opens it
  • In-product knowledge base with the most common questions and articles on effective use
  • Regular live webinars or sending webinar recordings via email newsletter a few days after signing up
  • Follow-up email with more in-depth customer onboarding and reminders of where to go for support
  • Visible and fast in-product support
  • Chatbot

Now let’s discuss the resources you need to implement your customer education strategy.

Resource allocation for customer education

You can start designing future customer training when you've figured out the possible tools and formats. And that's where the problem begins...

Where to get the resources for implementing a customer education strategy?

The most common (and understandable and natural) problem in any company is limited human, time, and financial resources. Where to get the money and time to design and develop your own learning management system (LMS) from scratch? You need a project manager, a business analyst, a learning specialist, a designer, a content creator, a frontend developer, a backend developer, a QA expert...

The answer, as usual, is simple. Find the point where you can get the most out of your efforts. This is one case where you don't have to hit hard but know where to hit.

For example, if you're losing a significant number of clients in the first few weeks, develop a set of adaptation courses that address those problems in the first place. Or, if you notice the same recurring support request, develop documents for agents to respond to it directly, and put it in a prominent place on your FAQ or blog.

That is, you should develop and promote content that first solves customer education's biggest problem. That problem will be different for each company. Still, an expert with business analysis skills will help you find the best point to effectively use company resources while getting the best return on customer education.

Create, test, and repeat!

Customer education is not a program you create, run and never touch again. It's an iterative process that repeats in cycles, capturing and optimizing new processes each time. It should be seen as a living, dynamic part of the company that needs to be constantly improved, updated, and reevaluated. Just like marketing, sales, and other processes.

To work on customer education, you can use any convenient framework already implemented in your project management and involves iterative processes. For example, the PDCA model is the simplest example of cyclical work on improvement implementation.

Like all agile methodologies, the PDCA model is based on lean philosophy. So in terms of resource-intensive for the company, it's a fairly advantageous model:

Step 1: Analyze and draw up requirements.

Step 2. Make a plan for the first iteration.

Step 3. Launch and test, detect errors and weak points.

Step 4: Correct errors and adjust requirements and workflow if necessary.

And repeat!

Project management for customer education follows the same principles as project management in any other area and uses the appropriate approaches.

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