Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash

In this episode, we’re celebrating some milestones from CELab! First, we are celebrating two amazing years of working out loud. We kicked off our very first episode, “Getting Started with Customer Education” on November 11th, 2018. Like many of you who have found yourselves here – in this field and listening to this podcast – we dove in head first and in – understanding isn’t necessarily where you have to begin

Bill Cushard, the host of Helping Sells Radio, has said – most podcasts don’t make it past episode 11. Thanks to an amazing community – we’ve hit our 50th episode!

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This article on selecting a Customer Training LMS is adapted from Adam Avramescu’s book, Customer Education: Why Smart Companies Profit by Making Customers Smarter.

What is a Customer Training LMS?

A Customer Training LMS (Learning Management System) is a platform that delivers and tracks educational content to customers and other external audiences. They’re a core pillar of most Customer Education programs.

Customer Training Platform and Customer Learning Platform are simply alternative names for a Customer Training LMS. We’ll use these terms interchangeably.

Unlike an typical LMS, used for internal Learning & Development (typically by an HR department), Customer Training LMS platforms serve external, often paying, audiences. They often have dramatically different features from internal LMS platforms.

You might use a Customer Training LMS to:

  • Author and publish e-learning courses
  • Post educational videos
  • Create assessments, quizzes, and exams
  • Allow customers to sign up for instructor-led courses
  • Create learning paths containing multiple courses
  • Certify your customers who complete certain content and award them with certificates
  • Measure your customers’ enrollments, completions, and credentials
  • Monetize learning content and provide self-service payment options

That’s not all a Customer Training LMS can do, but those are the most common use cases we see.

Most Commonly Used Customer Training LMS

At CELab, we’ve worked with several Customer Training LMS platforms, and in fact have spoken with many of their CEOs and employees on the air in various episodes. Some Customer Training LMS platforms we have experience with, or have featured on the show at one time or another, are (in alphabetical order):

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This is the time of year where we see conferences like DevLearn (which we spoke at last year), The Guild’s Learning Conference, and this year, for the first time ever, we had a three-week run of Customer Education conferences!

Now, these were all online conferences since we’re in the midst of Covid-related travel and gathering restrictions, but in a way this may have enabled us to see what we saw this year – three customer education conferences in a row!

So what were the conferences?

The fun started with CEdMA’s annual conference, continued with Skilljar Connect next week. We’ve spoken at both of these conferences before, and they were joined by a new, third conference – Thought Industries COGNITION.

Instead of recapping each conference individually, this episode is a rollup of all three featuring some of the themes and trends we saw along the way!

The Shift to Online Conferences

In this episode we begin by exploring the Pros and Cons of our Shift to Online Conferences.  

Online or Virtual conferences are hard to pull off.  The main uptick for most attendees is that we have a lot more flexibility.  Recordings are typically available for all sessions, so this really helped many of us with busy schedules pick and choose and catch up if we missed anything.  

Of course, there are cons.  New technologies and the complexity of working with many integrated technologies, and even our own Internet (or lack thereof) caused some issues.  We personally experienced some of this, but as Customer Education folks we rolled with the punches.

CEdMA Connect 2020

CEdMA’s Connect 2020 event was the first stop on our tour where we presented our Customer Education Manifesto for the first time (and do a to a live audience!).  

We enjoyed the keynote from Bill Cushard – “The Next Big Thing in Customer Education”.  The “7 Habits of Inclusive Leaders” from Melissa Majors was a great addition that injected much-needed DE&I content.  Alessandra Marinetty delivered a great case study on the development of Box’s event-based Certification Program, and much more.  

Skilljar Connect 2020

Of all the events we attended, Skilljar Connect 2020 takes the prize for being the most social – leveraging Hopin to satisfy the missing puzzle piece of networking.  

Skilljar executed well on this event – deploying a content track in addition to more traditionally table steaks of material focused on leadership, strategy, monetization, and more.  For example, Debbie Smith from Braze was a huge hit (worth watching if you couldn’t make it).  Randon and Kyle from JAMF dropped sage advice on creating content at scale.

Beyond this we experienced some great material from OSISoft on Training a Global Audience, the LinkedIn education teams (and yes, there are many) talked about aligning across several product lines, and the Slack team shared how they assembled their Study Guide for their new Certification.  

We did our first ever Live Mailbag episode based on the popularity of our previous mailbag episodes. We had so many questions that we’ll be hosting another mailbag episode very soon!

Thought Industries – COGNITION 2020

Last, but certainly not least, was COGNITION 2020!

We iterated on our “6 Principles” and presented again at COGNITION 2020, Adam presented “So you’ve created a customer education program – now what?” and both Adam and Dave participated in panels throughout the session.

Even so we attended some of the sessions too!

Daniel Quick’s Customer Education Playbook.  We review our take on this but you should certainly download and read this for yourselves.  If you’re new to Customer Education this is important as it aligns with the idea that you need to have both a strategy and a goal for your program … and leads you down the road to determining it!

One session that we thought was a great addition was Barry Kelly’s talk with Mark Roberge – the former CRO of Hubspot.  For those of you in Customer Success, this is an amazing tale of the magic that can happen when you align cross-functionally to build amazing material.

And as with other events, Thought Industries welcomed Vernā Myers – VP of Inclusion strategy from Netflix who brought us back to the crucial trend of focusing more on diversity,inclusion, and belonging in our programs.  We value this because of the implicit need – particularly as educators – to internalize ways to implement positive changes 

Summary

There’s much more to talk about with these customer education conferences so make sure you listen to the episode in its entirety and make your plans for 2021! 

We’re really pleased to see very strong options in 2020 for Customer Education teams.  We’ve moved beyond Leaders and now there’s much more practical content for Practitioners too.  Many of these events are open to everyone – not just customers.  Keep up the great work in delivering powerful and impactful content

We can’t wait for 2021 and hope to see everyone in person!

In October we attended Skilljar Connect 2020 and hosted a Live Mailbag episode at the event!  Attendees submitted really amazing questions.  We couldn’t tackle them all – so stay tuned for yet another Mailbag episode soon!

In this episode we’ll answer some questions that may be on your mind too including:

  • What advice do you have for those that are working with one other employee, or manage a very small team, on how to take the next step and grow their impact, have more employees, and ultimately get their own CE department?
  • What’s the ideal “mixture” of video lessons and text lessons in an online course? Mostly video? Both to keep students engaged?
  • How can we tie training attendance to product usage and product adoption? Any best practices on how to measure this so we know training is working and can continue to invest in the right methods of training?
  • How do you approach the strategy and plan for mass documentation and training updates when the product visually changes, especially for small teams? What are common pitfalls or things to watch out for?

Listen in as we’ll share the insight we’ve gleaned from direct experience and from others in our network!  Remember – Customer Education is both new and not new.  CELab is committed to learning and sharing the best practices for Customer Education and your questions are invaluable.  

Thanks to Randon, Norma, Corinne, and Laura for the amazing questions. And a big thanks to Skilljar for inviting us to this amazing conference. A recap episode is coming soon!

If you have a question or things you want to share please feel free to contact us with your ideas. Also, if you want to hear more from us – sign our mailing list and our brand new Customer Education Manifesto!

Let's put microlearning into focus
Let’s put Microlearning in focus for Customer Education (Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

In this “mini” episode, we focus on microlearning and share some things we learned from one of the industry experts on the subject. At DevLearn 2019, we had the great opportunity to talk with Carla Torgerson, the Director of Instructional Design at Bull City Learning immediately following her “Create Effective Microlearning” course. We covered our experiences at DevLearn in Episode 28.

What does microlearning entail? How can a Customer Education team benefit from using it in their Education Strategy?

A hint? A micro format “with particular, targeted focus on something a customer wants to do“, maps well with our mission in Customer Education to help get customers up-to-speed quickly, and helps to increase adoption / avoid churn of our products.

Customers get to choose if or when they’re going to consume your content. This “micropodcast” will give you some other tools to think about adding to your toolkit.

Welcome back to Instructional Design 101, where we’ll ask whether Customer Educators need to care about Bloom’s Taxonomy. What’s that, you ask? Bloom’s Taxonomy, created in 1956 by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom, is used by many K-12 educators and instructional designers to categorize learning objectives by what the learner is expected to know or do.The taxonomy has been revised since its original creation, but today it categorizes whether learners will be expected to do things like:

  • Remember a piece of information
  • Understand a concept
  • Apply a skill
  • Analyze information or data
  • Evaluate information or scenarios
  • Create something new

These skills often build upon one another, and require different levels of evaluation and assessment. As Customer Education instructional designers, we can use Bloom’s Taxonomy to take a learner-centric approach to our materials, instead of a content-centric approach. Too often, we jam-pack our courses and articles with “nice-to-know” instead of “need-to-know” information, or ramble on about features instead of focusing on how the customer will actually use them — and give them opportunities to practice.In this episode, Adam argues that Bloom’s Taxonomy still has a place in Customer Education, and it helps us focus our materials on driving relevant outcomes for learners. Listen to the full episode to find out more about how it can be used, as well as potential challenges!

Missed our first Instructional Design 101 episode on the Kirkpatrick Model? Check out Episode 21!

In this episode of the CELab Podcast, we’re joined by Maria Manning-Chapman, the VP, Education Services Research at TSIA where we expand upon the TSIA’s “State of Education Services 2020” report – which we covered in Episode 38 of this podcast.  

Here, we’re diving deeper into monetization strategies which our listeners and the network that we’re in as Customer Education Professionals are interested in getting more help with.  Customer Education tends to “niche down” from where we end up in much larger, mature organizations where we often have true Educational Services teams.

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You’ve invested in Customer Education — now what? Every Customer Education professional asks the question at some point: “What format should I use to create educational programs?” It’s often the first question many Customer Education leaders ask. But it’s not actually the most important one. Aim to have a Customer Education strategy — even a rough one — in place before you choose your individual programs and formats.

Use a mix of Customer Education formats based on the business goals you’re trying to achieve. It also matters what type of product they support. For example, simple B2C products probably don’t need extensive premium training services. On the other hand, open-source software companies may offer bespoke training services. Meanwhile, products that have many freemium users will likely want to emphasize tactics and programs that support adoption and time to value, converting those users from free to paid. 

As you’ll see, there is no “best” format for Customer Education. That said, we’ll outline some of the Customer Education formats at your disposal, and how they can support your strategy.

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In this episode we talk with Chip Ramsey – Founder and CEO of Intellum and one of the early pioneers in our field with the first ever platform for Customer Education.  We talk about the transition to creating a great platform and how Chip says to “start with science” to make amazing material that helps both your customers and your business.

Many Customer Education Professionals may know Intellum as the platform that powers incredible customer and partner education and customer experience programs such as Facebook Blueprint, Google Academy for Ads, Google Retail Training, Twitter Flight School and most recently have acquired Appitierre, who make the Evolve rapid-dev content tool.

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Your guide to what Customer Education is, and why it matters for your business.

Customer Education is the discipline of teaching customers how to use and find value from products. As a business function, it benefits customers in many stages of their journey. 

Before a sale, Customer Education educates buyers and influencers about the market and the product. After the sale, Customer Education educates users about how to use the product. This helps them get the most value over time.

Customer Education isn’t about the specific actions you take to educate the customer; it’s not about running webinars or delivering trainings or writing articles. Yes, it usually involves all of those. But what defines a Customer Education program is the role it plays in your business.

What is Customer Education and why does it matter for your business?

In the book, Customer Education: Why Smart Companies Profit by Making Customers Smarter, CELab co-host Adam Avramescu defines Customer Education and what it does for a business.

A Customer Education function strategically accelerates account and user growth by changing behaviors, reducing barriers to value, and improving the way people work.

Adam Avramescu, Customer Education: Why Smart Companies Profit by Making Customers Smarter
Customer Education: Why Smart Companies Profit by Making Customers Smarter by Adam Avramescu
Customer Education: Why Smart Companies Profit by Making Customers Smarter by Adam Avramescu

This definition doesn’t include which programs are included in your portfolio — and that’s intentional. Customer Education departments can use different programs and strategies to achieve the end goal, and no two are exactly alike. We’ll get into some common formats and programs later in this guide.

To learn why Customer Education is important, let’s break down the definition that we provided.

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