In recent years, customer education and training has become a large part of the learning and development field. Companies are beginning to understand the utility of an educated customer base and are developing training solutions to improve business outcomes. A relatively novel idea, customer education focuses on ensuring clients have the resources they need to succeed when interacting with your corporation. In tech companies, for example, customer education may be in the form of informative videos and training offered to improve understanding. In the retail field, customer education may be offered in the form of expert ratings to provide consumers with the skills they need to be more informed buyers. Blogs (much like this one) are also a great way to connect and educate customers on services, products, and experiences.
During the last six months, customer education has shifted into an online and remote environment. As with many other businesses processes, COVID-19 has revealed more efficient, dynamic, and accessible ways to deliver results. Customer education is no different. More specifically, there are four main ways in which the pandemic has shifted and enhanced customer education.
1. Programs are educating broader audiences. Many organizations are making the decision to remove paywalls and fees to expand their online audiences. Digital content is scalable, and businesses are beginning to realize that they can deliver content to millions of people without much extra back-end work.
2. New training is being delivered online. We’ve written extensively on the benefits of online education programs as opposed to in-person learning. They allow for better use of company time and money, are easier to deliver, and are on-demand. Furthermore, they provide countless benefits from tracking learner behavior to being easily accessible across a variety of departments/workplaces.
3. Development and delivery of content is getting faster. Changing learner needs are making companies create, launch, and enhance programs quicker than ever. This is leading to more innovation within the field along with a deeper look into learner needs and wants.
4. Access to resources and programs is improving. Customer education teams are contributing to the overall success of companies, and data can be shared across multiple departments and teams. This is contributing to a collective team environment that leads to a better use of team and company time and money.
With a better understanding of how customer education programs are evolving due to remote work, it is important to keep in mind some best practices to ensure success. It’s important to view customer education much like employee education; onboarding is one of the most important steps. Keep in mind that the goal of customer onboarding is to help your clients successfully use a product. This goes beyond simply telling them how to use the product; you need to be there to support them. Consider creating a program that fosters a relationship between your products and services and your existing customers. The great thing about customer onboarding, as opposed to employee onboarding, is that it can be done at any stage of the customer’s experience with your services.
Another key to customer education programs is making them widely accessible. Many companies only offer their training and education to current customers, which is often a waste of time and money. If you spend the resources to develop a strong customer education program, it can only benefit to have that accessible to both current and potential future customers. Not only will this result in more engagement with your services, but it will also increase overall visibility and legitimacy of your organization. Think of your customer education as a double-edged sword; one side improves current employee knowledge, and the other helps grow your business and reputation as a whole.
Finally, it is important to measure the impact of the customer education programs you are developing. Now more than ever, L&D professionals need to be able to prove the worth of their programs with tangible metrics and data. Start by understanding exactly what your company wants to improve upon, then build a set of metrics upon that. Think about retention rates, customer renewal rates, and new customer acquisition and areas that can be analyzed to determine the success of your programs. Effectively measuring return on investment (ROI) will help you expand your training budget in the future and improve buy-in from upper-level management.
In today’s unstable business environment, customer training and education programs are a great way to show your commitment to your customers and create new opportunities to expand business. Companies that provide resources for their clients can increase brand loyalty, customer relations, and brand exposure. These training solutions will still be viable post-COVID 19, meaning your ROI will continue to improve beyond the first few months.