I've read, listened, followed, and learned quite a bit since then, improving my skills and tracking down "the right" kind of projects. There is a Customer Education revolution about to explode. But the idea of customer education is far from universally accepted.
Part of a technology company's success is created through providing top-notch educational content for customers and potential customers. Rob Castadenda, founder of CEO and ServiceRocket, said at the Business of Customer Education track at Gainsight Pulse in May 2017 - "Customer education is a proactive way to help customers be successful with your products from the start." A recent job posting by Box explains the current customer education revolution so well: "The emergence of the Customer Education field is the result of the pervasiveness of SaaS businesses and their need to prove their products' value to customers. The old Learning & Development parameters are no longer sufficient to drive product adoption."
The right content (delivered live or online) can bolster a customer's successful onboarding and engagement with the product, so customers can get maximum value from your product. That also means expansions or referrals, as well as the renewals a subscription-based company needs to thrive.
But it may be hard to find the right person who can create this content, especially in a way to leverage similar content for different purposes or stages along the customer journey.
In an ideal world, you've got your Customer Education role(s) reporting under Customer Success, and Customer Success in constant communication and alignment with other areas of the company that use customer-facing educational materials, like Sales and Marketing. You'd have a repository of knowledge and content ideas shared across the company, such as in Evernote Business shared notebooks, which could quickly and easily be re-purposed for different needs with a single-source mindset.
But we don't live in an ideal world.
I've been monitoring the types of jobs that incorporate customer education since I put that stake in the ground for my own career, and am amazed at the inconsistency in what I find in this exploding discipline. Recently, over a period of two weeks, I identified 29 different titles (for 35 different current job postings available on LinkedIn, both entry-level and leadership levels) that included developing customer education content as most of or a significant portion of the job responsibilities. These range from the more obvious "Customer Education Specialist" role to various sales, success, and product-related titles. Some companies graft titles from the learning and development world, like instructional designer, but I suspect those are more mature companies with the need for specialized roles. Other companies seem to create their own titles that incorporate the shared responsibilities and blended roles required in a fast-paced tech company.
It's a wonder that tech companies find the content development skills they need in potential hires, and that people with those skills find the companies who need them.
Julia Borgini had a great article to help with identifying what companies should look for in the person who develops the content for the customer education building the foundation of customer success. She calls the role "Learning Designer." To summarize, her top recommended skills and competences are:
Julia closes by saying it may be difficult to find one person who demonstrates all of these skills (though, to toot my own horn a little, I know it's possible). Make sure to evaluate your goals to determine what kind of content you need for where you are in your company journey.
Adam Avramescu says "I like to say 'we are all educators' when it comes to making customers successful." But he believes that Customer Education is the in title that will stick as time goes on - be it Customer Education Content Developer or Director of Customer Education - and that some existing L&D titles like instructional designer will stick around as specialty roles.
If you haven't already, make Customer Education a part of your organization's plans for obtaining, onboarding and retaining customers with the content to help your users succeed.