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Product-focused afterthought! – that’s what most Customer Success clients get wrong about Customer Education according Lincoln Murphy of Sixteen Ventures

But what does this mean, exactly? 

In recent episodes, SaaS executives and investors perceive Customer Education as a growing and integral part of scaling their organizations.  This begins our “Customer Success Series” where we’ll talk with prominent leaders in the Customer Success space, starting with Lincoln Murphy – Customer Success Growth Expert, Consultant, and Thought Leader.

Customer Education, as we know it today, is undergoing the same kind of Category Creation that Lincoln experienced in the early days of the Customer Success industry.  And it’s even more critical as COVID-19’s “been like five years of change and evolution” to the Customer Success market.

In Episode 55 we explore: 

  • how we have in common with Customer Success leaders the role of playing detective to uncover our customers’ core needs
  • how customer education fits into a customer success strategy
  • whether CSMs do training, or do we centralize that function into a Customer Education team?

And, of course, we get back to the question of what is product-focused afterthought!

Listen in for another great episode, or enjoy the full transcript below!

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What are venture capitalists thinking about the potential for Customer Education and Customer Success? As the industry becomes more profitable, we’ve seen more investment activity in the space. Eugene Lee from OMERS Ventures joins us to talk about his view on investing in this market, and what he wants to see from Customer Education and Customer Success companies as the market develops.

Eugene Lee, a Principal at OMERS Ventures, a venture capital fund with $1B under management and 50+ investments in B2B and B2C tech companies including Contentful, Crunchbase, Hootsuite, Klue, Rover, Shopify, Vidyard, and Wattpad.

Prior to joining OMERS Ventures, Eugene was a VP of Business Operations at Copper, Google’s #1 recommended CRM.  Prior to that, he founded and led the business operations team at Pinterest. Before that Yahoo and Pixate.

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One theme that’s on the minds of many Customer Education professionals is learning how to “bridge the divide” between our teams and other education-focused teams. In Episode 19 (Sharing with Others) we kicked off this discussion. Growing organizations in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) marketplace follow standard patterns, and begin to introduce Learning and Development (L&D), Sales Enablement, and Customer Education.   

Ted Blosser, CEO of WorkRamp, continues our “CEO Series” into 2021, sharing his experiences as a relatively recent entrant into the Customer Education category. If you’re like us, you soon become (sometimes painfully) aware that you are not alone on the journey to help your customers.  Unfortunately, many of us may be a bit “siloed” or so focused upon our own universe that we miss a golden opportunity in exploring consolidated learning strategies.  In other words, the democratization of our education process.  

Cross-department collaboration provides distinct advantages to all of us, leading to measurable savings of time, hassle, and money.  Listen in as we discuss “Centers of Learning Excellence”, tying education to business outcomes, and the role that Customer Education will play in the coming years!

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In 2019 we did our first “pause and reflect” style episode over the holidays, which was one of our top five episodes of all time. With this episode we, once again, let loose and do a “fun” episode to close out the year and start off the new one. And after this year, we definitely need to let loose a bit!

To bridge the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, we’re going to continue our tradition of asking what music and art can teach us about Customer Education.  What can David Bowie teach us about Customer Education?  And to honor our subject just a bit more, we’ve waited just a bit to celebrate his birthday (January 8th, 1947)!

Listen in as we relate the journey of David Bowie as he practiced his art over a lifetime. We all can relate to the changes he went through, forging through different styles before developing something unique and characteristic. Then continuing to experiment and grow to meet the changing demands of the market. Enjoy!

NOTE: We discuss the legendary interview Bowie gave to Jeremy Paxman on BBC Newsnight about the future of technology, which you can see for yourself here.

On October 6th, we presented – live – at Thought Industries’ COGNITION 2020. This was a great event with many leaders from our Customer Education category.

In this recording we unveil our Customer Education Manifesto. This is composed of six guiding principles that we believe can help Customer Success organizations strategically accelerate account and user growth. 

Most Customer Success organizations know, or soon discover, that acquiring customers is hard. But retaining those hard-won customers is even harder. Did you effectively onboard?If not, that translates to churn. Do you help your customers realize value? Again … that causes churn. Are you retaining and expanding your accounts? That churn can be slow and even more painful.

Just how many thousands, if not millions of dollars has your company spent to acquire customers and drive adoption? Surely, you’re focused on customer marketing and drip campaigns. You may have thrown a flotilla of CSMs at the problem, requiring them to perform ad-hoc trainings.

The simple, uncomfortable truth is this: Your customers don’t succeed if they don’t learn.

Listen in as we share the new face of Customer Education. We help growing XaaS businesses to change customer behaviors, reduce barriers to value, and improve the way people work.

Haven’t yet seen the Customer Education Manifesto? Check it out here!

Missed COGNITION 2020? The event is still online in on-demand form. For a quick recap, check out Episode 49 where we cover -in detail – the top events from 2020! If you’re a veteran or new Customer Education Professional, you’ll want to mark your calendars for 2021! We hope next year brings a return to in-person conferences and hope to see you there.

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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 Marinetti 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.