There’s broad consensus that we are operating in the Age of the Customer. To date, B2C brands have felt the impact of this change the most, and they’ve responded by investing in digital transformation and customer experience (CX) initiatives. Increasingly, experiences in the B2C world are also influencing buyer expectations in the B2B sector. Customers now demand the same well-designed user experiences from B2B providers, and their continued loyalty is contingent on these experiences meeting their high expectations. 

B2B technology companies have been at the forefront of this increased focus on customer experience, and as they’ve invested in improvements, they’ve also seen an uptick in customer engagement, retention, and growth. Customer education can be a particularly effective element of this CX strategy in driving business outcomes.

The Importance of Customer Education in Driving Business Outcomes

Software and technology companies have ambitious missions, but the impact of their innovations only land when end users are able to quickly and effectively find value in their offerings. Customer Education is content designed to onboard, engage, and retain your new and existing customers that is delivered in a programmatic fashion via in-person and on-demand channels. 

Investments in customer education are particularly beneficial for companies with:

  • A complex product that users must learn before obtaining value;
  • A product that requires users to change their existing behavior, processes, or workflows;
  • A diverse user base in terms of needs and roles;
  • Products that are updated regularly with new features and functionality;
  • A suite of products that could be up and cross-sold; and
  • Products that require extensive support.

A strong Customer Education program can help you increase customer satisfaction scores, reduce support ticket volume, improve product adoption, drive lead generation, generate services revenue, and increase renewals. The right tool can make a world of difference for customer education. Businesses sometimes have a temptation to use their existing employee education LMSs for this purpose. We’ve seen this lead to unfavorable outcomes time and again. Let’s see why.

Your Internal Employee LMS Will Let Your Customers Down

The Learning Management System (LMS) was originally designed for internal use cases with a focus on addressing the compliance needs of Human Resources departments. While this may be the origin of the corporate LMS, in recent years, companies have shifted their educational focus to external audiences such as customers, partners, affiliates, and franchises. It can be a frustrating experience to try to educate external audiences using LMSs that were designed for internal audiences. 

The primary challenge is that external audiences tend to be voluntary learners. This is in sharp contrast to internal audiences, who can be compelled to learn using levers that are not available with external audiences. 

Companies that use internal employee education LMSs for customer education find that the look and feel of their LMS cause customers to not engage with their training programs. Internal HR LMSs lack the integrations and the analytics capabilities that customer education teams need to track and optimize their content and programs. Scalability and support for hundreds or thousands of concurrent users can also be an area of concern with internal LMSs.

An LMS custom-built for external audiences is no longer a nice-to-have in today’s world where customer engagement and retention are the key drivers of customer health and retention. Click To Tweet

This move towards a specialized LMS for external customer and partner education also aligns with the industry-wide trend towards best-in-breed solutions.

The Benefits of Best-in-Breed Solutions

While the premise of an all-in-one solution is compelling — after all, buying, using, and updating one tool is typically easier — the limitations are also readily apparent, especially if it means that you end up compromising the customer experience. With best-in-class tools, organizations have the power and the flexibility to create the perfect tech stacks for driving their business outcomes.

Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, echoes this drive towards innovation: 

“When you have providers of technology that focus on a specific area and build a best-of-breed technology, we just know empirically that customers get more innovation from that provider than a company that sort of has a ‘Swiss Army Knife’ where they put everything together into a gigantic portfolio or suite.”

Not only does specialization drive innovation, but a multi-solution tech stack also means that you can easily scale any single component as needed. Let’s see how this specialization trend applies to an LMS for customer education.

What to Look For in a Specialized Customer Education Tool

There are more than 800 LMS vendors in today’s learning platforms marketplace. But, of course, not all LMS’ are created equal. Before investing in a learning platform, it’s important to understand which type of tool would be a good fit for your use case. Consider the following key features of an external training LMS:

1. Look & Feel

One reason to use an external LMS, rather than an internal one, is the option to change the look and feel of your training site with custom branding. This allows you to align the site with any brand guidelines or standards set by your marketing team and enables students to seamlessly transition from your company’s website to its training site. 

2. Accessibility

Customer training teams need fine-grained controls on making their courses easily accessible. This could be done through single sign-on (SSO), self-registration capabilities, and/or access codes. These features provide teams with the flexibility to offer multiple ways for end-users to login. For instance, a company using training for lead generation may want to open registration up to anyone who demonstrates interest. Other companies may prefer to restrict content to certain users, customers, or parts of the customer lifecycle.

3. Content Discovery

Content discovery is important for customer training teams, as their user base varies—not only by job function or skill level but also from company to company. It simply doesn’t make sense to serve the same content to different people with different needs. Let students find courses that interest them. This can be accomplished through advanced search functionality, filters, and tagging. As a result, you can maintain higher registration and completion rates.

4. Relevant Integrations

Customer Education data is powerful in its own right, but it can be even more impactful when it is integrated with your other business systems – from your CRM and marketing automation tools to your sales software and content creation platform. Not only do these integrations enable a holistic view of your training program’s impact, the insights that they generate can also provide the foundation for strategic, data-driven actions that improve product adoption and customer health.

5. Content Creation Capabilities

Internal training often consists of “off the shelf” content like OSHA safety, first aid basics, and conflict resolution courses. This type of training is not specific to one organization, so it can be purchased straight from vendors that specialize in certain subjects. For external training, however, flexible content hosting is crucial. For external training, your team will likely need to create different types of content to engage students with different learning styles and some skills or information may be better taught using one of these mediums over the other. In addition, your product is not static. It shouldn’t be hard to swap out individual assets when it’s time for an update.

6. Monetization Functionality

Your LMS should provide flexible pricing and packaging, as well as promo codes to accommodate a variety of pricing structures. Some teams may offer free courses, as is common with internal training while others may opt to monetize coursework through subscriptions, a la carte, or bundled sales.

7. Customer Success & Support

In addition to the technical capabilities of an external-focused LMS, it is also important to partner with a provider that has the expertise and experience to ensure that your team is set up for success. A strong Customer Education partner will provide an engaging and value-driven onboarding program, as well as ongoing program guidance and resources that best fit your organization’s unique needs. 

An LMS custom-built for external audiences is no longer optional in today’s world where customer engagement and retention are the key drivers of customer health and retention. Here are two companies that have benefited greatly by adopting a dedicated customer education tool:

Nintex Case Study Zenefits Case Study

Looking to learn more? Download our ebook on Choosing the Right Technology for External Education or request a demo to see Skilljar in action! 

Additional Resources