Your customers likely have several ways to access product information that is most relevant to them. From introductory tutorials to help guides or a more advanced training curriculum, you probably have many ways to onboard and engage customers — but how streamlined and effective is your customer education program?
Defining Customer Education
According to eLearning Industry, “Customer education is a set of programs developed by a company that provides consumers and business customers with the information, skills, and abilities they need to be successful with a product. In other words, it is the process of arming customers with the tools and resources they need to become a more informed buyer or consumer of your product or service.”
The main objectives of a customer education program are typically onboarding, engaging, and retaining customers — goals common to the Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, and Product teams alike.
CE-Labs explains: “An effective Customer Education strategy will drive real business results, especially if it serves customers across their entire journey. For example, Customer Education can influence key metrics from marketing leads to product adoption, to support contact rate — and more.”
Creating a Customer Education Program
A customer education program targeted to external audiences can help your company:
- Provide your customers with a roadmap so they can get value from your product quickly and increase this value over time
- Increase awareness for your brand in the market as a leader in its field
- Reduce support burden so your Customer Success team can spend their time addressing more strategic issues
Consequently, creating an effective customer education program for your company may sound like a challenge, as users come with different skill and attention levels. This guide explains a four-step process to help you plan an effective program with minimal headaches:
- Assess your customers’ educational needs
- Review your current training content and how it’s being shared
- Identify your most urgent content needs
- Select a Customer Training Platform (CTP) specifically designed for external customer education
Step 1: Assess Your Customers’ Educational Needs
Before you set out to create a formalized customer education program, it’s important to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your current approach in addressing your customers’ needs.
What are your customers’ barriers to success?
Ask yourself and your team what barriers to success your customers are currently facing. In this process, you may find out they had a poor onboarding experience. Maybe they signed up for your product, accessed it for the first time, and found it overwhelming. After this, when looking for help, perhaps they failed to find what they were looking for.
Another common finding may be a slow time-to-value. New users generally want to get started with your product right away. If you don’t have the proper onboarding strategy and messaging to welcome them in place, momentum decreases and a negative first impression develops.
Through this review, you can identify a series of pain points that can serve as the foundation of your training program such as:
- Your Customer Success Managers (CSMs) spend countless hours on virtual training, including preparation and presentation time
- Your customers experience a long time-to-value as they do not immediately see how your product helps them
- Your company’s customer support team is overwhelmed with support tickets from new customers
- Your customers experience a disjointed onboarding process
- Your customer experience is not consistent across audiences
Step 2: Review Your Current Training Content
Once you understand the areas where your customers need more education, take inventory of what training materials you already have in place, whether they are meeting customer needs, and how easily it is for customers to find it. This will also help inform your education content creation and strategy going forward.
What training content do you have and how are you sharing it?
Most likely, there are a number of ways you are currently onboarding your customers. One common strategy is to offer product training webinars. This may work for some companies, yet others have found it to be inefficient due to low attendance and the high investment required in preparation and production. Also, webinars are typically not interactive, meaning there is no way for customers to choose what they want to learn about or ask real-time questions.
Another popular method is 1:1 training sessions, which can be customized according to customer needs. However, these can be challenging to scale as your customer base grows, and exhausts the resources of your Customer Success, Product, and Implementation staff.
Lastly, you may have knowledge center articles. These are relatively easy to create and update. Still, they are usually reactive, rarely engage customers, offer no way to track client progress, and can be hard to navigate for customers. Your technical support staff may still have to answer the same questions via case tickets.
Step 3: Identify Your Most Urgent Content Needs
Customer education programs won’t work without relevant content at its core. How can you help your customers benefit from your product’s full capabilities in the most effective manner? Talk to your Product Team if you’re unclear about what customers need to know at different stages of their journey. Additionally, use your internal resources to identify the most urgent needs of your customers.
What problems can you solve through training content?
When creating your content library, keep in mind the value your product adds to address each concern the customer has. To identify your most urgent content needs:
- Study your support team’s most frequently asked questions
- Poll your Customer Success team to find out the pain points they most hear about from customers
- Review metrics for your resource center or knowledge library. Which articles are the most regularly downloaded or viewed?
The key is to identify the most typical questions your customers ask so you can address them proactively through customer education.
Step 4: Use A Customer Training Platform to Create Your Customer Education Program
You don’t necessarily need to invest in a Customer Training Program (CTP) to start a customer education program. Consider whether it offers the best fit for your use case, how much the tool will cost, and if you have the resources to implement and update it. Mostly, consider your need for scaling your current training program to accommodate new customer growth. This is perhaps the greatest benefit automating your training program can bring to your company, and well offset the costs of providing the software over time.
For companies with more extensive customer bases and comprehensive educational needs, a CTP may make training more accessible and impactful.
What should you look for in a Customer Training Program?
Here are some questions to consider when looking for a CTP to ensure you get the most out of your investment:
- Is it optimized for customer and partner training, or is it primarily intended for in-house training purposes?
- Does it offer an exceptional user experience, allowing customers to easily find the content they need, when they need it?
- Does it offer the ability to customize the training experience based on your brand’s visual identity for a seamless user experience?
- Does it allow for flexible content creation so you can use different formats to deliver information to different audiences?
- Does it integrate with your CRM, marketing automation tools, and other business software to ensure a streamlined customer experience across applications?
- Does it offer built-in data and analytics so you can prove the worth of your program and use data to inform future content creation?
Partnering with a top CTP may be the solution you need to scale your customer education program. Remember, you don’t need to just snap your finger and deliver a full-fledged customer training experience with all possible bells and whistles. Iteration is key to the process as you continually evaluate how to best meet your customer’s pain points through an education program and refine as needed. Ensure you always keep the customer journey in mind and consider what new users will need to be successful.
You can successfully onboard, engage, and retain your customers and partners with Skillsjar’s award-winning Customer Training Platform. Skilljar makes it easy to create courses, distribute them to web and mobile devices, and analyze results using our cloud-based learning management system (LMS). Skilljar accelerates product adoption, automates the onboarding workflow, reduces support costs, and increases customer satisfaction over the long run.
Want to learn more about how Skilljar can help you maximize your customer education program?