Adam Avramescu  00:00

Hey, Adam. Hey, Dave.

Dave Derington  00:01

Today is an exciting day, isn’t it?

Adam Avramescu  00:04

It sure is. But wait, I forgot why is today so exciting?

Dave Derington  00:07

Because we’ve launched our customer education Manifesto.

Adam Avramescu  00:10

Manifesto.

Dave Derington  00:12

Yes, that’s right. You know, just how Agile Software Developers created a manifesto back in 2001 that shaped the future of the industry. We spent some time and pulled together insights and six key principles into a short statement about what modern customer educators like us believe.

Adam Avramescu  00:28

Well, it’s 2020. It’s about time for a manifesto. I love it. six key principles sound super concise. Where can I find it? Did we nail it to the door of a church?

Dave Derington  00:38

We did not. And those are theses, right?

Adam Avramescu  00:41

Oh, silly me.

Dave Derington  00:43

But seriously, we’re gonna pretty easy for you to find it’s right over our website, customer dot education. And if you look at the top nav, you’ll find a link for a manifesto. Click that you’ll be right there.

Adam Avramescu  00:52

Well, that’s great. I could just click that and read the manifesto. Oh, it looks like I can sign it to

Dave Derington  00:56

cool. And that’s right. That’s really important to us. If you go in and read the manifesto, and you feel like it resonates with you sign the page, we’re going to add your name to the list. And you can show that you’re in this elite group of modern customer educators. Oh, geez,

Adam Avramescu  01:09

I better hurry up and sign.

Dave Derington  01:11

Something tells me you’re already on the list.

Adam Avramescu  01:14

It’s not like we wrote it.

Dave Derington  01:23

Okay, good morning. And hello, everybody actually should say good afternoon, depending on where you’re at. Welcome, and thanks for joining our session on the six principles of building a customer education program. We’re super excited to talk with you today. Particularly those of you who might be coming over from Daniel quicks customer education playbook session, we feel like, this is super complimentary to that. We’re gonna have a lot of fun. So let us get started. Adam, go ahead, introduce yourself.

Adam Avramescu  01:51

Hey, everyone, my name is Adam. I rescue I lead enterprise customer learning at slack. And I also wrote a book called customer education, why smart companies profit by making customers smarter, you can go to bit.li slash customer education, if you want to check that out.

Dave Derington  02:06

And of course, I have a copy of it right here. It’s a great book. And I am Dave Derington. I lead customer education at outreach currently. And today, we’re going to have a really great presentation for you. So thank you for joining if you’re just coming in, welcome. Okay, so, as we have a little time here, we always like to frame this up by going beyond the pictures of who we are, and hope you know, how we got to where we are today. So let’s just take a moment, we’re gonna share who we are. Adam and I are both customer education professionals. And we’ve had strikingly parallel journeys. It’s, I think, Adam, we were at a conference, I think, was the Sigma conference several years ago. And you were presenting, and we met right after that. And we immediately connected over this whole field, we immediately realized, hey, how challenging is it for us to find the others, those of us in customer education, who are doing what we do every day.

And I think we’ve all said to ourselves, Where’s everybody else? Perhaps that’s why we our path of customer education brought us into customer success, or from Customer Success programs. In rapidly growing businesses, we had to get education program stood up really quick, running in no time, quite literally. And since we started this adventure, have been super lucky. And we’ve been able to see here, talk with many of you in the field, see what you’re doing, how your experiences are similar to ours, how this field of customer education is changing. And we think we have a novel perspective. So Adam is going to lead us in with an interesting story to help us frame up what we’re talking about today.

Adam Avramescu  03:46

Yeah, so you know, Dave just mentioned, one of the privileges we’ve had doing this podcast and being in the industry is we’ve seen a lot of the changes. We’ve seen what people are doing and how the market is changing. And that got us thinking about the idea of how what worked then might not work now. And to talk about that. First, I want to talk about a book called me by me. Now, I only have a clip of the cover here. But if you were around 20 years ago, and in the position to purchase books, you may have had a copy of this book, and I’m curious, maybe you can tell from this clip, maybe you can’t. Does anyone know what this book is?

Dave Derington  04:25

You can chat it out.

Adam Avramescu  04:27

I’m looking in the chat. Well, buddy, now here’s what it is. This is the autobiography of the pets.com sock puppet. So when Why are we talking about the autobiography of the pets.com sock puppet? Well, because what worked then, will not work now. And in fact, when we think about the efforts that pets.com was making in the late 90s and early 2000s to try to attract an audience and try to change their customers behavior from going into pet store to actually shopping online for pet supplies, they had a challenge ahead of them, they had a large opportunity in terms of acquiring customers, but it wasn’t going to be easy for them. So David, we can go to the next slide. These are some of the efforts that pets.com made. They created a magazine that had information about pets calm and about pet care. And in the first month that they had that they distributed a million magazines to their potential customers, and to pet owners, they ran a 10 city ad campaign.

And of course, that infamous $1.2 million Superbowl ad. So this was a pretty expensive endeavor for them to educate people on how to buy pet food and pet supplies online. And so when we think about how hard it is to acquire customers, it was hard back then. And it’s still hard now, in the session that you heard earlier from Mark, he was talking about this, the CAC LTV ratio, the cost to acquire customer is really significant and continues to be. So what happened then versus what happens now? Well, in the past, you could make ads, you could run your $1.2 million Superbowl ad, and you still can. But now you have more to think about now you have to really think about search engine optimization. You could print brochures and manuals, you could go to the tradeshow you could reach out to prospective customers there, you still can. But now customers are finding you in all sorts of places, you have to think about your landing pages, online help centers, customers finding you in very meaningfully different ways. And then you get a little bit past that.

And you think about how do we actually educate our customers on how to get some meaningful usage of our product. And this continues to be a challenge because in the past, you could pull everyone into these expensive classroom training centers, you could run live trainings for everything, you could run even two week on boardings, where you pulled all of your power users into a room together and devoted time off their jobs to train them up. Well, if that wasn’t, if that was still happening, up until March or so of this year, it’s not happening anymore. So the way that we think about customer education has been changing. And that has just accelerated in the past few months.

So that was acquiring customers. But I would argue and again, you might have heard this in Mark’s presentation earlier today, retaining customers is even harder. It used to be that you could go and sign a multi year contract. And if the customers didn’t really find meaningful usage of that product, you had what was essentially shelfware, right the product sat on the shelf and didn’t get used, but you would still been paid the money for it. So everything was kind of okay.

And you could go chase that that renewal when it got closer to the time. And that’s not really the position that most businesses are in anymore, we’ve moved into a subscription economy, we’ve moved into a SAS environment. And that means that renewals are constant. So if you think about the the flow that a customer goes through now, they move from onboarding, to adoption, to hopefully getting that renewal and eventually getting to that stage where the lifetime value of keeping that customer exceeds the cost that it costs to acquire them. And Dave, you showed on the the next slide that again, the risks here are meaningful, and they’re pervasive. So if you onboard that customer, but you don’t get them to a stage where they’ve reached that first value, they’re probably going to turn because they haven’t found a meaningful way to use your product.

Maybe they’ve started to adopt it, but they haven’t really matured or realized on any ongoing value. Well, you’re probably not going to see that renewal, they’re probably not going to expand. And if those things don’t happen again, you’re signing up for slow and painful churn. So there isn’t shelfware in today’s economy, there is touring, and touring is pervasive. So Dave, we have a we have a quote that we think about here in terms of customer success, you want to take us into that.

Dave Derington  09:10

Yeah, and I want to frame this up a little bit by saying, again, customer success is really important to us, because we feel customer education is emergent. From that we are the scale engine of customer success. We’re there to support it. So Lincoln Murphy, who you may have known, currently of 16 ventures, he had been working with gainsight on the customer success book, he came up with a really good quote here. Now he’s a growth consultant is focused on this kind of stuff. And what he has to say is that we have to educate people on not just how to use the product, our product, but quite frankly, that they need the product right? And what they even do without it. So this is really important. This is a gentleman that’s it’s Way out there and evangelizing for customer success. He’s saying customer education is vital. It’s the lifeblood of organizations.

And that’s why we have, we think it’s so important to elevate customer education. And you may or may have heard some of the sessions earlier today we’re talking about customer education is pervasive, it’s throughout our entire lifecycle all the way into sales, even. So it’s super important. I like that quote. So let’s, let’s do some thinking. And it may not be hard to sell all of you in this audience. But this is the conversation that you want to have with your leadership.

If you’re struggling to get the attention, you’re trying to get by and ask this question of yourself. How many 1000s? Or maybe millions of dollars has your company spent to acquire customers and drive adoption, as we Adam was just showing on this last slide, as you’re going up through that, that line? It’s it’s substantial, in most cases, even more, let’s go deeper. How much of that has been spent on customer marketing? Okay, that’s to build the funnel. How many drip campaigns you have going on at any given time? Let’s let’s talk about post sales. yet. How many CSM does your customer have? And more importantly, how many ad hoc trainings are they doing each and every day? Many times a day sometimes. So most of you, the audience already know this. Education is pivotal. We’re all educators. Adam, I think you have said that in one of your books or infrequently

Adam Avramescu  11:25

said that to anyone who will listen to me.

Dave Derington  11:27

Absolutely. We’re all educators, we’re all doing it and actually feels good. But this brings us to one very simple and exceptionally uncomfortable reality. Your customers don’t succeed if they don’t learn. Okay? Again, say for a fact, breed it with me, your customers don’t succeed if they don’t learn, that makes us a success function. So, Adam, we’ve talked about the internal realities of customer education. What’s that look like? From the other side, the customer side?

Adam Avramescu  12:00

Yeah, that’s right, we’ve been talking about what this looks like from the customer or the company side the outcomes we’re trying to drive, but it’s just as important to think about it from a customer’s point of view. So think about the first time you used a piece of software, maybe one that you use successfully today, we would argue that learning a new product, if we want to draw an analogy is like going on a journey without a map. S

o, David, we want to maybe look through the next few slides here. When we think about learning a new product and trying to get value from it, you often have some vague idea of what it is that you want to be doing in there. It might not be clearly defined, it might just be something that looks interesting. And you have a vague sense that it produces value, but you jump in, you don’t really know how all the features correspond to each other. They don’t know how they can help you. Daniel was talking about this in his previous presentation on the 12 steps. For the playbook, right? customers don’t always know what they’re getting into when they start using a product or how it’s going to provide them value. So journeys also look different for everyone. And again, Daniel was talking about this in the previous session when he talked about different personas.

Some journeys, for instance, are long, but they’re straightforward, and you know where they’re going, right, the you’re on the highway the whole time. Other ones don’t look like that. They might be really short journeys, but they’re still utterly baffling just because of the number of twists and turns, how often have you turned on the GPS just to get somewhere around your own town, because it wasn’t straightforward to you. Sometimes, the journey takes a twist or a turn or a winding path. Value might not be, you know, completely straightforward to find. Some might start on the highway and then go into the back roads, things get confusing or value becomes unclear over time. Some go completely off road and require a new pass to be forged. This might be like off label use cases, or new use cases that you or your company didn’t even know about before the customer started using them. And let’s also be cognizant that many journeys are taken on foot, we’ve been assuming the whole time that you had a car. What if you don’t? What if you are just wandering in the woods? So how can we help you? Well, oftentimes, a product designer will say our product should be so intuitive that you shouldn’t need customer education. And if customer education needs to happen, it’s just a band aid. I don’t think that’s entirely true. If we use this road trip analogy, good product design is sort of like having road signs, it makes the journey easier to follow.

There are so many design cues on the average highway, the average road that ultimately makes the the journey easier. But that’s not the only thing you need to get where you’re going. Similarly, you might say let’s hire a bunch of CSS and support agents and I think hiring CSS and support agents is super important that human touch is really important. But even if you have great people, I think it’s sort of like having like a really knowledgeable person at the gas station. You pull over to the side of the road. You ask them for directions. They can tell you where to go. But if you kind of break that analogy for a moment, well, they need to know that the customer actually needs help. What if the customer doesn’t pull into that gas station to ask for directions. And furthermore, they can only help so many people at a time. Each CSM has a portfolio of customers. And if they’re trying to help all the people who didn’t necessarily think to reach out to them, that’s sort of like the gas station attendant, walking outside when there’s already a line of 10 people waiting for directions. So Dave, what are what are we in this equation?

Dave Derington  15:32

Well, we’re not if anybody can catch what’s wrong with this picture? I really liked this picture. Adam. You can, you can see that it’s backwards. But I have to say that until recently, customer education has had somewhat of an identity crisis, at least to me, Adam, I think you might say so as well. There are there are lots of voices out in the marketplace, saying, you know, what we do who we are how we work? And let’s answer this question. And anatomy you’re here to, like posit some, you know, challenging assertions, and that’s what we mean by the six principles. Who are we exactly? Using? I love this road trip analogy. Who are we? Are we the map makers? Well, I would say maybe, we would say maybe we’re the GPS. We’re the ones that are the ways are the Google Maps or Apple Maps.

Our ultimate role, our ultimate mission, and nay our passion is to help the customer along the journey to get to where they want to go, what do you want to do? Think about yourself. And I’ve had this experience recently where I, I’ve been asked to use another product at work for something and go, Oh, well, I didn’t choose this is not my idea. And and now I have to do this thing. What do I want to do? Where do I want to go with this? Do I want a four lane superhighway? To get me from point A to point B fast? Do I want to go off roading. It’s kind of fun. We need to know that as customer education people to chart the course. So we’re new face of customer education. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about our role and sweated it we’ve we’ve lived in the trench.

This is what we believe our job is. And and I take this, I think from your book, Adam, a customer education function strategically accelerates account and user growth by changing behaviors, reducing barriers to value and improving the way people work. Right? Let’s think about,

Adam Avramescu  17:34

yeah, if we can, if we can break just a piece of that down for a moment. And as customer educators today, we are in a position where we are not just reaching out directly to consumers. And we are not just directly reaching out to the business stakeholder at the account or the person that we we sold the product to as customer educator, excuse me, as customer education professionals, we’re often dealing with both audiences at once. So we have to think about a two layer strategy, one that really helps the account grow over time and reach maturity so that we can achieve LTV, but one that also addresses each and every user within that account to help them find success trying to do the things that they are able to do.

Dave Derington  18:14

Absolutely growth value. We’re reframing our educational mission in the context of the context of the customer success, right? anatomy, we talk about this all the time, it kinds of puts us in a different spectrum or a different light than it would be if you were a standard educational services function. Right? We have different things to think about. So so let’s get to the manifesto. Before we do, let’s do a little a brief history lesson. Those of you who know who’ve been in the software industry for a while, like I know I have, there was a thing about decade or two decades ago now goodness, the Agile Manifesto came out similar in spirits. And it actually was the genesis the origin of of this whole thing we could and we have and we do work in long form program.

So if you think about Addie, or more of a project manager, or project manager would say, waterfall could take a really long time to build stuff. We don’t have that luxury of time, how do we serve our customers better. So in software as a service x as a service, we have customers that are in pain, right now they’re frustrated, they’re confused, you know what they need us, they’re not going to wait. And they may turn if they don’t turn effectively become self shelfware. And somebody is paying for that bill for that seat. That brings us to our Manifesto. So let’s quickly read through this in before as we go through this, we’re going to break all this down one by one. I’m going to start reading I think for a fact. We’re going to take turns on this and go slow. We want you to think about this as well as we go through this. So I’ll start off. We believe that modern customer educators Must, number one, guide customers to value versus educating a customer every single feature.

Adam Avramescu  20:10

We believe in building a core program that scales versus customizing every time.

Dave Derington  20:17

We lead with data tied to business outcomes, versus measuring just our activity.

Adam Avramescu  20:26

We use agile practices to ship solutions quickly versus perfecting our content.

Dave Derington  20:32

We design experiences that we ourselves would actually want to learn from, versus building safe and dry learning.

Adam Avramescu  20:42

And finally, we serve busy customers in their moment of need, versus making them do the work. And so you can see here that these are all statements about what we prefer, over their alternatives. And there are alternatives can be equally tempting or there can be business pressures, to do the alternatives all the time. And if you’re coming into customer education for the first time, or if you are an education services department that is rapidly changing because of external pressures in the world, I’m sure that these are all tough decisions to make, they certainly have been for me in the past. So we intend for this to be a way to help guide those decisions and provide a guiding light for those who are in the field.

Dave Derington  21:27

Absolutely. So again, we’ve highlighted this, you can go to our website, as well, we’ll mention the URL to that. But we’re really laser focused on some key principles that are going to help accelerate what we do, you know, like you can read on on the left side of this, you know, we know customers don’t succeed, if they don’t learn, we want to get to value, we want more value over time, we want to remove bloat roadblocks, and we want to help scale. That’s the genesis of this whole thing. So now, what we’re going to do is walk through each one of these principles, these values in our Manifesto, and we’re going to give you some examples on how we think this has been really done, you know, these have been typified or are emblematic of what we’re trying to do.

So let’s go through this. And let’s start with number one, again, that’s that we prioritize guiding customers to our products value, right value first, over educating them on all the features. Now, this is where, and I like to pause here a little bit and just in kind of go back to today. We’re here to close gaps between things like buying a product versus I’m actually getting something out of that product, it’s not shelfware. Or, you know, I might and I do this all the time and and about you stumble around in a product without looking at anything, it’s kind of fun at first, frankly, if the product is enjoyable, versus actually being a power user and knowing what you’re doing and cutting down that time to actually achieve a goal, right? We’re looking at difference between casual organic usage, and poke around at those versus strategic usage, to effect a real difference. And then finally, you know, using a product that just looks cool or interesting, and then using it because that thing is going to advance your career. You know, we’re not here to make training something like, okay, and you’ve all done this, I’m sure I’ve done this, it’s easy.

And we’ve been educated to do this in the past, you know, all the way through school. Now click that blue button in the top right corner that says something, okay, we we’re not here to do that we’re here to think bigger. I’m just giving you kind of an example from outreach. As a customer, now we’re an engagement platform for cells. As a customer, I want to know, not just how to look at a list of like, my manager sends me a list of prospect to look at. And I want to actually call these people who are email these people, right? I could just start at the top work all the way down through it. But that’s mindless. That’s not intelligence, that’s not value. In in our education program.

What we’re trying to do is develop a workflow, how did the skills How do the features fit together? To help you do something like, Okay, I get a list of prospects? How do I prioritize them by actual interest? Have they looked at my email? So they read them? Have they gone to our website? Do I know if I know I’m going to prioritize those people? Similarly, geography Do you want if you’re a sales rep, are you going to call somebody five in the morning? We could if you just followed a script or a list? Have you gotten those calls?

Yeah. We don’t want that. Similarly, if you have somebody on the phone, what’s the best practice? What are they allowed? What do they care about? Those are the kind of things are interesting. So if in five minutes, I can have somebody look through a list, know how to approach it, that’s going to translate to a paycheck. So let me go a little bit further. And I’ll talk about an example that we all know and love. If we’re Salesforce users, Salesforce trailhead. This is an amazing educational platform. It goes well beyond just profit. Training. It’s a learning platform now.

So you know, at first, this may have been fun and may have been just easy to use, like, oh, cool, I can go to trailhead, instead of taking all these classes by some third party, it evolved to offer from just talking about like admin training or sales training, something that’s way beyond that, and now getting additional value into soft skills and things that help a salesperson or marketer, or customer support person getting on how are you using Salesforce to fill in those gaps that that additional value. So somebody is now staying here on the trailhead site going, Oh, cool, well, I can learn this. And I can do that and is extremely helpful.

So Salesforce has introduced all these additional skills, and now we’re addressing the whole of the person and keeping in place. So really cool stuff here. You know, there’s the trailhead, Trailblazer branding has expanded into conferences, and communities, and so much more. Number two, is that we prioritize building programs that are going to scale over over ones that really require deep customization. Okay? Again, operant word here is scaling. Now, let’s go into the so what we’re trying to do, like, well, you read this slide, you realize one key thing, if you’re working in software as a service, SaaS moves very fast,

Adam Avramescu  26:25

faster than my internet connection. That’s,

Dave Derington  26:28

that’s a great segue back. I’ll finish this off, and I’m gonna dump it over to you. Education is a commonly done. Let’s be real. If you’re like me, I’ve been in three different companies doing this kind of thing. Every time it’s the same way. A CSM starts teaching, right? Because you’re early phase, you don’t have an education team, or other team members, your onboarding team are doing this without a program, though to perform this function. A lot of SAS businesses has start to hit problems. Maybe Adam, when you think about 50 100 150 people in you’re hitting problems with scale. And and what we really want to do is focus on what matters most building a foundation that you can use Harvey need to. Okay, Adam, are we ready? You want to cue you up again? Are we still frozen?

Adam Avramescu  27:15

I’m back. Let’s okay. Internet holds. Started on on this. I

Dave Derington  27:19

have just queued you up for this. So we’re going to talk about Asana.

Adam Avramescu  27:24

Oh, my gosh. All right. Well, let’s hope my internet holds her long enough to talk about this. If not, I know Dave can pick all this up, too. So let’s talk about Asana for a moment. Daniel did talk about a few examples in the previous session. But Asana took a very modular approach to creating content. And this started with what Daniel mentioned, developing a 60 day curriculum for new users who were coming on so that they could be really consistent about the way that they delivered the same learning objectives across different platforms. So to me, this really represents the idea of starting with scale. They centralized a lot of these programs in what’s called the Asana guide.

And that’s what you see here. This is a centralized property that includes their training, webinars, articles, videos, courses, that are all optimized for different audiences at different stages in the sales or post sales lifecycle. So for example, the guide itself was for some of these kind of big picture use cases that are pre sales, marketing. And then as the customer goes along their their journey, they could pick up, you know, Docs, where they needed support webinars, when they were new users, and Academy when they were kind of converting from that free trial into paid users and really getting to that meaningful value stage. And each of them use the same how to Asana videos that Daniel was talking about in his previous session, as well. So it was really nice to see the same resources used across different properties in a way that would really scale and create operational efficiencies for the Asana team, while still providing a really good contextual experience for the customer. All right, so let’s move on to number three.

Three is really about how we measure our data and what data we’re measuring. So again, there’s a distinction here between measuring our operational data, everyone, at some point measures the number of registrations in a course, or ultimately the reach of the program, or who has completed what course those are all important to collect. But this is about tying to broader business outcomes and really getting our business impact data. So how do we focus those measurement efforts? Well, ultimately, we want to prioritize tying to the things that our business really cares about to show whether we’re making an impact.

Dave Derington  29:42

When our programs are doing well, they do more to drive customer adoption, right. One of the first things that my manager said to me is that I want our user, our customers to be adopting to use the product more. Perhaps Equals sometimes more importantly to that, we were concerned about reducing that customer churn. Right? And that comes from a place of frustration. And how often has it been that you’ve used a product, I just, I just can’t do this one thing, this one thing isn’t working. And you come back and you hit your head on it again and again, and again, it just doesn’t work. But then if you find an appropriate piece of training, sometimes get around that now what’s super important there is that we want to be proactive about that, and avoid that frustration from the get go.

Another big thing is aiding retention, and expansion, right? We we want to keep the customer Now, of course, getting customers to use and adopt more reducing churn. That’s first table stakes, as a phrase I hear. We want to start getting people old stay with us longer. This is an invaluable product, I want to know, like the one of the coolest things I’ve seen happen at outreach is we do a good job as a great job as a team landing and getting a product in place for a small team usually, and that team of sales professionals are like, I can’t imagine my life without this. And that is infectious.

And that leads to a land and expand type approach where other other customers in that same world get excited. And they’re having social learning and thing going on. This is really cool. And then we’re talking about scaling and reducing human effort. Do you want your customer success managers to constantly have to battle? One on one training? Right? Do you want your onboarding people doing one on one training, it does not scale. If a cool thing that I’ve seen recently, and I’ve done in the past, too, is that we have we have onboarding on demand material that you can go back and forth with. So if you’re in onboarding, you say, hey, go look at this module and do this homework and come back to me.

And then we’re going to talk about it and see what you did. And if you don’t do that, we’re going to stop until you do this really produces that operational efficiency, and also puts that the responsibility on the customer side, because they have to drive their experience and pull each other’s through. So Adam, if you’re back, I’m up to the point. We’re talking about staff and costs. Yeah,

Adam Avramescu  32:19

can you can you hear me now, Dave? Absolutely.

Dave Derington  32:22

Welcome back. Okay,

Adam Avramescu  32:22

so I’ve decided to combat this severe internet and very inconveniently timed internet issue by calling in from my phone. So if you can’t see my face, at least I can still hear Dave, and hopefully you can still hear me.

Dave Derington  32:38

All right. So Adam, if you’re if you’re looking at the deck, we’re talking about, okay, we’re, our programs are working? Well, they do in order to do all these things in and we’re trying to make it a point that if you have a customer education program, it can save you money as well,

Adam Avramescu  32:56

sometimes big Yeah, absolutely. When we’re when we’re thinking about the idea here of ROI, ultimately, we want to know, you know, did did the impact that we had on the business, outweigh what it costs to staff the program. And certainly if you’re just starting a customer education program, you’re probably going to be operating as a cost center to start with, probably not always, but over time, you’ll be able to show the value and impact that you have, it’s important to be thinking about it in those terms to start with.

So well, we’ll give an example of someone who is really looking at these these pieces, we want to talk about heap analytics. So specifically their education property heap University. This is a company that I think does something really interesting with data because they are themselves a data and analytics company. So heap University ultimately helps onboard and serve heaps customers as they learn how to use an analytics platform, as well as how they interpret the results that they see from their in product analytics. So the company is in a unique position to be able to use its own always on analytics product to tie their training consumption data to key product adoption metrics. So for example, if someone takes a certain course, in hip University, what effect does that have on key metrics that he cares about in their own product? So what I like about this, and you can see this in some of the the titles of the reports, they’re answering actual key questions that they or their executives might have, about what their education program is doing. And they’re monitoring correlations, which helps show that ROI story. And again, it’s easy to get fixated sometimes on the idea of causation versus correlation.

Should we be measuring any of these things if we can’t prove that customer education actually caused these outcomes? And David, I would argue, no, while ultimately you want to make sure that you eventually are at the point where you can really be telling a story around education being a causal effect on customer outcomes, especially when you’re just getting started out. I think looking at correlation and being able to Tell the story around that. And how that’s a strong correlation is not just enough. But it’s still a very impactful story to be telling.

Because when you’re thinking about the impact that customer education has, even if you assume for a moment that the causation is reverse causation, for example, let’s say that the customers who are more likely to renew or the customers who are more likely to adopt your product, were then the customers who took education, that’s still a pretty impactful story, because that means that your customers who ultimately were successful with your product, needed education as a part of their journey. So you’re still supporting your successful customers. And in a way, that’s a call to action to help distribute that same education to more customers so that they can be successful. Absolutely.

Dave Derington  35:51

Okay. So let’s, let’s move forward. Now we’re going to talk about agile, I love this one. I’m a big fan of Agile as you couldn’t tell. What we want to do, what we believe, fundamentally, is that we need to prioritize shipping solutions quickly, using small a agile style type method is the big difference when you hear developers talk about that. So that’s why I say small a, over perfecting our content. So let’s tear into this a little bit more. And I’m going to make make a transparent note that I’m a recovering perfectionist. Maybe you are too. I think that’s inherent in. I know, I know you are, we’re perfectionist, and we’re recovering from that, because of the way we’ve been educated. We’d like to strive for perfection, that’s a whole whole whole academic system is geared towards that. And you know, you start at 100 points, or 1000 points for a course and you just go down in SAS, we can’t wait. Right?

If, if an instructional designer tells me, hey, it’s gonna take me three months to go and do this thing. And I’m gonna have to learn this and do all these things and build the program and test it. Okay, three months? Can you do it in one? Can you do it in three weeks, I have a problem with really, really long timelines personally, because I have been on that other side, I’m supporting customers, there’s a lot of pain out there. customers don’t have time to wait, they’re going to churn. So the time pressure is huge. So what we do therefore is focus on that small agile doesn’t mean we have to do rigorous Scrum or whatever, all these methodologies that you hear about an agile, that’s scary, right? There’s a lot to that, you know, when you hire a scrum master, in, I’m sure many of you who have come in from an instructional design, or at least an accidental one.

I’ve heard about Sam, you know, rapid iterations to two programs. So let’s give you an example. And before I do that, let’s talk about the keys though, before I jump into that. I like, Adams comment here, you know, we keep quality in mind, while designing our experience, but we also reject the Dragon of perfectionist sounds so bold, I love it. It’s it’s looking over your shoulder all the time. It’s like, Oh, you can do that better. And actually, other people are in the process saying, oh, that has to be perfect or the that needs to be centered a little bit. You know, what, don’t care. Here’s what we do philosophically, break work up small units. chunking. Right? deliver that content more frequently. I like to think of a flywheel, right? Get something get it out there iterated again, do it later. Working beta, if you slap beta, anything, if Google hasn’t, has has done one thing for us, it’s totally you slap beta on top of some product that you got out there, and you keep it in beta forever.

Nobody cares, that that’s just a signifier that you’re working on it. And that’s okay. It’s okay to a customer that we’re in beta or prototype status. And in fact, they’re probably going to be thankful for it. I’ve always seen that. And you also in Agile, just have to be comfortable with imperfection. It’s okay, that’s that you had a typo or something like that, you know, it pains me all the time. It’s just okay. Let’s talk again, example, I talked a little bit about outreach. But because I work there, I’m excited about it. I want to show you what we’re doing and how we’re applying these skills in our environment. So an outreach is a little bit different. When when I say agile, even small, agile, it’s evocative of this. Oh, my gosh, you know, we got to be on this timeline. And we’ve got to use JIRA and do all that. Now, we don’t have to do that. We don’t have to do any of that stuff. We thought about a lot of this outreach uses a modified a very heavily modified practice, that it’s it’s more I came into an organization where we had existing content, and the content actually looked pretty good. Was it performance? Nope. There were no quizzes. There was real no learning objectives.

So the instructional design component of the content itself wasn’t up to mark but of quality was that met We had to have that quality barrier there. Now, if you think about the Iron Triangle, I look at the Iron Triangle of content design, you know, you have time and quality. And you know, the product cost. I wasn’t so worried about cost, but I was worried I wasn’t, I was worried about quality. So we focused on quality, standardizing, and coming up with the process, and we quickly loop and iterate. So something did get wrong and go out the door, I could quite quickly go in and pull, you know, pull out the slide, make some changes, put it back up. And we’re good to go. So in in course of this, also, we did have a little longer loops, we had a heavier review, cycle or cadence. And in you may have this is worth we’re talking about as well, because in some environments, you have a lot of tribal knowledge, you have a lot of stuff that’s up here in people’s heads.

And to get that out sometimes takes a lot. So you can flex your agile approach on a continuum, it’s not just one thing, you can be very waterfall last can still drop into the Agile point of view. We also are pivoting from lived on demand content. So we’re expanding our portfolio. And that’s cool in the live version, not just on the on demand version, you can be agile about that, too. So we’ve been quick to come up with beta classes and get people into them and test them and evolve them actually know what a lot of fun, it makes it more like your customers a partner alongside you and your journey. But also, you’re always raising the bar of your content, and it’s becoming improved. For us in about 18 months, we were able to pivot away from kind of like an old structured program. And now we have a process that’s much more flywheel much more agile, we can turn on a dime and add new content. So yeah, there’s this content.

Adam Avramescu  41:48

We have a similar story at at slac, when we released the slack certified program, which was something that we we did our first full online release, just just about a month ago, actually. So in that program, this was actually something where we originally were tasked with building a certification program on an incredibly short timeline. And we had to make trade offs and think about how are we ultimately going to bring this into the world. And so we actually started with a live course that certainly was not easy to produce.

But we were able to iterate that into a roadshow where we deliver the live course to iterate on it and refine it, but always with the intention of bringing it into this fully online proctored rigorous format. And part of the reason why we wanted to do that was also to reflect slacks brand standards, it’s really important, you know that your education, even if you use an agile approach, that you’re doing it relative to your company’s own brand standards and expectations and the voice that you want to use to communicate with the rest of your customer base. But we also did it in a way to tie back to Principle number one, which was, there was a lot of information that we wanted to teach and convey and certify that wasn’t just about how to use the product itself, it was how to be successful as a slack administrator or a slack developer, we would always describe it as part art part science.

And so as we proceeded through the various phases, we were able to refine that more and more from kind of the learning objectives and job task analysis to painting a deeper and fuller picture of what those skills actually were and how we would teach them and how we would test on them. So taking the agile approach, actually really helped us build a final end product that I think was was ultimately better.

Dave Derington  43:37

Absolutely. Okay, let’s continue on. We’ve got two more to go. Adam,

Adam Avramescu  43:42

you got this? Yeah. Okay. Yeah, well, we’ll do a couple minutes here, and also want to make sure that we can answer folks as questions. So number five is really about learning that we ourselves would want to learn from, I think a lot of customer education programs fall into the trap of designing customer education, that, ultimately is not a great experience. So instead of actually designing something engaging, they stick to something that’s safe and dry and tried and true. But I think that instructional design is not just learning experience design, but really in some ways. We’re all in the business now of UI and UX, we’re really thinking about what our customer experiences as they take our learning. And for those of us in customer education, I think that impact is magnified. Because we don’t have a captive audience. Our customers don’t have to take our education in a lot of ways.

And in fact, in many cases, they might be finding us organically. And whether they complete a course or whether they actually go through what they need to go through to be successful is really dependent on our ability to engage them in to keep them engaged. So what can we do if we can’t just keep them in multi day classroom lectures? How do we actually engage them? Well, one is we have to Think like UI UX professionals. Let’s build clean interfaces with easy navigation that makes it really easy to get to the next step. Let’s think about storytelling. How do we tell compelling stories to our customers?

And this fits in again, with Principle number one? How do we give them a real picture about what the job is and what it means to be successful on there? Let’s include some not necessarily overboard, but some funding games. To make it a delightful experience, maybe even a touch of emotion, let’s let’s empathize with them. And overall, this also takes us towards what might be considered micro learning, the idea of building shorter, punchier, and more digestible content that can be repurposed, you’re much more likely to engage with something that is of a manageable length than something that is, you know, multiple hours at a time. abstain you actually found a really good example of a program like this in the wild, would you like to talk about it?

Dave Derington  45:54

I would. And in fact, if anybody in our audience is from Chile, I would love to talk to you. So stumbled upon this quite recently, I have a shared love for game design, I share this with our friend Daniel, actually taught it taught it for about eight years of the university. One day, I was looking through my Facebook feed of all things, and I saw an ad for Twilio quest in Facebook, and I okay, I’m really intrigued. What’s going on here. This is a product that I know, I’ve interfaced with before, what do you got going on here?

So what I saw and you can research us in your own Twilio quest, and you go to the Twilio site, or just Google that they built a role playing game experience to teach developer skills that include a lot of really high interactivity. And what’s more important, and this is, this is like, for me a Holy Grail. And to give you just a quick side story at gainsight. One of the things when I was this is a couple of jobs ago, when I was the lead of the gainsight customer education program, we built a training environment, a test environment, and how all the stuff in it that you can do, and we build exercises to that. And that sandbox, that lab based environment is super crucial and helpful when you can get it right, particularly when you’re leaning more on the side of people who are developers, because they would actually not rather watch a video of you doing some stuff they rather looks in documentation to then have a challenge they want to do, right? Not necessarily watch.

So through game based missions, you can create project work in a local environment. And it’s just super hands on and super fun. And, you know, if you want to develop something, you’re also playing a game. How cool is that? I mean, this is how my kids love to learn, you know, I’ve got all these different, you know, game maker and stitch and like the little little apps that are coming out all the time to teach kids how to code. Well, we we put your money where your mouth is, and we did it for our customers. So Twilio, kudos to this really great idea. Love the idea. All right, let’s go to our last one here.

Adam Avramescu  48:00

Here it is. Okay. So the way I always think about this one is customers are busy, not lazy. So let’s treat them as if they’re busy. And you know, we every moment of attention that we get from them is one that we have earned. So let’s dive a little bit into the the principles here. So when we think about our customers being busy, not lazy, again, and I Daniel said this in the last session as well, if you build it, they won’t come. So we are just as responsible for not just marketing our programs, but making sure that we have an outreach and distribution strategy for our educational moments.

And that’s probably going to go outside of just the traditional LMS or outside of, you know, the the traditional core structure. So how do we meet our customers where they are, it’s sort of about thinking about a push and pull strategy. So let’s pull our customers in, by making sure that they have sharp in product tutorials, tool tips that they can pull to be able to get help in a moment of need. Same applies when they’re having trouble. I think error states and common problems that the customer might be having are great opportunities to link out to resources that will help them solve their own problem, and might even be a funnel into deeper educational moments as time goes on. It also means meeting them where they are. So for example, in Google searches and YouTube videos, perhaps pushing to them in their own slack workspace. That’s something that we experiment with quite a bit at slac. And in their email through campaigns and promotions. So having nurture campaigns and and targeted promotions going out to customers, that’s a good way to draw them in as well. We can’t just expect them to find our educational materials by themselves. But once they do find them, let’s make it dead simple to get to the next step. So for an example of this, we like to look at intercom so similar to how you would expect in the heap example heap as an analytics platform should be really Good at their own. In product analytics. intercom is a conversational messaging and conversational support tool should be really good at meeting customers where they are. And in fact they are.

They believe in a strategy of right help right place right time. And as you can see in the screenshot here, you when you first come into intercom, they actually ask you some questions, including what do you do? What are you trying to use the product for, so they can guide your experience of using the product. And they also frequently link out to relevant materials in their intercom Academy and their help center. So you can see below in the the example here, you can engage your customers to complete a goal with a series of LinkedIn messages. That’s a feature called series. So you could take a tour of that feature, you could see it in action in a video, you could go to an article about how it works. Or you could go to their Academy to actually learn that feature top to tail. So it’s different levels of investment, for different levels of motivation, we always have to think about that high intent versus low intent user.

They also use a best next step approach. So when they are sending out nurture emails and drip campaigns, they are looking at the customer’s actions and timing, whether they did or didn’t perform a certain action in the product to guide the messaging. So for example, on day one, if they install the intercom messenger, on day two intercom is looking to see if they did or didn’t actually take the next step. It keeps them close to the product. So you know, they kind of still remember why they came. If on day two, they have taken the next step, then they’ll get another email nurture with more suggested next steps. But if they went a few days, without taking that next step, maybe they want to take a step back and assume that they need to remind them of the value of the product or of the feature. So they might zoom out a level and send you a message that’s more like customer stories or value lead, for example, join 30,000 businesses in the conversational support space.

They also did a lot of testing to figure out what the right level of nurture in product was. So they used to have 200 plus messages delivered by different product managers for different features. And they tested that against a new, streamlined, very actionable approach, where they’re really just trying to drive the key steps for activation that they knew would make the customer successful. And as you can imagine, by testing that simplified approach, less is more really empathizing with the customer by meeting them where they are, they saw a meaningful increase in activations as a result. So I think, Dave, that takes us through our six principles, is that right?

Dave Derington  52:42

That, that does it so and this is where we’ve got some homework for you. Not really, that’s a call to actions that before you sign off before you head to your next session, if any of this resonated with you, here’s your call to action. Number one, we’d really like you to go to our website. It’s customer dot education. Super cool. It’s I don’t know how we got it. Go there, read the manifesto. If you agree with it, feel like it’s worthy. Sign it right. Next steps on from that, you know, we’re gonna take it to the next level and evolve this, then we want you to subscribe to our podcast if you’re open to it.

We’ve been doing this for a couple years now. Right, Adam? Yeah, once we’ve got exactly. We’re closing on an episode 50. There’s a lot of great content, and we are open, transparent. And we’re getting into the weeds here every day, we want to be those people that you can talk to, and we want to hear your voice and include it. And then give us feedback. Want to want to be on a podcast? Or you want to learn something or you want us to cover something, give us get on our site? Let us know we really want to learn from you. Again, it’s customer dot education. I think we do have time for one question. And I see one question.

Adam Avramescu  53:55

So let’s see where at I can I can read it. Go ahead and read it is I think that’s good. Yeah, Tiffany asks, Do you find that avoiding perfectionism so this was in the the Agile principle Do you find that can reflect poorly on your brand, for example, if a test if a customer sees typos, grammatical errors, or errors in layout and design, they may potentially lose trust in your company’s attention to detail and care? That’s a really good question. And I think this is about finding a balance. Dave, jump into please. Yep. When we talk about rejecting the the Dragon of perfectionism, I think of a Bernie brown quote here, actually, she talks about perfectionism is not necessarily reflecting a high standard of quality.

Perfection is kind of about our perfectionism, I should say, is about letting your anxiety about being seen as vulnerable take over your ability to actually execute. So I think that we do need to hold ourselves to minimum quality standards, and we do need to make sure that what we’re releasing is reflective of our brand. Anyone on my team probably knows that I am kind of a copy editor first in form Most. So I’m not afraid to jump into documents and make sure that grammar and typos. And all of those are, are buttoned up. And, frankly, that’s I do think, you know, when it comes to grammatical errors, or, you know, kind of like major layout and design errors, typos, those are, those are usually minimum standards.

But the other thing that I find is that can really start going down a slippery slope, where that can start to lead into Oh, well, the UI in our videos must always reflect 100% of what the UI is in our released product. That could be perfectionism, because that’s something where if you’re spending a bunch of time and effort, making sure that your customers always see the exact same down to the tiniest little detail version of the UI, that is reflected in the current version of your product. Well, that might not actually be something that a lot of your customers notice. So in some ways, I also feel like, you need to let your customers tell you, you know, where you where you are, aren’t meeting their expectations is about finding a balance.

Dave Derington  56:07

Yeah, I’d agree with that, too. It just just for me to chime in from my experiences. Again, I’ve been like Adam in several different places, several environments with a lot of kind of similar customers, they a customer is probably going to care of lightly, but not about like I see a typo, they’re gonna let you know, maybe I, I have seen very few emails or notes or anything about those kinds of things. We try to filter them out. But I think the main thing here and Adam, I really liked the quote that you You gave there. It’s really about managing that anxiety. Because what I see internally, and one thing I tried to level set an expectation of internally is that, hey, I spelled this word wrong, and it went out. I can fix it. It’s not a big deal. But some people will be like, Oh, no, we’ve got to be perfect. I think that’s one thing you have to actively combat. In. To your point, Adam, yes, we have a minimum bar of quality always in forever. But find out where that is in tune it. Because I think you will find that your customers are a lot more forgiving than maybe your own internal people are. And if you set that expectation

Adam Avramescu  57:13

between doing a final QA and a proofreading of your content and doing you know, multiple hours of revisions, just to make sure that you’ve stayed ahead of all possible problems. Absolutely.

Dave Derington  57:25

I know somebody made a had a question here. The name of the podcast is SEALAB, like, you know, underneath the sea, the customer Education Laboratory, because that underscores I am a trained scientist, I used to be a chemist, and we just kind of like that motif. Where we’re always questioning we’re coming up with hypotheses doesn’t mean we know all the answers, but we’re going to work together to find them. Adam, you have any other notes we want to lead out on?

Adam Avramescu  57:53

Well, as we as we always like to say on the podcast. If this is valuable to you, please check out the site at customer dot education, subscribe to the podcast. And you know, we encourage this to be a way to find the others who are working in customer education. So we’re very thankful to all of you for attending, and for thought industries for inviting us to speak at the conference. It’s been it’s been super fun so far.

Dave Derington  58:18

It’s been amazing. It’s a great conference. Yeah, reach out to us connect with us on LinkedIn, or on the Twitter’s at Dave Derington is mine. Adam, you’re at every mask if you can. You can say you can spell it. Isn’t that your creed?

Adam Avramescu  58:33

Fair enough. Fair enough.

Dave Derington  58:35

And as I always like to say, go out, educate. Find the others. Thanks, everyone. Thank you

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