Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta wrote the book on customer success. So who better to ask about the impact of customer education on customer success?
Well, when Nick Mehta talks about customer success, you want to listen. See for yourself in this keynote he gave at Skilljar Connect 2022, the premier customer education conference. No time to watch a video? We get it. We’re all about education so we know that people like to learn in different ways.
Gainsight’s mission is to help businesses drive better outcomes for their customers and, in the process, build more durable businesses that can endure all the ups and downs of the economy. Their software helps organizations scale customer success, build community for customers, and understand product usage. The bigger thing they’re doing at Gainsight, Nick said, is building a community of customer success professionals that can learn from each other. (We at Skilljar share Nick’s commitment to building a community for learning professionals.)
Nick explained how customer education is integral to every step of the customer journey. But much of what he said before getting into the meat of his presentation was just as worthwhile, entertaining, and illuminating. Here are some key takeaways.
Why customer education is more important than ever
“In these tough times, managing, retaining, and driving growth of customers, and enabling them to get the most out of your software are the most critical things you can do as a business.” – Nick Mehta
Technology has made it possible for new vendors to rapidly develop and deliver their products to market. This has led to more choices than ever for customers, which means we all have to fight for our customers every day. With so many options, the idea of putting customers at the center of your business becomes core to every organization and makes what employees at these companies do even more strategic.
Customer success is imperative for surviving the economic downturn
“There’s no better way to keep and grow your existing customers than having them trained and enabled on your software. If they’re not trained and enabled then you’re not going to keep them and you’re not going to grow.” – Nick Mehta
Nick is a pretty smart guy, but don’t just take his word for the importance of customer success. He cited research that points to the importance of customer success for fueling business value.
Research from McKinsey & Company found that what’s driving the most valuable companies in 2022 is not just getting new customers but keeping and growing existing customers, i.e., net revenue retention.
Bain & Company, along with Gainsight’s own research, found that despite the economic downturn, companies are still investing in customer success. Approximately 90% of tech companies plan to keep and grow their customer success initiatives (including customer education) despite the economic downturn, according to Bain.
“In an economic downturn, there’s nothing more important than making your customers successful.” – Nick Mehta
“If our customers aren’t onboarded and enabled and getting value, then we’re not going to make it through these tough times,” Nick said. He explained the concept of durable growth–the only way to build revenue from existing customers is to make sure they’re onboarded, enabled, adopting, and getting value from your solution. Therefore, the role of a customer education professional is to make your business more durable.
Why customer education is at the heart of customer success
Nick demonstrated the correlation between customer education and customer success as follows:
Customer Success = (Positive) Customer Outcomes + (Great) Customer Experience
While customer education and customer success may seem like different disciplines, the goals of both are exactly the same: helping customers adopt behaviors to drive the business outcomes they are seeking.
“Customer education and customer success have the exact same goal; they’re just doing it from different lenses.” – Nick Mehta
Both customer education and customer success are about changing people’s mindsets, changing what they do every day, educating them, inspiring them,and getting them to achieve what they’re looking for.
Not convinced yet?
When Gainsight conducted a survey of their customers asking them what their top four goals were for customer success, and separately, customer education, the results were the same– adoption, scalability, onboarding, and time to value.
Customer Education is integral to every step in the customer journey
Now that Nick has made his case for why customer education is at the heart of customer success, let’s review the ways customer education is integral to every step of the customer journey.
- Onboarding – What’s the #1 predictor of a customer doing well? They’ve gone through customer training. These are the people who can take a project and move it forward using your software. At Gainsight, they measure the health of customers by whether or not they took their training (powered by Skilljar), i.e., not taking training is a key indicator of risk.
- Support – Every time a support ticket opens for Gainsight, through a Skilljar chat widget, support reps can see if a customer took training or not. If they see recurring cases about a particular topic, they can guide customers to a specific module in the learning platform, or develop one if none exists, considerably easing the burden on support teams.
- Adoption – The sooner a user adopts your product, the more successful they’re likely to be with it. Further, it’s important to not just get customers to use your product but to become more sophisticated in how they use it. (Gainsight has an incredible community of certified professionals who share best practices on Gainsight adoption based on training and promote peer-to-peer learning.)
- Satisfaction – We want customers to have a great experience with our product but we also want them to like us, which translates into Net Promoter Score (NPS). For Gainsight, the difference between customers who are huge fans and those who aren’t is whether or not they’ve been certified.
- Stickiness – We want our customers to be sticky, to last with us through the ups and downs. Having an educated, enabled customer base creates stickiness. Building an army of certified users who are raving fans of your product is one way to create stickiness and drive success long term.
- Digital & Scale – Everyone in today’s economy is being told to do more with less. Having CSMs train customers 1:1 is inefficient. You need to move to a 1:many or virtual classroom environment in order to scale. Gainsight sends automated messages to every new customer to get them into a learning path early on. This is one example of how to scale customer education.
- Outcomes – How can we drive outcomes for our customers? Understand the risk of them not being trained. And then build a success plan for them that involves training. (Remember: Customer Success = Customer Outcomes + Customer Experience)
- Expansion – One way to get customers to use your product in different ways and try more of your offerings is to get them more educated on it. Education should be built into the product itself, with modules that teach about how to use and understand its different features.
- Advocacy – The goal is to create an army of advocates that post about your product and its value. A great example of advocacy is when users that are certified in your product post their certificates or badges on LinkedIn.
- Product – You not only need to build a great product, you also need to build a seamless first-class user experience. Education is key for communicating the value of your product.
None of these steps would be possible without customer education.
In closing, Nick left our audience with four things to think about that apply to you, the learning professional reading this, as well.
- Consider a learning management system (LMS) to help you integrate education into every step of the customer journey.
- Consider using education as input into how you measure customer risk; i.e.,If they’re not educated, that’s a red flag.
- Create a chart that shows the differentials of customer behavior (net retention, time to value, NPS, etc.) with your product based on those who are educated versus those who are not.
- Be proud of your impact.
Looking for more resources on how to use customer education to improve customer success? Skilljar’s got a few!
- Nick Mehta’s Keynote Presentation at Skilljar Connect 2022
- How Customer Success Can Help You Scale Your Customer Success Team
- Customer Education is the Scale Engine of Customer Success
- Scale Customer Success With Education
- Gainsight’s eLearning Platform Exceeds Industry Usage Benchmarks by 3X