What is customer enablement? Customer enablement is a fast-growing function within B2B organizations that ensures your customer as much value out of your product as possible. It uses training, education, and support systems to do so.
Customers today expect their vendors to do more than sell them a product — they expect vendors to 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. That’s why 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 as we defined it in 2020. It includes our overview of 12 key tool categories with definitions and intended outcomes for each.
Of note: The below landscape is not intended to be comprehensive. Rather, it provides a snapshot of some of the most common tools in use.
The B2B Customer Enablement Tech Landscape
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 or an automated email reminder to promote your newest offering. In another example, you could create an automated drip campaign with helpful content that kicks off when a customer onboards to your product.
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, LMS features might include:
- Course authoring tools
- Course delivery
- Course catalog
- Discussion forums
- Student registration
- Marketing automation or messaging
- Data integrations
- Event and classroom space management
While historically built for internal use, there is an emerging market within the LMS ecosystem composed of platforms focused specifically on customer and external education. These platforms tend to focus on the learning experience and integrate with business systems that support the customer journey.
Ready to launch an LMS for your organization? Our toolkit will help you get started.
Communities & Advocacy
Communities give your customers a forum to learn from each other and ask questions. With a community in place, organizations are also able to drive increased advocacy and reduce inbound support tickets. It’s a win-win situation!
Features vary across products. But communities usually provide some gamification (such as a leader board) and social engagement tools. Detailed analytics can help you tie community engagement to product adoption or customer referrals.
Advocacy tools help your organization leverage your existing customer base to drive word-of-mouth marketing. These tools encourage participation by providing your customers with rewards, discounts, and a sense of community.
With advocacy, your organization is also enabling new customer acquisition. Before making a purchase, most organizations will look for authentic customer recommendations. These recommendations can be through testimonials, stories, reviews, or referrals.
Knowledge Management & Help Centers
Help centers, otherwise known as help desks or knowledge banks, are a frequent starting point for providing customer training. Most often, your existing and new customers can access these materials on their own and in real time. A help center is especially useful for simple, to-the-point questions and answers about using your product.
At Skilljar, many of the organizations 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, which often integrate with your customer support ticketing system.
In-app guidance is like a GPS that you’ve pre-programmed for your customers. These in-app tools provide your customers with friendly prompts to keep them on track. For instance, a pop-up message with a link to a relevant support article may appear when someone is on a certain web page. These in-app tools are also helpful for walking your customers through new features by surfacing instructions.
The tools in this category promote a holistic training ecosystem. Your customers are able to learn a new skill and then immediately apply it within your product. This type of just-in-time learning can help your 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 for your customers.
These video 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 your customers who prefer scheduled sessions). These programs typically offer features that enable remote classrooms and screen sharing.
Depending on how your 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.
For more, we also have a comprehensive guide to badges, certificates, and certifications.
Support has always been a huge component of customer enablement. And 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. In these instances, your customer realizes they need help and will either write to you or search for an answer themselves. Consider implementing them alongside other more proactive support options.
Customer Success Management
The primary goal of customer success management tools is to help you reduce churn and drive additional revenue through renewals and expansions. With these tools at hand, your customer-facing teams can quickly identify healthy and at-risk accounts.
Your 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. Your company can use this information to activate members of your 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 (NPS). 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.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2017, and has been updated in 2021.