Customers today expect their vendors to not only sell them a product, but to also help them achieve business outcomes. B2B companies must now provide a differentiated and effective customer success experience, or suffer the consequences of poor product adoption and ultimately churn. For this reason, customer enablement is a fast-growing function within B2B organizations.
At Skilljar, we work with hundreds of leading B2B companies to help them onboard, enable, and retain customers. Through this experience, we’ve been introduced to the most common tools and solutions used in customer enablement efforts. In this post, we present the B2B customer enablement landscape – our overview of twelve key tool categories with definition and intended outcomes for each (click into the image below for a magnified version).
Of note, the below landscape is not intended to be comprehensive, rather, it provides a snapshot of some of the most common tools we see considered.
Video hosting tools offer a platform for your organization’s video and visual content. Content from these platforms can then be embedded within your courses to appeal to different learning styles and provide lessons like virtual walkthroughs or other product overviews.
Marketing & Messaging
These technologies allow you to get the message out to your customer, so you can encourage ideal behaviors and drive engagement with your product. For example, if someone has not engaged with training recently, you can send an in-app message and/or an automated email reminder promoting your new offerings. Another option is to create drip campaigns at the start of the customer lifecycle to keep your content top of mind.
LMS (Learning Management System)
An LMS is a software solution that is used by training organizations to deliver and track training activities, usually with an emphasis on eLearning. Depending on the platform, or a company’s specific training needs, an LMS might include features like course authoring tools, course delivery, course catalog, discussion forums, analytics, student registration, eCommerce, marketing automation or messaging, data integrations, and event and classroom space management.
While historically built for internal usage, there is an emerging market within the LMS ecosystem that is comprised of platforms focused specifically on Customer and External Education. These platforms tend to focus on the learner experience and integrate with business systems that support the customer journey.
Communities & Advocacy
Customer communities give students a forum to learn from each other and ask questions as they come up. With a community in place, organizations are also able to drive increased advocacy and reduce inbound support tickets. It’s a win-win situation. While features vary across products, communities usually provide some aspect of gamification (like a leader board) and offer a multitude of social engagement tools. Detailed analytics can help you tie community engagement to product adoption or customer referrals (source: Training Industry).
Advocacy tools help organizations leverage their existing customer base to drive word-of-mouth marketing. They often encourage participation by providing users with rewards, discounts, and a sense of community. The idea behind customer advocacy is that your prospects trust their peers. Before making a purchase, they’re looking for authentic recommendations – i.e. testimonials, stories, reviews, and referrals – from current users. This has become a crucial part of the customer acquisition and retention process at many organizations.
Knowledge Management & Help Center
Help centers (also known as help desks or knowledge banks) are a frequent starting point for providing customer training. Most often, these are publicly available materials and accessible by existing and new customers. A help center is especially useful for simple, to-the-point questions and answers. The content is always available to customers, who can self-service and find answers in real-time.
Many companies that we work with have a basic help center, resource library, or knowledge bank in place. The more extensive help centers serve as both marketing and customer support functions. There are many help desk software options, many of which are integrated with a customer support ticketing system.
In-app guidance is like a GPS that you’ve pre-programmed for your customers. These tools provide users with friendly prompts to keep them on track. For instance, a pop-up message, which includes a link to a relevant support article, may appear when someone is on a certain web page. In addition, software companies often use this type of wizard to walk customers through new features by surfacing instructions while a user is establishing a new workflow.
The tools in this category promote a holistic training ecosystem. Students are able to learn a new skill, and then immediately apply it within your product. This type of just-in-time learning can help customers establish a new workflow, or reinforce what was learned in a longer training course.
Virtual Training / Webinar Streaming
Video delivery tools enable your organization to host webinars or other types of live, virtual training. These sessions typically require registration, so you have a record of who attended for CRM purposes. Live events can be effective for generating special interest, and for those customers who prefer scheduled sessions. These programs often offer features that enable remote classrooms and screen sharing.
Depending on how training teams develop content, authoring tools may be useful. Content authoring tools are software solutions that enable you to create multimedia content, most commonly delivered through eLearning courses. Lessons built with an authoring tool can include slides, images, text, videos, animations, audio, etc.
Certification & Badging
Adding credentials to your training program can have a number of benefits – from driving engagement to ensuring necessary technical skills are acquired. Depending on the stakes of your assessments and the desired outcomes, tools in this category will enable you to create, manage, and issue digital credentials.
Support has always been a huge component of customer enablement, but with the rise of social media, it is now more important than ever. Today’s customers are used to receiving fast responses to their queries and complaints. For this reason, it helps to have both a knowledge base and support ticket system in place.
While these tools are valuable to include in your tech stack, they are entirely reactive (i.e. someone realizes they need help and will either write to you or search for an answer themselves). Consider implementing them alongside other more proactive options.
Customer Success Management
The primary goal of these companies is to help their customers reduce churn and drive additional revenue through renewals and expansions. With these tools at hand, customer-facing teams can quickly identify healthy and at-risk accounts.
Customer Success Teams can set parameters for specific health scores, which then help them prioritize certain activities and develop a playbook based on a variety of factors. Companies use this information to activate members of their customer success team and give them clear next steps for each leg of the customer journey.
“How likely are you to recommend this business to a friend or colleague?” This question is a prime example of how customer-facing teams are using feedback at their organizations today.
Feedback is essential for any team looking to continuously improve customer interactions. In fact, this type of software is designed to collect relevant customer experience data, including Net Promoter Scores. As a result, customer-facing teams can categorize users into promoters, passives, or detractors, and respond accordingly. This helps you understand how satisfied your customer base is as a whole and benchmark off industry standards. On a more granular level, data from surveys can feed into customer health metrics, and help you understand the satisfaction of an individual customer/account.
The customer enablement space is relatively new, so it can be difficult to navigate. That being said, this post is just an overview of the available options. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that your team may not need to utilize tools within all twelve categories right away. Before making a purchase, consider what will equip your customers to get the most out of your product and whether you can demonstrate ROI to justify the additional spend.