Adam Avramescu 00:01
Welcome to CELab the customer education lab where we explore how to build customer education programs, experiment with new approaches, and exterminate the myths and bad advice like the roaches they are. I feel bad about that. I don’t I don’t like killing roaches, but sometimes sometimes they must be exterminated called. Yes, they must be cold. But they’ll survive the apocalypse. I don’t feel too bad for them.
Dave Derington 00:30
Well, I don’t know. I don’t know how they do without internet. We’ll see.
Adam Avramescu 00:34
I apologize to any bug rights activists. Hey, Dave, what? What national month is it?
Dave Derington 00:47
Well, surprisingly, it is a national mushroom month.
Adam Avramescu 00:53
Think about mushroom month.
Dave Derington 00:54
It sounds amazing.
Adam Avramescu 00:56
You know, I went through most of my childhood and into my into my adult life not liking mushrooms. And at a certain point, a switch flipped and I turned around and now I actually love them. Yeah, you ever noticed a lot of girls?
Dave Derington 01:11
I feel like I haven’t liked mushrooms for quite a while. But you know, some people don’t like them at all.
Adam Avramescu 01:20
So what’s like, like eating fungus feels, feels odd, you can kind of have to, like turn off that part of your brain that is actively thinking about what you’re consuming.
Dave Derington 01:32
Well, we do that in McDonald’s or any other place these days. So I think it’s true.
Adam Avramescu 01:37
I’ve eaten things that are objectively way grosser than a fungus and not. You know, I did eat? This is a positive mushroom story. I had I had mushroom ice cream recently.
Dave Derington 01:52
Ah, I hear there’s mushroom tea, too.
Adam Avramescu 01:56
There’s mushroom tea? Yeah. Does it have to be isn’t kombucha kind of made from fermented mushrooms?
Dave Derington 02:03
I don’t know. So our audience will have to I stay away from that.
Adam Avramescu 02:10
drinker in our audience, please let us know what it is made.
Dave Derington 02:13
Oh, my gosh. Well, while we’re debating that. So Adam, I think today, what we want to do is pull out a really good question from our mailbag. So what do we have what we want to talk about today?
Adam Avramescu 02:28
Well, in the last episode, we were getting into some common questions about maintaining content for SAS products. And it’s actually one of the most common questions we hear. And I really love this question from the mailbag. This is from Charlie, because it gets at a very different but but equally common question about maintaining content or what to do with content in a SaaS product. So let’s read the question, Dave, would you like to read it?
Dave Derington 02:57
I will. Okay, Charlie writes, I have been tasked with creating a customer education program at our software company. I am devouring your book and your podcast episodes, I’m trying to create a strategy for implementation based on your guidelines. But the sticking point that I always get stuck on is that our software is configured for each customer. We have many functions that are fairly standard. But implementation looks and acts a bit different. I know I can create educational material for more advanced topics that our customers would consume without any customization. But our basic user training is the main thing that we’re trying to standardize, and I’m struggling to determine the best way forward. Thanks for your brains.
Adam Avramescu 03:41
Sounds zombie would say.
Dave Derington 03:45
A very polite zombie. Yeah,
Adam Avramescu 03:47
played zombie. Thank you. Thank you in advance for consideration of your right now. Thank you, Tara. They’re really, really good question. And I think, a very common one, too, especially for products where, as you call it out there is they’re not completely off the shelf. So if I can kind of summarize what I understood from that question, it’s, you know, we talk a lot about doing scalable customer education. And we talk a lot about producing the types of materials that will really serve these large swathes of customers. But inherent in that is the idea that you’re not really able to change that training at scale to reflect all the different permutations of a highly configurable product. So how do you approach that from a content strategy perspective? So you take away from that they’ve?
Dave Derington 04:33
Yeah, I mean, scale does require a certain sense of generalization, right? You’ve got to be able to hit your 80%. And, you know, if I were to turn this into a hypothesis, I would I would say, Okay, how do we put this into terms of a hypothesis, you know, we we are able to create content at scale that meets the needs Have most customers like 80% of all of our customers without unique customization? Yes or no?
Adam Avramescu 05:07
Okay, let’s see. Let’s find out. Cool. So all right, yeah, let’s let’s dive into it. I think, you know Charlie’s right. We don’t talk about this, that often we talk a lot about scaling. We don’t talk a lot about customization. And I was thinking about this, like, in my book, I didn’t really talk about it that much. But I’ve definitely been in this scenario in my life for so for example, I once worked for a company who wasn’t actually a SaaS product, this is all on prem. But the product was a custom configurable checking or savings account for a community bank or a credit union. So these are all were three local, generally small banks, credit unions operating in their market. So they all have the same product suite. Okay, right. The core functionality was the same, but the functionality, or the exact details and product specifications. were completely different. For each client, they could turn on and off little details. So I, I feel this I feel this one heart I’ve been in this situation. Have you been in this one? Dave?
Dave Derington 06:15
Yeah, actually, and I think this is really precious to me, because let me take a page out of my my training workbook. One of the things that outrageous that we we do a lot is talk about customization of our actual, you know, bespoke training courses. I’m going to come to your company, we’re going to give you this class. And one of the interesting reveals out of doing this for a long time, no years, is that, you know what, okay, the trainers themselves say 80% of all our classes are generic anyway. Right? It’s, we we, yeah, we we aspire to customize. I think this is a pipe dream. And a lot of it’s an aspiration, let me put it this way. It’d be ideal to make a customized, unique experience for each and every single person that takes your course.
Adam Avramescu 07:03
But it says everyone has a beautiful, unique snowflake, because we all know, yeah.
Dave Derington 07:07
But then that’s is that reasonable? Is that realistic? Because we’re building content at scale. We’re moving like we talked about in the last episode, really fast things are changing all the time. Can you also adapt to that that pace, and then go to the next mile to make that customize?
Adam Avramescu 07:26
So yeah, it’s it’s a really interesting question, too, because I think where your company falls on a certain spectrum, is going to inform this and I, well, maybe there’s, there’s a couple of spectra that we can talk about here. All right, one, one spectrum, one is the product lead growth to sales lead company. So if you are a true product lead growth, you don’t really have a go to market function in the traditional sense. Customers are coming and growing organically, they’re putting in their credit cards, they’re telling their friends, there’s a little bit of land, but a lot of expand, well, that’s going to look very different from a product that has a months or even years long sales cycle. You’re doing all this work upfront to tailor what the product is going to do to meet a certain need. And so training or enablement for that product is inherently going to have to look different, especially if you’re talking about what happens after the customer has made a purchase. Because the purchase itself looks so so so different.
Dave Derington 08:30
Right? Yeah, yeah.
Adam Avramescu 08:33
So I think that’s one I think spectrum number two would be and this is definitely related as like how far you are towards kind of being a consumer product versus a b2b product. Because again, there you have an element of if you’re a b2c product, typically if you’re going directly to a consumer, you’re not necessarily going to be customizing the product that much from consumer to consumer. That’s right, it’s all about volume. Whereas the more on the b2b end you are typically not always you’re really going to be thinking not just about how do I educate individual users on how to use this product with its default functionality and some different use cases. You’re you’re at that point also thinking about how are all those users then working together within an account and how do we make that account successful?
Dave Derington 09:22
Yeah, yeah. You know, as I as I think about the words you’re saying and how this all expresses itself, it’s it’s really challenging because you really want to be able to say, let’s talk about that hi in that extreme and I’m working with an enterprise customer. That customer hat we have we spent a month configuring their products in its white labeled, it looks different layout and design is different. Right? The use cases are different workflows are different. Same product we have same product. It just looks different from the next customer that as an enterprise customer Now that we’ve done this custom configuration, and I guess what I’m saying here is that that maybe this is a well we take this conversation as we start talking about how we stratify or speciate. The kinds of training we do, because let me the point I want to make is yet I did what? I love that word to make different species to those kind of like categories, right? Oh, you’re breaking up.
Adam Avramescu 10:26
That’s amazing. It’s
Dave Derington 10:26
a it’s an elegant word.
Adam Avramescu 10:28
I like it. Like you always you always have good words,
Dave Derington 10:30
you have the best words. Oh, come on, you have great words yourself. I’ve seen some, you know, host that’s
Adam Avramescu 10:38
didn’t come up with that one you didn’t come up with it was, it was a really good ad was fun. Okay, so we’re gonna stratify and speciate. Let’s, let’s keep going. Right? Okay,
Dave Derington 10:46
so my point, the point I’m trying to make Adam is that there’s, there’s a time and a place for customization. That time and a place for customization I feel falls in and and I don’t want to get too far off base and talk fee fee and free, you know, pricing models.
Adam Avramescu 11:01
No, but this is very, this is very related. So please keep an eye out for that. Yeah,
Dave Derington 11:05
but but my point is, I feel so much striving for customization. When my trigger, were like, okay, let’s roleplay you’re, you’re an enablement, person, a VP of enablement. At a large enterprise company, you’re an exact right, okay, you come to me and say, Dave, look, I’ve got 1000 seats, right of your product, you need to do training for me, and you need to do it, like this, I wanted in my app, I want my people leading it. Okay, that’s a really big custom style engagement, right? It to take the generic template and go on site, like let’s pretend COVID is not happening, go on site on there in front of everybody I’m doing that’s gonna take me a lot of prep me as a trainer and that motif, then I would sit down and think about what’s unique about you, who are the key players? Who are my administrators? Who are the people that set this up internally, who are my consultants internally at my company, who I need to bring, it’s an it’s an experience, it’s an event, it’s,
Adam Avramescu 12:12
yeah, I want to, and it requires a learning strategy. It requires buy in from stakeholders, it requires you to create different experiences. And well, even like, let’s say, you know, me, in this role play, let’s say, we use a certain methodology that the product is going to fit into, right, like, like you like you, if you have like a, you know, a digital whiteboard product. And, and I use this certain design thinking model that’s, that’s based on, you know, some expert in the field will want to know how your product is specifically going to let me do my design thinking methodology, not just like some random one that your company came up with, you know, yeah. So I agree. And I think this idea actually is very tied to the field of free spectrum. And we’ll come back and talk about it. But I, this, this is a point worth drawing on, because I think sometimes people treat the idea of having custom training services or paid training services as just abstractly, a thing that companies do when they grow up. And I don’t think that’s actually true, there’s, there’s a very good reason why a customer, why companies start doing training services at a certain size and scale, when you’re working with enterprise customers who are going to start doing more custom configuration of your product. Well, with that comes an expectation that the enablement they are doing is also going to be customized to that, that companies use cases to the different roles that they have, to the methodologies they may use, because that’s all in the name of making a company of that size successful. And to do that, you’re going to have to spend enough time working with them and getting to know what their needs are, and developing and customizing content to meet their needs. That you, you don’t typically want to be doing all of that purely on investment, like you need to recover your costs. So I think I think this is all this is intimately tied together. It doesn’t just happen in a vacuum. Yeah, but
Dave Derington 14:12
I have to add one point to that, Adam, that in my experiences, right, because in this podcast, we talk as practitioners about reality, like not hypothetical, or theoretical, when we get to that, but one of the things that I’ve seen is that people jump over that chasm right away. Because we want to think what’s best for the customer, and what’s best for the customer given them the red carpet. And I’ve been to places where we’ve done that we’ve gone that red carpet extra mile, but the payoff is not there. Yes, it’s it’s because then imagine, I have three trainers. And those trainers, one of those trainers goes out in the field for two weeks, three weeks a month. One case it was two. They’re unavailable for everything else. So that FTA now has to have I have to comp for that FTS time for the entire Hire time and have to think about what am I missing? So you know what 1/3 of all of my training resources now dedicated to a single customer?
Adam Avramescu 15:08
Well, that’s, that’s Yeah, that’s the consequence of if you are going to be making big bets like that, but you don’t have a plan in place to actually staff to keep up with it. And if you’re not, if you don’t have a revenue component, you can’t model your costs or your growth against that, then yes, you’re essentially going to be tying up resources. But you know what, I don’t even I don’t even think that is the biggest issue, I think the biggest issue, if you’re jumping the gun on rolling out the red carpet for customers is that that’s not, that’s not always the best thing for the customer, period. Like, let’s, let’s say, and this is very common, that you as the vendor wants to roll out the red cross, red, red carpet for your customer, and you’re going to do all this stuff that’s bespoke, and you’re going to spend all this time you know, delivering White Glove service and, quote, unquote, like being on site with them, which we know is a little bit different in our, our COVID reality, a lot of the time though, what you’re gonna find is, the customer is not ready for that, or that’s not actually how they want things to be delivered. And they’re gonna come back and challenge you, Hey, you know what, what you’re proposing to us right now is not scalable at our size, we actually need something that can be delivered at scale, we need something that can be put into our LMS, we need something that’s going to be you know, trackable at at that level, or we don’t have what like we’re a, we’re a big, slow enterprise slow moving company, we can’t just free up a project manager on our side to make sure that that enablement is successful on a moment’s notice. So I would argue, if you are jumping the gun, especially if you’re doing it for free, and you’re not, you know, kind of, you know, having skin in the game on the customer side, and making sure they have a reason to prioritize this and the resources that they would need to free up on their side, then like, you’re not actually doing the best thing for the customer, you’re kind of setting both of yourselves up for failure.
Dave Derington 16:57
I love that point. I no reiterate, reiterate that because Okay, I’ll use it. My Mon Calamari, it’s a trap moment, because I think, this customer, this, this, push towards customization too early, is a trap that’s going to suck down your resources into the point you’re not going to be able to do what you need to do, you’re going to be focusing on delivering not scale, you’re going to be focused on delivering customisations. So again, my framework for this framework for understanding is always Okay, well, anytime I’m being asked for customization, I’m asked what the dollars are. Right. And and this is hard, because like you said something in there about this experience that many of us education, customer education people have experienced, I’m a customer, we’re going up market, the customers we’re, we’re finding up market are used to working with vendors who give them white labeled content that they can put in their system. We’re not there yet, right? So customer, anybody asking me for my content early on is going to get to know and that’s because it or a no but in the no but is I wouldn’t be more than willing to, you know, find a source or get a resource put on that it’s going to cost x $1,000. Because this is going to come through time and scope it out of the scope of work, right.
Adam Avramescu 18:16
And you’re either like customizing or it’s like your licensing content. There’s there’s a lot of different ways to to play that. But you also at that point, you’re essentially creating a different if you’re not doing a completely custom as a service, you’re creating a different product. Yeah, and if you’re licensing out your content, so you know it ultimately it’s you can do all any anything as an experiment, but you have to do it intentionally. And you have to think about what happens if the experiment is successful. And now you’re going to maintain it over time. So I do and I do think that sometimes what we’re doing is we’re conflating the role of the customer Education team with the role of the CSM, which really is in a lot of cases to be thinking strategically and partnering with the accounts and figuring out where to fill in either some of those gaps or move more quickly towards some of those opportunities versus doing things that are as scalable that will support the broader customer base. And we can argue about that, like some people think that is exactly the role the customer Education team, as well. And certainly in some businesses it is Hmm. But I want to I want to put a pin in this. But let’s remember, let’s remember, feel free. And let’s remember the CSM, because I think both of these are going to come back into play. Okay, cool. Yeah. But now that neither of these really answers the the question immediately. So that’s why I kind of want to take a step back and start by answering that when we think about customization, and when we think about what should be, quote unquote generic versus what should be, quote unquote, customized. I always start by asking, what’s the core of what your customer needs to do to get value from the product. Let’s actually talk about actions. Let’s talk about job task analysis. What exactly is talking about job task analysis, let’s talk about jobs to be done. And especially if it’s critical The girl product, how many roles are personas are involved? What what would each of them need to do in an ideal world to get your account to value?
Dave Derington 20:08
I love those because this really maps to some consulting work that I did prior to becoming a customer education person. And you use different words, the job task analysis, the you know, mapping exercise to figuring out what use cases are, this is really important. And it doesn’t take that long. If you sit down and go, alright, let’s get a whiteboard. Let’s get key players in the room, let’s talk about this. What’s like, I can do it for outreach and outreach, who are my main personas, I have an administrator, they set up and configure and define how the system is going to work, I have a closer or a prospect or a prospect or as a sales development rep, a business development Rep. Someone that’s doing, they’re trying to get a meeting with it with a salesperson, then you have that salesperson who is closer, right, they’re closing the deal. And then I have a manager, and a manager is helping a team of those closers or prospectors to interrelate in work with us the product and adopt the product and make it make them smile, you know, make a great day. Yeah, so there’s all these different personas, but there’s different stories telling that goes on with each of them.
Adam Avramescu 21:11
Right? And depends on whether your product is vertical or horizontal, so to speak, like if you like Optimizely was a vertical product. For the most part, we were working primarily with marketing and product teams. So we knew the roles. Yeah, we knew and we knew specifically what those flavors of the roles looked like most typically on those teams, we could tell them something about their jobs, and use that to thread into our educational programs and into our personas. Whereas there are products that are very horizontal. You know, you could consider like Slack, I think as a horizontal product, all lines of business use slack across the organization, everyone has different use cases for it. And there, you might have personas that are related to specific lines of business who use slack in specific ways. But you also, in some cases are going to need to also back up a level to say, Okay, we’ve got end users, we’ve got admins, we’ve got developers, and we’ve got more generalized personas in relation to our product, just because so many different types of people can be using the product in so many different ways. Yeah, yeah. But either way, what you’re doing when you when you’re starting to think about jobs to be done, or personas is you’re backing out of that question of content customization, which I think is important to do. Because you’re not thinking you, if you start thinking about the content, you’re gonna start pigeonholing yourself, immediately, I like to back away from that, actually think about the actions that people are going to be doing, and the decisions they’re going to be making at each point. And this actually, already has a great framework in the learning world. And it’s called action mapping, it’s by Kathy Moore. If you haven’t read the book, map it by Kathy Moore, and you’re an instructional designer, working in customer education, go get that book, right now. It’s gonna, it’s going to open your eyes to really thinking about developing and designing training, from a performance based point of view. That’s amazing.
Dave Derington 23:01
Yeah, that’s amazing. These are little gifts that, like these kind of books that were fine, you know, you’re I’ve got my stack on my wall over here about that, we’re gonna have to have a book club, we got to work through all these.
Adam Avramescu 23:14
Definitely, and it looks long, but it’s not actually long. It’s got a lot of images and visuals and is kind of oriented towards, I think more towards someone who is performing a learning consulting role, and will eventually go and actually design and develop content. But it’s really focused on what you do during the early phases of the project, to start mapping out what actual activities would need to be designed to really verify the core of what people are doing in their jobs. So it’s not like, let’s take all this content and sequence it out. It’s like, what key decisions are people making with your product? What key skills are they actually going to be before excuse me be performing. And then what of that actually requires training to be developed against it, because if it’s like, you’re teaching someone something, and really, the reason they’re not doing it is environmental. Like they’re not doing it just because the, the, the toggle isn’t surfaced properly in the UI, within the solution isn’t developed Training Solutions, go talk to your product team and serve as toggle. You’ve actually put it in the person’s flow of work. So I appreciate that she thinks about it from that perspective. She’s not necessarily talking about SaaS products she’s talking about, that she uses all sorts of training scenarios. But I think we can think about that way too. And I think that might actually help us get to the heart of the customization question, because now we’re not necessarily thinking as much about what’s generic versus what’s customized, and oh my gosh, because the client configures all this stuff. We can’t create any generic content. It makes you think more about okay of those jobs to be done that we said that the customer has of the actions we actually expect them to perform to be successful. How much of it actually changes based on your software configuration
Dave Derington 25:00
Adam Avramescu 25:03
Yeah. So it’s kind of an interesting question. And I can’t answer that right for Yeah. No, I was for Charlie without knowing more about the product. But there’s usually a range. So maybe we can talk about like the the range of where we typically see these things fall.
Dave Derington 25:17
Yeah. Can I put you on pause for just a minute? I need to turn.
Adam Avramescu 25:20
Yeah. Yeah. So Dave, yeah, let’s, let’s talk about some of those common scenarios. We’ll say, like, what, what’s the range of configuration?
Dave Derington 25:29
Okay, well, let’s, let’s go with the obvious like, one in which configuration is really minor, I tweak this, I changed some labels, you know, hey, in this case, you mentioned that, you know, or what was mentioned in the email here, as you know, we have many functions that are fairly standard, but every implementation looks and acts a bit different. So sometimes that’s in this case, it said, it means that 80% of the decisions the customer is making could be taught in a scalable way. You have to ask yourself about that other 20%?
Adam Avramescu 25:59
Yeah. Is it? Is it meaningful? Or is it trivial?
Dave Derington 26:04
What could be meaningful? It could be trivial, but that’s it. It’s a depends, right?
Adam Avramescu 26:09
Yeah, well, it comes back to that action mapping idea. Like if you, if you look at that 20% of stuff that actually gets customer is and it truly is like an 80 20%. Not all products are at 20%. Like that. But let’s say it’s 20%. And it’s relatively trivial. If it looks and acts a bit different than the question that you want to ask is, what is the consequence to the customer of that 20% being different? If it’s minor? might not even need to cover it? Right?
Dave Derington 26:34
Well, or you could do like some, one of the great playbook task is a job aid. Yeah, yeah, that’s here’s the content. Here’s the video, watch the video. You know what, it’s a little bit different for you, I’m giving you a job a that shows you the differences.
Adam Avramescu 26:49
Well, and in fact, and that’s that’s actually what what, probably, for me comes one step further on the spectrum where there’s kind of a mix in that 20%. There’s some things that are pretty consequential, and some other things that are trivial. And I see this one more commonly, then where like the 20% is completely inconsequential, from a, from an education perspective. Yeah, like for the crucial pieces that would really change the decisions the customers are making, or would affect the way they interact with that product. Are there typical configurations, or are there like common flavors of how things get configured? So your curriculum can support that? And Dave, I think you were starting to get into this. So like, what are some of the ways you could approach that from a curriculum perspective?
Dave Derington 27:31
Yeah, well, I’ll go back to the first one I said, which was like a job aid job aids are easy. It’s, like think I think about those more for the higher arr customers, which we support the ones with, you know, there’s, there’s, it’s substantially investing in our company and our software. In those cases, it’s like, Okay, well, I could have my CSM or my professional services consultant, or even a trainer who might be giving them training, a little bit of extra stuff, maybe I do. Here’s something that we do at outreach that I think is really powerful. I don’t praise our trainers enough. But our training consultants, we’ve actually all been consultants do a really good job, like giving kind of a standard stock training, but then tweaking it, right, or giving extra context. And then we always shuttle people back into our university for the longer for more genericized content. So I mean, there’s, there’s ways to do it. I mean, you could even do a small, like, say we’re at a larger company, okay, hey, team, we want you to go through our on demand content to this point, take this learning pathway or learning track that’s enter university, then we’re going to do an office hours, or, you know, you have these interventions, which are not quite the same as a traditional training where your kitchen sinking everything.
Adam Avramescu 28:45
Yeah, yeah. And that’s actually that’s the job aid approach that you were talking about a moment ago. That’s actually what we did when I worked at the the banking technology company. Yeah, had you learning the covered, you know, 80%, of how the products worked, and what the common functionality was, and what common value props were and how to talk about it. But then, you know, we knew that there would be some common, some common things that would be configured like the interest rate we knew would change. They were common settings that people toggle on and off. And so we’d say in the learning, you know, if you’re working with one of our training consultants, they will develop a job aid for you that has the specifics. So it was always like refer to the specifics in your, in your job, job aid, or what I don’t remember what we call it, your one sheet or your quick reference guide. And that and that is much more scalable, where you’re giving people the details that they need to reference on a day to day basis, but you’re using the E learning to cover more of the concepts.
Dave Derington 29:43
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, and you know, going back to all this stuff, I would say, it’s probably at least 80% of the time in most cases. You get down to the configuration rabbit hole, there’s pretty standard stuff out there. And it really is just an respective tasks to sit down and go, Hey, do I really need to customize? Is it really that important? Yeah. And then like you’re saying, if it is, maybe that gets baked out when you’re onboarding, right, and you work on that delta. But you’ve got to really shift a lot of your training and your educational material over to an on demand. In order for it to scale appropriately.
Adam Avramescu 30:20
I agree. And so there you kind of have a relationship where for for a high touch account for whether it’s a CSM or training consultant, or someone, there’s going to be someone interacting directly with the customer, and probably some information that you will still customize, you want to find the information that is most critical to customize, and use your human effort to focus on that. Yeah. And then like, there’s also the point about sometimes there’s different flavors of customization. So the product is going to be configured. And you know that it’s typically going to be configured in these ways. So even though each configuration is quote, unquote, custom, there might be some common scenarios that you see. And there you can almost treat it like like support deflection where you know that there are certain configurations that are going to happen a certain amount of the time, and they’re they’re going to be like the plurality of configurations. Well, you could create a supplemental module that specifically talks about
Dave Derington 31:13
that. Y’all got a great example.
Adam Avramescu 31:16
Dave Derington 31:17
me share it, I’m ready. Okay, so at outreach, one of the fundamental concepts that we have is the concept of a sequence. And I really like this, I think this is a really good way to build software, what what we’ve done is kind of humanized, or standardize a methodology for someone who’s in a sales capacity to contact a prospect, right? Because like, think about it, me as a prospect, if you’re reaching out to me, I want to know why you’re calling, I wonder who you are what you’re selling, you have to have a certain authority built up in that. So what this does is process is actually it’s different every time every single time. And it could get wildly different. But what we do is start to work on our training in terms of the best practices, the the general approaches to building those very customized sequences. So for example, you know, a sequence should always start off with some email and then a call, and then there should be a certain amount of time between each one of those. And then there should always be points, like, what do you do when somebody actually does pick up the phone, or they do respond to your email, all of these are standard there. They make they make sense, but they’re different in every use case. So what we do is we generalize that training, we talked about, okay, here’s the concept of sequence, these are the different kinds of sequences that you could generate, here are the different actions, the activities that you could take within it. And then that takes that, you know, we kind of get what I’m kind of thinking about that, that whitespace problem we have in software, you know, where the first time you look at something, and there’s nothing there and your application can figure out the blank space, blank state. That’s kind of where you’re at. And when you there’s a place of power there. Where if I can explain to you, Adam, okay, this is the concept, and then show you a couple examples. You go off to the races, and you can make whatever it is, and you can abstract that understanding. And this is that higher order kind of adult learning that we’re really talking about, I got to teach you to fish.
Adam Avramescu 33:15
Yeah. Although that does that kind of implies in a way that the configuration is being done by an individual user looking at the blank state of a software product, and the product is teaching them the art of the possible. Whereas No, if I think about if I think about Charlie’s question, what I’m what I’m taking from it is less that that’s what’s happening and more that, hey, you’ve got an account, the accounts gonna go through an implementation phase, maybe that implementation phase is going to take several weeks, several months, and the product is going to get customized to fit the needs of that org. So you’re kind of doing it at the account level. And that means the product is probably not doing the art of the possible it’s the account exec or the CSM, or an implementation consultant, or someone like that, who’s doing a majority of the process design, and then the configuration and perhaps even technical account manager doing technical configuration. And by that point, it’s going to feel like you’ve already designed so much customized process for the customer that like, oh, how am I ever going to unwind this and genericized this or what can I even tell them that’s going to be useful, but but that’s where I think like you can, you can use the scalable content to do it, the scalable content is going to do best, teach more of the concepts help offshore things from the humans who are going to be working on the specific processes, and then use the humans for what they’re best for, which is really helping connect the dots between the more generic content and the specifics. But I would argue again, that if there are very common, if there’s like a critical mass of common implementation scenarios, your elearning can do that too. You can have specific modules dedicated towards some of those most common scenarios or you could even go down the path of developing something like a branching scenario. Or a simulator or a configuration simulator or something like that where you and the customer can actually go in. And this can be elearning, you could do something like this in Articulate Storyline, or something like that, if you wanted square, even, you could even do something custom based based on your own software, let us know in a sandbox environment, the possibilities are endless, you just need to resource for it. This is more resource intensive. But let’s say you can enter, enter some sample configurations. And then in this elearning, you’re getting feedback, or seeing the results in a simulated environment. And the the learning can actually be sharing some implications with you like, Hey, you would do this setting if you want to achieve this outcome, or here’s what you would want to know about this setting before you decide to do it. And there, you can use the E learning to actually educate the customer a little bit more on the impact of those decisions. So that once they’re talking to your actual implementation person, the customer is now more educated to make that decision. And so the implementation consultant is spending less time saying here’s what box a does, here’s what checkbox B does. Here’s what c does, and more like, oh, now you know the implications. Let’s talk strategically about what’s most important for you here.
Dave Derington 36:10
Yeah, you know, what comes to mind, as you’re talking about this is the art of change management. Yeah, right. process design, and processes. And there, there are a couple of things that I think we in SAS early on have really struggled with, even later on, I know it’s, it’s, it’s at that part of helping teach someone the the nuances to everything that they’re going to learn downstream. Right? It’s like, why is important? What well, and this is, this is actually kind of funny, I don’t want to distract us from this discussion, but I just wanted to dwell on it a moment that this is the kind of education that happens kind of outside education, where typically you have like, solutions consultant engineer, an implementation specialist, we call them project professional services, consultants, the CSM, someone who’s engaging deeply with, with the customer to like, really figure out these problems. And then they’re kind of teaching all along as we’re doing that. But you know, one of the things like on the other, the flip side, this isn’t, and I’m sorry, if I’m using examples, but I did have some good examples of things that we fought through and struggled with, there is a program called Express start that our professional services team partnered with us to deploy. And so as a professional services slash education, collaboration, they did most of the work, you know, we strung it up and dead, put the polish on it, and delivered it. But what I loved about it is they abstracted all of the really sophisticated configuration process, the decision making the things individuals as an admin role needs to do. bucket them into on demand modules with some activities around them, and then pair to those with meetings with that implementation person. Yeah. And the amount of scale and lift we got off of that still being 100% Custom for the times that they talk, because that’s when you go, Okay, I did my work, I did these I made these sequences, I created these templates, I did this kind of stuff. I have these questions.
Adam Avramescu 38:17
Right, there’s a big difference. Your point, Dave, between saying, Our product is configurable, therefore, we can’t have generic content, or it’s going to be meaningless, and we just won’t do it. And so humans are going to do all of it, versus saying our product is configurable. And so we are going to have a blended solution where our smart humans essentially curate the path for more customers. Explain what what the onboarding path is gonna look like, essentially assign out the homework, have customers go through that, come back prepared to actually make decisions. And they’re the framing becomes really obvious. It’s like, I as the person who has limited time with you, because your time is valuable, as well as mine, I want to make sure that we can spend it doing the most strategic customization possible. So I’m going to ask you to engage with you know, these offerings in the academy, I’ll put together a one cheater for you, that explains like the path that we’ve developed together, there’s, there’s power in doing that
Dave Derington 39:16
I was thinking the same thing. It’s really powerful that the, to me, it’s I love the word constellate. Right, to build a constellation of really big things and pieced that together. And then, like what the, the way I think about myself, Adam, is that I come into an organization and I like to be in earlier phase organizations that are struggling with all of these oppressions questions and then start to help facilitate and curate the direction we’re going in that constellation of all the educational assets. We don’t necessarily make all of them in customer education enablement might support my documentation. My product might still
Adam Avramescu 39:55
literally why I started saying we are all educators and we are all everyone. Everyone does. in their own way, everyone has a different articulation of the way that they help customers find value. If you as the customer Education team, are the only team doing that, then you’re probably not a customer centric company.
Dave Derington 40:14
Yeah. Yeah. And actually, that’s a litmus test for me when I when I talk to companies like are you really truly doing customer education? Yeah, yeah, I agree. If you if you put on this, because I’ve had that load on me before. And it’s, it’s insurmountable. It’s like, if you find yourself in a place where nobody’s talking to you, you can’t get me time. You know, like, all these different things are happening. It’s it’s very depressing and not doing customer education. I think you should bring that back up. That’s a really good topic. For a future podcast, Adam is like we are all educators. I can’t underscore that enough, if we’re all thinking about it, but we’re all educators at scale, like, how do we crowdsource all that energy and put it into a way that we scale this training, even when, like, that’s the meat of what we’re talking about, with Charlie’s question, how do we invoke scale? Despite custom?
Adam Avramescu 41:02
Yeah, yeah. Now all that said, Yeah, like we talked about at the beginning, and this will kind of bring us back to the discussion that we put a pin in for a moment. All of this is assuming that the goal really is to standardize the training. As Charlie mentioned, the goal was to standardize the basic training. So there, you know, we’re making a big assumption right now that there is that 8020 rule at work. And that’s how that’s how the product works. There are some products out there, I think open source products are often a great example of this, where really, the goal is just to completely customize the heck out of them. Where it’s really isn’t 80%, standard 20%, customized, it could be 80%, customized, 20%, standard, or, or some other ratio entirely. So if the product is truly, extremely configurable, and there aren’t these really common recipes for them, and everyone’s implementation is truly different in a consequential way. Meaning that like, the fundamental way they get to value with your product, cannot be summarized in any sort of, like, standard or generic way. Well, then you do actually have to think about this very differently. And this is where we start thinking about education services, because Ah, this is not like, you know, you’re in this category. If the differences are large enough, they’re consequential enough, where you couldn’t actually teach any standard or common version of your product and have at least a successful product adoption. Now you got to be critical about whether you’re actually in that boat or whether, you know, someone is just screaming loudly that they think you’re in that boat, but like these do exist, these products do exist.
Dave Derington 42:42
I’ve worked at two of them. Actually, I like working okay, that let me share a little bit about like, exactly one of those use case one of those stories. Where, okay, I’m talking about Zuko. Zuko was a case where I walked in, I’m like, I really passionate about this product, I really dig this product. But when you when you looked at it, the face value you had that blank canvas is, well, what do I build? Where do I start? I have no idea. I literally literally looked at the program, you have no idea. It’s like working with Legos, you get a huge old pile of Legos, you know, you know, big hit, and you got to make a spaceship, okay? Like, there’s a lot in there to unpack and figure out. And in that case, it, we figured it out. But it wasn’t the kind of a program that you would build was not the kind of program that you would have expected. Because it was more, I’m going to teach you fundamentals, I’m going to teach you certain things, but then I’m going to leave it up to an implementation team to take you all the way. And at that point, you should understand like, but at that point, you’re going back to your core idea, I focused on the core, the concepts, the interface, and assemble that kind of as a flow. And like you get to a certain point, I understand how to loop and I get to understand, I need to understand how to, to look through a JSON file and all these other things. It was a very different kind of educational. And we ended up doing it pretty much all on demand too, which I thought was pretty cool. So it’s just one example.
Adam Avramescu 44:14
Yeah. But But I think even beyond that there, there are products out there where you probably you might not even be able to do it that way. It’s It’s so so much of a blank canvas, where ultimately the customer is not going to get value from your product unless they either teach themselves what to do with their configuration, or they’re going to need to have a talk for them. And that’s where education services to me are not just helpful but necessary. So like if you’re truly in this camp, but I do think you need to truly vet after you’ve done your user journeys after you’ve done your jobs we done that you were truly in this camp, that perhaps the goal is not actually to standardize your training. And you might need to argue with that. point that your company needs to build training services, to be able to do the needs analysis with your customer, to follow along with the implementation and be a member of that implementation team. And then create these custom bespoke learning plans and assets that are custom, every time, even if there are some like templates and reusable assets and like your product UI and things like that, sure, there might be elements of that that can reuse but but this assumes that the core of what you’re doing is that it’s custom every time. And going back to our idea from earlier. If you’re doing that every time, then you are expending a lot of resources to do that for every customer. And so the customer probably needs to pay for it. Because otherwise you’re not going to be able to do that at any level of scale or any level of replicate replication. Yeah. So at that point, it’s usually going to be a revenue generating services.
Dave Derington 45:55
Yeah, which ends up looking good in the bottom line. And I but the caveat to that, as always, if that’s the way it is, you have to really think about resourcing seriously, because it may not be something that you can effectively scale,
Adam Avramescu 46:09
right? You need a staffing model against that. And if you need to say, Hey, you know, we’re gonna have so many customers who are going to need this design for them, and they can’t do this themselves. And we truly need to create custom training every time and we’ve very limited ability to do anything super scalable, replicable, because everyone is going to be so different. Well, then here’s how we’re going to staff. Here’s the team we need to build, here’s how we’re going to model out our margin and our utilization. And here’s the revenue we think we need to build in. Even if we’re just doing this to recover costs, even if we don’t actually care about revenue. If I want to be able to hire to keep pace with the customers that we bring on. This is how we need to model that out. And now all of a sudden, you’re talking about education services. So you really need to, if you’re going to do that before your your company is at the scale, where you have these gigantic enterprise customers that are going to need this kind of stuff anyway, whether you’re doing it yourself or whether they’re hiring a partner to do it. That needs to be a discussion about how you’re going to stand up education services, and whether that’s truly necessary as the way that you’re doing customer education.
Dave Derington 47:12
Yeah. So I think it’s really interesting to talk about those because I do think there’s often a scramble to do something like this. But I don’t know if the reflection is always there on should you do that? Right. I know, I’ve personally been caught in an organization that got caught in that training trap. Right, and they did all this custom work, and it in but before they could set expectations with any customer, they were given up the farm.
Adam Avramescu 47:41
Dave, I think you need to you need to come up with like the the admiral Akbar index. It’s a trap. When is it? When is it a trap?
Dave Derington 47:50
When is it a trap? It’s Yeah, that’s a that’s a good one. That’s good. Yeah.
Adam Avramescu 47:54
But you know, okay, but going back to the question, just to kind of cap things off here. It sounds like the intention here he is to standardize the training as much as possible. And so I think, ultimately, what you need to figure out here is which of those above scenarios is your product most? Like, is it 8020? Where the training is trivial? Is it at 20? where the 20 is a mix, you need to supplement? Or is it like a 2080. And maybe it’s not any of those, maybe it’s something a little bit different. But based on that, then you can, you can even determine which one you’re closest to, by doing a map mapping activity where you walk through a few sample implement implementations. You look at what was configured, why it was configured that way, and you can start asking questions with your implementation teams, you can say, what customizations did we make? Why did the customer need those customizations? What did it help them accomplish? And then you can ask, which customizations do we most commonly do? versus which ones are edge cases? Can we design around that? And then you can ask, what would have happened to this customer? If we didn’t train them on the customization? What would have happened if we gave them something more generic? Or what would have happened if we left them to their own devices about creating training based on their custom configuration, like actually mapping those out and answering some of those uncut, uncomfortable questions might lead you to the solution and have more buy in around the solution if you’re doing this with the other teams that are involved, you know,
Dave Derington 49:19
yeah, yeah. In and I guess if you were to go further about where you’re going deeper on the sea would also say it’s worth noting that not all training needs to actually happen within a course
Adam Avramescu 49:34
anymore. This reaction mapping to me like not everything needs to be a training.
Dave Derington 49:41
Go back to where all trainers, right? I think one thing I always struggle with in even 70 plus years in doing customer education, it’s I feel like I have to do everything. Sometimes I feel like that that’s, you know, the point but it’s not we’re customer education is a little bit of a different beast because we’re a fabric Alright, let’s get to the detail. So if we’re talking about not all training needs to happen within a course, you know, you may, you know, if you’re doing custom training services, yes, it’s often it often makes sense to get the implementation details and use that to customize training. So we do that,
Adam Avramescu 50:15
like that all confirmed before you start actually developing your your assets.
Dave Derington 50:19
Yeah, like, and that makes sense. Because we have a process of outreach where we, we have a methodology, we start to implementation at certain point we entered as a trainer, the trainer starts to design, they engage, they figure out what to do, and then they take it all the way through their consultant, right? Yeah. And that’s where you map to the use cases, you map what’s relevant to them, it’s really cool. Now also you can you can also create supplements, we just talked about this job aids, other things, things that are kind of outside that core thing, you know, it doesn’t take a whole lot to make to whip up a job aid when asked sometimes it’s even if you’re
Adam Avramescu 50:53
making like templates that has all the details in all the common permutations. Yeah, asking a CSM or an implementation manager to do that versus create custom training every time is much more reasonable and scalable ask Yeah, and
Dave Derington 51:05
your education team your IDs might actually be able to draft that template and say, Whoa, here all the things just tweak it and rock and roll, right?
Adam Avramescu 51:12
Yeah. And again puts puts your CSM your implementation managers or whoever humans are in the position where they can, they can be more strategic about it, and where they can really focus on Okay, I’m going to help you you know, kind of beyond the basics, I’m gonna I’m going to tell you what learnings to go to what order to do them, and we’re going to use those as pre work. And then when we get together, I’ll be able to answer your more specific questions, I’ll have these these tools for you, I’ll have these additional details, we can really talk through the implications and make decisions together. And again, it’s it’s a decent to good solution. Especially if you’re not investing in Learning Services team, it can actually be quite effective to do that with your customer versus doing the app bar thing that Dave was talking about earlier. And just jumping into saying we need to have this like super bespoke super red carpet experience that the customer might not be ready for.
Dave Derington 52:03
Right? Right. I think you’re also talking about enablement, teams, right? The enabling teams I work with, I tend to think of like enablement is our that we’re brothers or sisters, we’re partners in education. And they’re usually often have the tools and templates and stuff that they could do some of this as well, they can contextualize that core learning as well.
Adam Avramescu 52:25
You might, you might have an enablement team that’s focused on actually, you know, equipping your your CSM or your a user, orientation managers, whoever they are with, with tools and templates, they might have some of these these things already, to help make those roles lives easier. And if they don’t, you can also create that and work with your enablement teams to work that into the enablement plan so that when a new CSM starts, and they learn what onboarding is, they don’t have to make up onboarding training for the customer from scratch, or they don’t have to like go search through a bunch of decks and find out what their their more experienced colleague used, you can actually say, here’s the approach we use, here’s what you’re responsible for customizing here’s the recommendations we want you to make based on these customizations. And that’s that’s a whole lot easier to scale than trying to do that for every single customer. Again, if you’re not taking like a customer services approach,
Dave Derington 53:17
absolutely. All right. Well, I think we’ve handled answers Charlie’s question in a great length. Charlie, I
Adam Avramescu 53:26
hope this was helpful.
Dave Derington 53:29
I think it was fun. I learned something out of it. It’s really, really a good understanding of corporate.
Adam Avramescu 53:35
I agree. And it’s a very common question that doesn’t have, as you’ve learned a super easy answer, but you can at least figure out which which of those models you’re closest to, and how to how to architect your, your strategy based on that.
Dave Derington 53:52
Okay, well, I think that brings us to the point where Adam, we should start to wrap up. And, like always, we love to say if you want to learn more, we have a excellent podcast website at customer dot education, super easy to find, still can’t believe we’ve got that amazing domain. And there you can find complete transcripts, notes, all our podcasts, and other bonus blogs and other material that you’ll find very useful. On social on Twitter, I’m at Dave Derington.
Adam Avramescu 54:26
And I am at AV ra MES. See you can Special thanks to Alan Cota for our theme music. And if this helped you out Hey, you know what, I’m not going to read off the thing. We would always appreciate more positive reviews on Apple podcasts. Seriously when you think about the algorithms and you think about what helps us like if this has helped you. That’s the thing. That’s the thing that’s gonna help expose this to more folks and help it be more discoverable. So please leave us a positive review there or If you’re if you’re a LinkedIn person or a social media person, post about us on social media and help help your network find us, really like anything like that will will help our little operation continue to find new audiences. And I would, I would sincerely appreciate it if you listen to the show and you get value from it.
Dave Derington 55:19
Yeah, we both would. And as we always say to our audience, thanks for joining us. We really appreciate you spend this time with us every couple of weeks month whenever we we decide to podcast and we implore you to go out, educate, experiment and find your people.
Adam Avramescu 55:38
Thanks for listening.
Dave Derington 55:39