Three ways to invest in your customers through education

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Written for M+AD by Mike Handes, director of customer success at Marketo: If I’ve learnt nothing else in my career, it’s that customers who are skilled at using your software are a low risk of switching to a competitive solution. This is the most obvious benefit of having educated customers, but there are also additional benefits. The individuals who have built a strong skill set around your software become your internal and external champions, and this can have a benefit to new business opportunities.

The converse also applies. If the skill level is low in your customers, the risk of attrition is ever present and may only take a single user to depart for your customer to make the switch to your competitor. In the world of cloud solutions the perception of simple switching from one vendor to another is real, even if the actual reality of changing vendor is more complex.

This may be well understood, but it’s one thing to want customer success, and another to actively invest in it.

Education is a major component of proactively investing in your customer’s success. By encouraging customer education, organisations have the opportunity grow their own success in the long term, including increasing customer retention.

There are three distinct ways to ensure that your education programme empowers your customers, leading to both their success and ultimately, your company’s too.

View education as continuous and long-term
Education and certification are continuous processes. Even if your customers have completed a set of courses and earned a certificate, their learning shouldn’t and hasn’t come to an end. In this way, education should not end with learnings around a product’s features and functionality, but rather concentrate on how these products can be used to excel in their roles and reach – or exceed – their goals.

In fact, it is important to acknowledge that customers do not simply want to learn how to use a platform to tick a box. Rather, customers use platforms and go through education to maintain and grow their own skills. Just like in a career, where employees don’t wish to remain in the same positions forever, customers use education to provide them with extra experience to grow in their respective organisations and fields.

Therefore, to ensure that customers are constantly at the top of their game in terms of the latest trends and techniques, businesses need to consistently update their education programme to provide ways for customers to expand and grow their knowledge.

By helping your customers expand their knowledge in many directions, you will help them to better adapt to your product and advance their careers.

Ensure your education programme is customer-focused
Throughout the development and enhancement process of an education programme, it is imperative to ensure that your programme is designed around the customer and their needs. This means that businesses need to be careful not to make the mistake of creating courses based on how they think someone should use their product. Businesses need to shape their programmes to reflect the customer’s needs, and how they plan to leverage the tools provided to them.

To create a customer-focused education programme, it is necessary that customers are provided with:

  • Courses that immerse them in the most utilised functionality and common use cases.
  • Training that includes hands-on exercises that reinforce concepts, and gives them experience with all aspects of a topic from start to finish.
  • Certification that ensures they know how to apply their knowledge in the context of day-to-day scenarios and activities.
  • The opportunity to extend certification by showing proficiency in a specialised area.

Organisations need to be sure to continually revise their programmes to accommodate dynamic customer needs. Questions such as, ‘what new skills are my customers eager to learn?’ and ‘in what new ways are they making use of the product?’ need to be asked to prevent education being thought of as a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ programme.

Encourage adoption of educational technology
Using your products to their fullest potential makes your customers more reliant on and excited about your technology. By guiding customers to make the most effective use of the features they regularly use as well as exposing them to new areas of value, organisations will be able to set the foundation for higher levels of adoption and success. This will result in a positive outcome for both the company and its customers.

By continually presenting customers with options for educational technology throughout the customer lifecycle, organisations will transform themselves as symbols of support, fostering better relationships with their customers in the long-term. This investment in constant engagement will lead to greater customer retention, as well as increasing the chance of customer acquisition.

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