Is Customer Education just Customer Training?

December 10, 2018

If you had said the term “Customer Education” even a few years ago, it would have been a synonym for training. In Episode 002 of CELab, we question the role of “training” in a Customer Education program.

After all, that’s the main way that tech companies thought to educate their customers: bring them into a room (or a webinar), teach the materials, facilitate some activities, and then the customer was educated.

The Internet has changed the way we live and work, but it’s also changed the way we learn. And it doesn’t just mean taking our long training sessions and posting recordings or breaking them up into webinars. The industry is seeing a shift in the way that people look for, and use, information.

Instead of delivering information upfront to customers and hoping they’ll remember it, we now have opportunities to communicate with them in different ways and at different times — including, most importantly, when they want to learn something.

This means that companies need to be able to educate customers in ways such as:

  • Help docs that are easily searchable, not just on the company’s site but on search engines like Google.
  • In-product cues and tooltips that are easy to find when a user needs help.
  • Emails or in-product announcements to learn about new capabilities or helpful features.
  • Technical docs and guides to build integrations and other specialized functionality.
  • Communities that help customers collaborate and share tribal knowledge.
  • And yes, of course, training sessions that help customers build skills.

The problem is that in many organizations, all of these live in different departments and don’t connect to each other.

If you’re a startup, you have the opportunity to think about these in tandem and put them in the same Customer Education function (or to create tight cross-functional teams that oversee it).

If you’re more established, you probably have teams devoted to each of these things — so it’s time to start breaking down silos and forming cross-functional teams or committees that can address the customer’s education experience holistically.

Dave and Adam both believe that Customer Education is more than Customer Training — you need a holistic strategy for information that helps the customer do their jobs. How do you do this? Start by auditing your content.

The content audit

Most companies, even startups, tend to have a lot of helpful information scattered around. But most teams can’t tell you what information is available, or where it lives. If you’re just getting started with a Customer Education strategy, I recommend auditing all the content in a spreadsheet (or if you’re feeling crafty and really want to make this visual for your organization, you could make a physical board). Try to figure out information like:

  • Title
  • URL
  • Publish date
  • Last updated date
  • How many pageviews the content gets
  • What feedback the content gets
  • Who owns or updates the content?
  • What’s the main idea or point of the content?

This could be a ton of work if you already have a lot of content published, so figure out whether to take a heavier or lighter touch based on the amount of content you’re auditing. Also, know that you will have some blanks. But you want to collect enough information to figure out where there are duplicates and where there are gaps.

Duplicates should be removed if unnecessary, but sometimes you actually want duplicate or similar content if, for instance, the same message needs to be conveyed to two different audiences.

As for gaps, not all gaps should be filled — but high-priority ones should be! If you have common support ticket topics, or common questions that CSMs hear, and there isn’t some sort of education material related to it, that may be a high-value piece of content to create.

The audit also lets you organize the content by discoverability and value.

  • Content that gets a lot of views but poor feedback should be on your list to update immediately.
  • Content that gets good feedback but not a lot of views could be more heavily promoted
  • Content that gets good feedback and a lot of views could be adapted into other formats, like email nurture campaigns, videos, etc.
  • Content that gets bad feedback and few views should be put to pasture. It’s wasting your time!

By working across teams that help customers learn and grow their adoption of your product, you’ll provide a better experience that helps them learn and get up to speed quickly.

Learn more in Episode 002 of CELab: The Customer Education Lab.

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