For the greater part of the last decade, I have developed a real passion for customer onboarding. Near the beginning of my fascination, I was a Preact customer, and they published a study on the leading causes of customer churn, citing poor onboarding as the number one cause. It’s possible you’ve seen the study because it seems to have had a really long lifespan in the Customer Education community.

When I saw the data, I felt empowered, I felt validated, and naturally, I felt like I had to double down on onboarding. Over and over again, we as Customer Educators talk about how onboarding is the most important part of the customer lifecycle. I believe this to be true. 

COVID-19 Changes Everything

But, fast forward to today. It’s March 26th, 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping the planet. Suddenly, the economy isn’t what it used to be, and even for high-growth companies, new customer acquisition also isn’t what it used to be. I hope this won’t be the case for long, but in the near term, I’m taking a cold, hard look at my priorities and recognizing that for Customer Educators, optimizing our scalable onboarding programs may have to take a backseat to other priorities as business needs change. 

Most notably, customer retention is more important than ever before, and that’s going to mean that Customer Educators may need to invest more of their time and focus on existing customers than new customers. 

I’ve been doing some thinking and talking to others in the field about how to refocus our energy as Customer Educators so we can increase our impact during these trying times. Here’s a collection of ideas that can help you as you evaluate your objectives and projects for the upcoming quarter. 

How Customer Educators Can Help Right Now

Explore what you can do now for existing customers 

Your company’s most valuable asset right now is your customers and it’s more important than ever to make sure they see as much value out of your product and company as possible, and as often as possible. Here are some ways that you can increase your reach and add value for your existing customers:

  • Office hours: Gather your customers together for some extra training, conversation, and Q&A with your team of experts. Customers always have questions about how they can best take advantage of your products and what better resource is there than Customer Education team members? It’s also likely that priorities for your customers have changed in the last few weeks and they are facing new challenges. You won’t be able to address their needs without knowing about them first and office hours are a good way to learn about them at scale. If you’re a Skilljar customer, you can easily set up registration and manage your event with our Live Training functionality and leverage our one-click integrations with Zoom, GoToMeeting/Training/Webinar/Webcast, or Webex. You can also choose to collect questions in advance using our free-form quiz functionality. 
  • Advanced feature reviews: Go beyond onboarding and dive deep into advanced feature training. Now is the perfect time to explore more complex aspects and use cases for your product and host virtual sessions that walk your customers through them. If you’re concerned about your home office environment, keep in mind that as people get more accustomed to remote work, the tolerance for a little bit of outside noise is going up.  
  • 1:1 customer training/consultations: Regardless of whether you usually do 1:1 training sessions, now may be a good time to delight customers and offer them the opportunity to train live with the expert. Talk to your Customer Success Representatives and find out if there are some customers that need a little extra love and offer to consult with them or work through some challenges they may be having getting things right. 

Create fresh content

This may be a no-brainer, but if you have a lot of free time, take that time to create new content for your audience. If you have a backlog, dive into it and see what progress you can make on the courses that can provide the biggest impact. If you usually have a studio space to record audio, and that’s not currently available, get ahead on storyboarding or planning. Alternatively, you can plan to launch the course as virtual live training, alleviating the need for recording resources altogether. Your customers are craving new content. They either have extra free time and want to learn, or they have new needs and require specific training fast to get up to speed. You have a golden opportunity to help them meet those needs in tough times. 

Make more of your training generally available

If you already have on-demand training that can help people level-up during this crisis, consider opening up access to the public. A lot of people out there are experiencing tough times, and if you have training that relates to industry knowledge or a specific skill, you have an opportunity to help them learn new things, establish brand equity, and generally contribute positively amidst difficult times. For example, Moz, an inbound marketing analytics software company and Skilljar customer, recently started offering Moz Academy courses for free through the end of May, offering up their SEO courses to anyone who is interested in learning. 


Work on driving training awareness and consumption

While you’re thinking about marketing, now may be the time to plan for your next big training launch, or consider how you can market education throughout the customer lifecycle. One of the biggest barriers to success for Customer Education teams is learning content consumption. If you can’t get people to take your training, you’re limiting your impact. If you make a grand gesture, like opening up your training for free, strategize how you leverage that momentum to drive consumption in the future. If not, reach out to your marketing team and see if they may also have some extra brainpower to dedicate to your initiatives. With conferences and trade shows being canceled, and other things up in the air for marketing teams, they may be interested in using your content to help with their new initiatives as well. 

Additionally, companies are turning to Customer Education in ways they haven’t before, and may be able to invest in it more than they have in the past. Consider requesting Marketing Design resources to spruce up your assets, or web developer resources for spicing up your training portal. 

Dive into your data 

Perhaps you don’t have the time or resources to start new initiatives or administer more training. If you have a little downtime (maybe your trips to training sites were canceled and you’ve found some extra time?), it’s the perfect opportunity to dig into your existing data, or do the analysis you’ve been putting off. Here are a few ideas: 

  • Evaluate customer feedback: Have you been collecting training surveys since the beginning of time? Have you truly taken the time to process it, analyze your results and see if there are any actionable learnings? Why not do it now?
  • Cross-reference customer training data with business data: If you’re like me, or you use Skilljar, you likely have loads of customer training data in Salesforce. Now is the perfect time to analyze that data to understand if there are any correlations between training activity and customer revenue or health. If you’re looking for a great primer on the topic, check out this webinar
  • Evaluate and audit existing content: Nothing like a good content audit to get you through your darkest of days. Take time to review your older content, see what is outdated and needs freshening up and prioritize updates accordingly.

Upskill your Sales, Support and Services Teams

Many teams across your company can use a pick me up right about now, and you may be just the person to provide it. You probably have a broad collection of product training, be it on demand, or a virtual training curriculum. Use this opportunity to add value internally and train up some of your sales colleagues with relevant information on the product or the industry.

Here are a few things to try:

  • Reach out to Sales or Support leadership and see if there are any immediate needs that could be addressed with existing training.
  • See if you have the bandwidth to use your awesome content development skills to create new training and fill a gap.
  • Whatever you do, try adding some competitive games to the mix to add a little flavor to the training, and throw in a few assessments or a Kahoot! Activity to keep things fun. 

Learn a new skill

There are a few core skills that can help any training professional level up. While this may not add value immediately, it can set you up to contribute more in the future. If you find yourself with extra time, consider taking a course to improve on one of the following skills: 

  • Data and analysis: If your Excel skills are rusty, or you’ve never had the opportunity to learn how to use your company’s BI tool, now may be the time to learn the basics. A little goes a long way here and will likely come in handy on a daily basis. 
  • Project Management: In my experience working with training teams, those that have a team member who specializes in project management are always the most efficient, and prepared to meet their timelines and goals. 
  • Content creation: Now may be a good time to get better at video creation, learn how to use the Adobe Creative Suite, or master Articulate Rise 360. Our friends at TechSmith offer a wonderful free resource to learn everything from basic to advanced video skills.
  • Adult Learning Theory: Many of the Customer Education professionals I’ve met don’t necessarily have an education background, and it can be helpful to strengthen your understanding of adult learning theory. A little can go a long way here when it comes to enriching your curriculum development process. 

Take care of yourself

It’s not easy living with uncertainty, and there’s a lot that is changing around us every day. I’ve found it’s best to acknowledge that it’s okay to be worried, take deep breaths, and place a heavy emphasis on flexibility in every aspect of life. This too shall pass.