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In previous years, our year-end episode is where we like to kick back and have some fun! We’ve done episodes on what Radiohead and David Bowie can teach us about Customer Education.

But this year we thought we’d mix it up and do a crossover with another great podcast: He Said, Dee Said. Where the Dee in question is our friend Dee Kapila, who leads Customer Education at Miro! And the He in question, is her husband Ryan Roch who a Customer Success Executive at Cisco.

Join us for Part 1 where we share a Pop Culture topic – something we’ve enjoyed in the last year (or in the pandemic) and debate how it does/doesn’t apply to Customer Education!

We range wide over a ton of subjects and there are true gems! Make sure you catch He Said, Dee Said too. How are Roguelikes like Enterprise SaaS software? Well … you’ll just have to listen to find out!

It’s one thing to say that you “Lead with Data” (emphasize air quotes).  It’s another thing entirely to build the kind of dashboards and reports that will allow you to do it.

In this episode Christy Hollingshead, Senior Director of Customer Education at Heap, guides us into safely into that territory. While many of us lean on metrics like Completion Rates or attempt to use the Kirkpatrick Model to assess the performance (and value) of their content which doesn’t take into account how one’s educational material impacts the business.

In B2B Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) businesses we gauge performance through a different kind of vocabulary, using terms such as Adoption, Churn, Retention, which are often new and perhaps alien concepts to those new to the discipline of Customer Education. Focus on these kinds of metrics can and do earn Customer Education and Enablement leaders a seat at the executive table.

We think that anybody can easily work with data they have about their program to build helpful Reports and Dashboards or simply gain insights into how customers’ are using educational material to help their businesses

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We’ve covered Instructional Design 101 topics on CELab before, but what about more advanced techniques? Once you’ve covered the basic frameworks, what are other evidence-based concepts that you can incorporate into your learning programs?

In this episode, Mike Di Gregorio, PhD, Director of Client Onboarding at Top Hat, walks us through how he incorporates advanced instructional design techniques to educate an audience of higher education professionals. We discuss the differences and similarities between traditional Instructional Design and the more modern face of Learning Experience Design, and how each of them play into the Customer Education world. We also discuss one of the key skills for any instructional designer: managing cognitive load for your learners, and making sure that they are not overwhelmed with too much information to process. We cover techniques that enhance learning transfer – in other words, getting learners to actually do what you taught them to do – and how you can incorporate them into your learning design. And finally, we talk about everyone’s favorite topic: Assessments! Specifically, how to go beyond “smile sheets” and how assessments can inform the way you iterate on content and drive your KPIs.

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One of the most common questions that those new to the field of Customer Education ask about when beginning to develop a program is, “What kind of equipment and/or software do I need?” What’s a good microphone? What do I use to edit and record audio? Should I buy a high-end video camera?

In this episode we have a candid discussion on what kinds of products we have used in various environments, chat about pros and cons, and give you a place to start in confidence. Remember – in Customer Education, getting started is the most important thing! Listen in as we rap about the products that make a difference and get you started off on the right foot!

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In Episode 66 of the CELab Podcast we discussed Best Practices for keeping your Customer Education content up-to-date despite the rapid-pace of change that we experience in Software-as-a-Service businesses.  

But what happens when you also have a highly-configurable product?  

Charlie writes:

I have been tasked with creating a customer education program at our software company. I am devouring your book and podcast episodes. I am trying to create a strategy for implementation based on your guidelines, but the sticking point I keep getting stuck on is that our software is configured for each customer. We have many functions that are fairly standard, but every implementation looks and acts a bit different. I know that I can create education material for more advanced topics that our customers would consume without any customization, but our basic user training is the main thing we are trying to standardize, and I am struggling to determine the best way forward. Thanks for your brains!

The hypothesis we’ll challenge today is:  We are able to create content at scale that meets the needs of most customers without any customization.

Thank you Charlie for your submission and if you have a question, use this form to send one in for us to consider and answer on the show!

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We are back from Summer Break and are entering Season 3 of the CELab Podcast!

In this episode. we start to get beyond the Fundamentals into more Advanced material by empathizing with your first “aha!” (and potentially, “ouch”) moment as a Customer Education team or leader.

Building content is easy. Keeping your content up to date? Well, that requires some different strategies. In Software as a Service Companies where products change quickly, it’s one of the key processes you have to get sorted out fast! With limited resources and time, finding ways to make your process scale is the lifeblood of an efficient Customer Education program.

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Who should I hire for my customer education team?

This isn’t a new question. In fact, we first covered this topic on the show – if you can believe it – nearly three years ago! But there’s been new research in this area, and the market has changed quite a bit in that time. We’re seeing more new customer education teams form than ever before, and the people hiring for those roles are all asking who they should hire.

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In Adam Avramescu’s book, “Customer Education – Why Smart Companies Profit by Making Customers Smarter”, he first introduces that, “Customer Education is your scale engine for Customer Success” (p 11).  This concept – the Scale Engine – is novel in that it channels the fundamental challenge of many rapidly growing Software-as-a-Service businesses:  All your processes need to scale as the business grows.  That includes how you educate your customers!

Dave speaks here on some of his early experiences in the field of Customer Education where he was embedded at Gainsight, building foundational programs.  We as a community realize that all growing businesses reach an inflection point where it’s time to build efficiencies into your Customer Success function.  

Many Customer Success leaders may know, but may not quite know what to do when all that 1:1 customer training your CSMs do begins to really drain your team’s time and energy.  This is where a Customer Education program is your best approach to support your customer success growth — not hold it back. In this episode we’ll talk about what successful, scaleable Customer Success looks like from the perspective an education program, the role Customer Education plays in customer success, and how Customer Education can scale CS by “building a flywheel of information and getting that to the customer when they need it”.  

Many thanks to Cutler Bleeker and Amy Davidson (and the great folks at Skilljar) for the invitation to this great webinar!  For the full video version, please visit Skilljar’s website here.

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A key part of CELab’s role in the Customer Education Community is to keep you updated on the research and reports coming out of the Customer Education world, especially when they address the state of our industry. This episode covers two great reports: TSIA’s 2021 State of Education Services and Thought Industries’ 2021 State of Customer Education.

We like these reports because they come at the research from different angles, whether it’s a third party like TSIA, the Technology Services Industry Association, coming at things from a more independent perspective, or a Customer Education company like Thought Industries who can combine third-party reporting with their own customers’ trends.

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In this episode we return to the subject of Certification, this time focusing on how to adapt development of programs to meet the breakneck pace of change with growing Software-as-a-Service businesses.

Dave interviews Debbie Smith, who is Sr. Manager of Smartsheet University and an expert in credentialing and certification programs.

Pencils down, it’s time to write your certification! Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

For many Customer Education professionals, we first begin working on certification programs when a senior leader asks us to, but the definition of certification can vary wildly from person to person. It’s crucial to know what you intend to build, what outcomes it will generate, and how much maintenance it requires.

The hypothesis that Dave and Debbie explore this episode is: “Certification programs for SaaS can be delivered in much shorter timelines, but with caveats.”

When some people say they want to develop a certification, what they actually mean is “some learning modules with a quiz at the end.” But to create a legally defensible certification that can be used for hiring, firing, and other high-stakes situations, you need something far more rigorous, fair, and accurate. This means it’s going to take time and money.

In this episode, Debbie walks us through the project management required to build and maintain a certification. She takes us through how to build a JTA (Job Task Analysis) which defines what the job being certified actually is, and what the skills involved are. This means you need to meet with SMEs to understand what is being certified and what skills are involved to do the job.

Then it’s on to item writing – and by “items” here, we mean questions. Writing valid and fair questions is extremely difficult, and there’s an art to it! Debbie suggests some techniques for item writing workshops and writing better multiple-choice questions. And getting the right SMEs in, especially if they are billable and their time comes at a premium, is difficult. But you can also reward them for their efforts by giving them a certification, a badge, or other perks for participating in the program as an expert.

Debbie also shares tips for beta testing, and how many people you need to participate in a beta process.

Keep in mind that for SaaS businesses, whose products constantly change, writing a certification also means that you’re signing yourself (and your SMEs) to update the certification constantly and keep it in tune with your product.

Overall, certifications go to a much deeper level than you may expect if you haven’t built one before. These concepts are helpful to share when an executive asks you to build a certification, because you can help educate them on what’s actually involved in the process. If you’re not ready to commit the time, effort, and resources to build a formal certification, maybe a lighter-stakes credential like a badge is a better offering! If you’re just making a test with no proctoring or controls, you can call it something other than a certification.

Listen to the episode and find out more of those “201”-level techniques.