In a previous article, I mentioned Learndot, ServiceRocket, and Donna Weber of Springboard Solutions as providing some helpful resources as you start thinking about creating your customer education strategy. They've teamed up together and recently launched the first run of Customer Education University (CEU).
They plan to run this Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) several times a year, and today I'd like to present it from two different perspectives.
It is a great resource for customer success professionals who want to focus on customer education and need to learn the vast amount of details to consider in training customers online. I learned quite a bit in the course, some of which I will share throughout the article.
However, what I find even more valuable is how we can learn from it as an example. There is value in providing self-serve education on product features - and the return for an investment in that kind of content can easily be measured in reduced support costs, easier customer onboarding, and more renewals and upsells. But the value of also educating potential users within the industry on how to do their jobs better goes well beyond reduced support costs and into a realm of marketing and scaling in an exponential way.
Many of the CEU lessons spend time discussing why it is worthwhile to invest time and resources into customer education. But the course also has a nice mix of 101-style high-level conceptual overview along with specific tactics you can implement as you move through the process of educating your customers in a scalable way.
The course runs for six weeks and consists of a live one-to-many webinar each week, plus additional assignments of reading and watching related recorded webinars. I'll give a high level overview of what the course covers.
Getting Started - Week One
The Getting Started week presented learning and best practices that ServiceRocket has gained through their partnership with Gainsight, their integration with SalesForce, and their work with their customers as they measure the value around customer education. Their experience consistently shows that better educated customers make better, more informed buying decisions and have higher conversions. When customers are more successful at achieving their business outcomes from increased product utilization, they have an increased Net Promoter Score® (NPS) and ultimately provide greater revenue for the company. Donna Weber's addition to what ServiceRocket has learned comes from her years of building and managing successful customer education programs for companies. (Donna ran the webinars starting in week two for this first cohort of the course.)
Defining Your Strategy - Week Two
Week two was all about defining your strategy. Where is your company on the maturity model? What types of courses would best link what your customers most need with what will best support the company goals and is actually something you can do, given current skills and resources? I had seen before many times the Enterprise Software Training Maturity Model, with its phases of reacting, performing, scaling and optimizing, but during this week, I had one of those "aha" moments that goes hand in hand with an agile methodology of course development. Get something your customers can use out there, even if it's rough around the edges, and iterate and improve from there. It's good to have a strategy for where you'd like to be, but don't let that ideal version keep you from starting wherever you are with what you can provide right now.
Building Your Offering - Week Three
The third week of CEU focused on defining and building your offering based on what your customers need and balancing that with the reality checks on build ratios. Instructor-led training (classroom, even if it's online) can take between 20 and 60 hours to develop and deliver the content for 1 hour of learning. The ratio for eLearning is even larger, depending on the quality of the visual media and complexity of the interactions. This week's webinar included lots of practical tips including recommendations to talk to your customers, create a minimally viable product, using a phased approach, communicating with stakeholders, repurposing content in different formats, curating content and scheduling update cycles.
Go To Market Plan - Week Four
The Go to Market Plan module of the course stressed strategies for pricing, marketing and selling your customer education offering. Even if you plan to make your training available to customers for free, you can position your efforts within the company so that the value of those offerings are identified. Otherwise, you won't get the resources needed to be effective or the program is vulnerable to being cut altogether. The business model of your customer education team generally aligns with the company maturity model. Wherever you are, it's important to track the costs of development and delivery and if possible, the money coming in not just as sales for the training itself, but the savings and sales indirectly associated with the training.
Metrics and Technology - Week Five
Week five - metrics and technology - discussed technology categories, like the learning management system (LMS), course development and authoring tools and other needs for training your customers. That week's webinar also addressed measuring the impact of learning as well as the impact of business. While Excel can be a good tool for tracking in the beginning, you'll quickly want something a little more sophisticated. Don't build your own system - there are plenty of tools out there (including Learndot, and I was impressed that this week didn't turn into a sales pitch).
Moving to the Next Level - Week Six
I'm proud to share my certificate from the first cohort of students, and will refer to the lessons when I come across different scenarios with different clients.
And that's what I mean by a good example. It wasn't a course about how to use Learndot. But it didn't have to be. I'm sure they will iterate and make the course better each time they run it. And for companies who are a good fit, Learndot can use this course to generate some well-qualified potential customers.