What Is Customer Education? (+Best Software, Types of Programs)

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customer education

Customer education has become a must-have feature for business productivity in today’s age of flexible work. 

With more teams in remote settings, your users want tools that are quick to adopt or have clear pathways to receive substantial support through self-service learnings or on-demand programs. How you educate your customers plays a big role in differentiating where you stand against your competitors. 

But with 30% of education programs in 2021 being under a year old, it’s an emerging priority that many companies are still learning to navigate. In this blog, we break down everything you need to decide what your customer education strategy should look like. 

What Is the Best Customer Education Software?

  1. Whatfix
  2. Skilljar
  3. Docebo
  4. LearnUpon
  5. Northpass

What is Customer Education?

Customer education — also known as customer training — helps companies distribute guidance, best practices, and in-depth knowledge about their products and services. A great education program serves customers throughout the entire lifecycle, from onboarding new users to engaging unresponsive accounts and moving upsell opportunities down the pipeline. 

How do you decide when customer education is worth the investment? You’ll likely benefit from having a defined set of customer resources if your product falls into one of these categories: 

  1. Workflow shifters: Customers would need to change their existing processes to get the most value out of your product. Without help, they’re more prone to make mistakes while conducting new workflows and spend unnecessary time figuring out next steps.
  2. Strategic value adds: Your product is a complex and heavily customizable tool with best practices that help customers get the most out of their specific use case. Customer education aims to walk users through specific scenarios, like how to build detailed reports based on a set of pre-defined rules. 
  3. Data-heavy systems: Enterprise software with large volumes of data often has dedicated team members maintaining it, especially if groups of users are using the system regularly to input and act on data. Customer education is beneficial here to document processes for consistency, quality assurance, security, and more. 
  4. Team or role-specific: Some software can be used differently depending on the job function it serves. You can reduce confusion across each team by creating role-specific content educating customers about their respective workflows and available features. 
  5. Feature one-stop-shop: If your product is a hub for a specific category or business function, you’ll likely have an entire set of features. Customer education helps you clearly define functionalities and product updates so teams can make the most of their product experience without getting overwhelmed by information. 

6 Types of Customer Education Content Formats

Customer education can be applied in different ways throughout the customer lifecycle. Depending on the problem you’re trying to help them solve, you can deliver short-form or long-form content to drive product adoption

Here are a few popular customer education content formats that you can use:

1. In-app guidance

You’ve probably seen your fair share of helpful little pop-up tips and tricks when you log into a new tool or access a new feature. These are just a few examples of in-app guidance, which are used to deliver one or two-liners describing what you can do with a button or element on the page. It’s a great way to embed learning from the beginning of the customer journey without taking users out of the product experience. It also gives you more agility to nudge users to adopt value-changing behavior at the most important moments.

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Create personalized learning & in-app guidance for your client education software with Whatfix

2. Courses and modules built using learning management systems (LMS)

If in-app guidance delivers quick tips, then courses are created to do the exact opposite. If your software is complex and is best utilized with a thorough understanding of different concepts, capabilities, or security protocols, you can create courses and certifications with a learning management system. This helps your customers retain higher volumes of information in engaging ways. You can use these systems to design visually appealing courses with interactive elements like quizzes, polls, and team-based activities to test your audience’s comprehension of different topics.

3. Recorded webinars

Video has become an important element of learning in the age of remote and hybrid work. Some examples and processes are hard to summarize into a text-based piece of content because they become too long-winded and uninteresting. But you can retain customer interest by recording webinars or short videos to showcase product walkthroughs, customer examples, Q&A sessions, or lessons delivered by a team member or external expert.

4. Slide decks

Condense important information about a certain topic into a concise and visually engaging slide deck. These come in handy during the onboarding process for customer-facing teams to showcase your business’s strengths and features. It’s also a great resource to send to new customers so they can have it on hand and easily share it with their teammates.

5. Knowledge bases

A knowledge base is a comprehensive self-service resource that centralizes different articles and files across a breadth of topics related to your product. The secret behind a great knowledge base is keeping it organized, up-to-date, and easily searchable. Because it holds so much information, you want to create an intuitive experience so customers can browse and locate helpful content during an urgent point of need.

6. Process documentation in PDFs or word documents

This is an effective format for breaking down processes with a hierarchical list of steps or a defined structure to be followed. Process documentation should be concise enough to be easily shared with your customers so they can keep procedures standardized and accurate across different user groups.

7 Benefits of Customer Education Programs

So, we know that it’s important for customers to know how to use the tools they’ve purchased. But how does that impact your business goals and team productivity? 

60% of organizations increased customer education spending by 30% or more in 2021. If you’re going to convince your leaders to invest in a well-supported customer education program, you need to drive home the following benefits:

1. More effective and faster onboarding

A poor onboarding experience can be caused by poor communication, unclear instructions, and limited customer support. Integrating different customer education formats into the onboarding process motivates users to explore your product and its different functionalities. If your customers don’t understand their value during their first few weeks with business, they’re more likely not to adopt your product at all.

2. Reduced time-to-value

Customers don’t want to wait months before finally having an “A-ha!” moment with your service. If they’re investing in you as a solution, you need to show them right from the get-go that they can utilize your product immediately to solve their biggest pain points. Customer education helps you keep process instructions, best practices, and avoidable mistakes top of mind. This gives your users the support they need to fully adopt new workflows without submitting support tickets and waiting on your support team.

3. Higher levels of customer adoption

If customers use your service or product effectively, you’re well-positioned to build stronger relationships and reduce customer churn. Over 70% of customer education programs reported more than 10 percent in product adoption growth. This means happier clients who are more likely to grow with your business. You can turn to these relationships as you develop your product roadmap by involving them in customer feedback sessions and having them be an internal advocate for your business on their respective teams.

4. Reduced reliance on your customer support team

Customer support teams create valuable opportunities for business growth by strategically partnering with clients on different ways to grow product adoption. But this is hard to do if your support managers are spending all their time knocking out tickets covering the same set of questions and concerns.

Self-service resources like product walkthroughs, in-app guidance, and a knowledge base give customers a place to look for answers without relying on account managers for smaller-scale issues. This gives your support team more time to focus on high-impact tasks that require more collaboration and personalization.

5. More advanced users and engaged customers

Customers who are engaged are the ones you can depend on to amplify your brand to their colleagues and professional network. It’s no surprise why 68% of customer education programs are set up to position customers as brand champions. There are many benefits to having power users who love your brand, one of them being partnership opportunities for community-building efforts, customer testimonials, and co-marketing opportunities.

6. Improved customer retention, renewals, and upsell rates

The average company has over 200 applications used for different workplace functions, but only 45% of employees engage with these products for more than 60 days. Customer education allows companies to differentiate themselves by reducing the time customers need to ramp up on different features. When users can quickly identify your value-add to essential business workflows, they’re more likely to retain your product and onboard more users as their team grows.

7. More satisfied customers

95% of customers say brand loyalty happens when they feel they can trust a company. With the right customer education formats, you can create an environment where customers feel supported. Self-service learning options lead to quick response teams, transparent communication, and user-friendly experiences. You’ll be positioned to help customers look at you as a must-have solution for their long-term business growth.

KPIs & Metrics for Measuring Customer Education

Customer education is evolving fast to reflect what workforces need in a digital-first environment. But change always brings questions that are hard to answer, especially if you’re trying to understand your customers in a way you’ve never had before. 

43% of customer education programs don’t have a solidified approach to measuring customer success. If your company feels the same way, don’t worry. Programs that are successfully measuring impact have a few things in common: 

  1. They’re driven by big-picture business outcomes
  2. They learn about their customers at every stage of the lifecycle
  3. They look for more efficient ways to work internally

Your KPIs will vary depending on the goals you’re trying to reach, the stakeholders involved in the process, and the challenges you want to avoid. Here are a few examples of program goals and how you can measure success: 

1. Awareness: Do customers know about your educational content?​

  1. Views for published content 
  2. Number of enrolled course users
  3. Topics asked in support tickets

2. Content: Are your efforts effective in helping customers understand your product?

  1. Time-to-value
  2. Page bounce rates
  3. Course completion rates
  4. Customer satisfaction scores
  5. Performance data for in-app widgets

3. Conversion: How is customer education driving revenue?

  1. Product adoption rates 
  2. Customer renewal rate
  3. Customer expansion rates

4. Productivity: How is your program impacting customer-facing teams?

  1. Average response time
  2. Volume of support tickets
  3. Net promoter score

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to defining success for a customer education program. Sit down with your business leaders and create a plan aligned with near-term and short-term goals for product engagement, customer retention, and customer satisfaction.

Use these goals to narrow down education formats that fit your team’s available resources. From there, start experimenting by distributing different content pieces and gathering feedback regularly from customers and teammates.

7 Tips for Creating an Effective Customer Education Program

Customer education programs are often multi-channel initiatives that require cross-team support and organizational buy-in. Customers are the focal point of every successful business, and they directly impact the outcomes of other business functions beyond just customer support. 

A messy customer education program can cause longer engineering cycles, a tainted brand reputation, inconsistent product roadmaps, and poor financial performance. To keep all your stakeholders on the same page, incorporate these tips as you organize and implement your program: 

1. Monitor your level of customer adoption

Customer adoption is arguably the biggest influencing factor for your customer education initiatives. As you explore customer behavior when using your product, get your content ideas by thinking about questions like:

  • Where do customers drop off? 
  • Are there any incomplete product interactions? 
  • What features are customers interacting most/least with and why? 
  • What actions do I need to funnel my customer interactions toward?

Since customer adoption directly influences your business revenue and growth, you’ll be able to focus your content creation efforts on the biggest gaps in your product experience.

2. Gather feedback from your customers

As the saying goes, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. You won’t know the impact of your customer education efforts unless you get in front of your customers and ask them. 

If your content isn’t meeting customer efforts and isn’t being put to use, then your team’s efforts amount to nothing. You can also directly incorporate feedback within your customer education efforts. For example, include a quick survey or satisfaction scale on your knowledge base articles or in-app walkthroughs for real-time data that you can quickly act address.

whatfix-nps-survey

3. Create contextual education paths for different types of customers

Different people learn differently. Not all customers will find courses and process documentation effective for remembering important product actions. Contextual learning helps your customers apply new information in real-world settings. In this case, you can use interactive product walkthroughs and in-app guidance so your customers can easily associate what they’ve learned with a path of action.

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Create contextual learning paths for your customers with Whatfix

4. Monitor your customer education metrics closely

As we’ve discussed in our last section, you can measure the success of your customer education program in many different ways. Although this flexibility is great, it also makes it easy for you to get pulled in different directions. Clearly define your customer education metrics when you launch a new piece of content and stick to it. This keeps all your efforts in tune with broader customer success KPIs and not just for the sake of satisfying one-off requests and feedback.

5. Don’t be afraid to make changes

Don’t let the fear of attributed results stop you from making changes if your program isn’t succeeding the way you thought it would. Your customers are busy people too with shifting levels of motivation, bandwidth, and energy. This means it’s normal if you suddenly find your usual tactics falling flat on engagement. Use your understanding of your customers to influence your strategy instead of solely relying on analytics. This helps you create content that’s relevant and helpful for them, which in turn will reflect on your measures of success.

6. Have a dedicated customer education team

Miscommunication is estimated to cause US businesses $1.2 billion in losses yearly. Even with the right steps in place, you’re more likely to make a mistake if customer education responsibilities are being shuffled around without clear ownership. You’ll have more tasks left in limbo, executed inaccurately, or forgotten completely. Having a customer education team gives you a point of accountability and oversight. It’ll help teams improve the visibility of different tasks, clearly delegate roles, and prioritize efforts.

7. Use customer education technology

Customer education would be a completely different beast if you had to manually keep track of your customer education efforts through fragmented documentation and heavy legacy software. With customer education software, you can create and manage different content formats from a central location. Your program can be easily synchronized across your website, client portal, communication channels, and business apps so you can save time updating and distributing your content.

Top 5 Customer Education Software

1. Whatfix

G2 Review Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Type: DAP

Price: Contact for a customized quote

whatfix-user-guidance-gif

Whatfix’s digital adoption platform helps companies accelerate their customers’ software proficiency through contextual learning and personalized training. Give customers reliable self-service support with interactive walkthroughs and in-app guidance that can be customized according to a user’s role and their location within your software. 

You can use Whatfix’s user-friendly workflows and content creation features to move customers along your product journeys proactively. Companies find great value using the Task List to centralize action items your customers need to complete and Intelligent Nudges to remind them about pending tasks and underutilized features.

skilljar logo

2. Skilljar

G2 Review Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Type: LMS

Price: Contact for a customized quote

skilljar

Skilljar is equipped with many of the features you’d need to build strong courses and certifications. Their system gives you various options to customize learning experiences according to your customer’s use cases, their preference for multimedia content, and their needs for on-the-go mobile learning. It’s an intuitive way to deliver content for information-heavy topics, equipped with pre-built templates, quizzes, and certification badges. 

With integrations to content management systems like Zoom, YouTube, Wistia, and more, you can include interactive elements and conferencing features in your training material.

docebo-logo

3. Docebo

G2 Review Rating: 4.4 out of 5

Type: LMS

Price: Contact for a customized quote

13 best eLearning Tools For Online Training

Docebo’s learning management system gives companies high levels of customization with audience-specific pages. A popular functionality among users is the flexibility to create different styles of interfaces a drag-and-drop editor and a widget system. You can also use advanced automation to create different self-service learning paths for customers, including virtual coaching and suggested content. 

If you’re looking for a solution to empower your sales team, Docebo has a robust integration with Salesforce that lets you embed education content right within the Salesform CRM. This gives your sales team easy access to content that can make a difference when engaging potential customers.

learnupon-logo

4. LearnUpon

G2 Review Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Type: LMS

Price: Contact for a customized quote

learnupon-online-employee-training

LearnUpon is a comprehensive learning platform with a suite of features across all stages of the customer education lifecycle, from course creation to portal experiences, reporting, customer engagement, and more. Users find LearnUpon especially intuitive for building flexible training courses that easily integrate with conferencing tools like Zoom, GoToMeeting, and MS Teams. You can also include live instructor-led training as part of your content mix. 

Create a learning experience that customers can explore at their own pace with self-service catalogs they can enroll in. You can also engage your customers throughout their journey with a course recommendation system, gamification elements, and automated reminders.

Northpass logo

5. Northpass

G2 Review Rating: 4.6 out of 5

Type: LMS

Price: Contact for a customized quote

Northpass

Northpass lets you build a robust learning academy with easy search and navigation functionalities. Your customers can centralize all their learning efforts in a single hub that houses a dashboard for enrolled courses and learning paths, course catalogs, reminders for upcoming learning events, and more. Whether you’re on your phone or desktop device, NorthPass keeps learning experiences consistent and visually appealing.

Users also frequently utilize NorthPass’ native integrations across various software, including systems for customer relationship management, certification, and customer support.

Deliver customer education that meets users where they are with Whatfix

You can’t create a culture of learning by forcing customers to go out of their way with rigid and fragmented content. The good news is that customer education software today is built to help you prioritize your customer’s learning styles without worrying about operational friction. 

Empower your learners with resources like Whatfix that activate them in the most crucial points of their customer journey — whether that means creating content from scratch, embedding material across multiple platforms, or creating engaging learning workflows directly within your product. 

Learn more about how Whatfix can empower your customer education today.

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