What is Customer Education?
You probably got here because you asked yourself what Customer Education is or because you’re looking for a better definition of the topic.
Customer Education is about accelerating your client’s knowledge so they can perceive more value in your product or service. You can achieve this by stimulating the production of new knowledge, by promoting specific behaviors or by stimulating a change of attitude.
There’s no way we can talk about Customer Education (or CEd) without further discussing why it’s important to think about it.
If we look at it from a practical point of view, the CEd area focuses on increasing the renewal rate of your customers, probability of recommendation and to raise the monthly fee, if you work under a subscription model. From a more general point of view, a well implemented Customer Education strategy will place you as a market thought leader and attract new customers.
In addition to content marketing, the CEd area uses educational concepts as a basis — that is, it is concerned with making the consumer learn about something, and not only reproducing a series of steps for the moment, like many of these blog posts and platform tutorials focus on.
What composes the Customer Education area?
Let’s explore each of the three functions of Customer Education: to stimulate the production of new knowledge, to promote specific behaviors and to stimulate a change of attitude.
When we talk about stimulating an attitude change, we mean the purest concept of attitude: what a person thinks about an issue.
If you work servicing customers in any way, you already know this: they are not often willing to experiment or to try new features. And a Customer Education strategy will promote a different attitude by developing a plan that reinforces a consistent message.
The pillar of promoting specific behaviors, on the other hand, refers to adopting better market practices.
While a blog based on inbound marketing strategies will elaborate on 10 cases on how to use the product, an unified Customer Education strategy will think about how to align each of these cases to a focal purpose, be it a reflection on a certain topic or to foster the adoption of features or behaviors.
Finally, when talking about the production of new knowledge: it’s about helping the customer to understand why something works that way and/or how to follow a certain procedure or to perform a certain task.
For example, while a simple platform tutorial will teach you how to create an ad on Facebook, with educational content your client will master the logic behind it as well. In that way, even if the platform changes, the client retains the knowledge and will be able to reproduce it on their own — and even combine strategies, so that their solution becomes part of something bigger. This transferability of knowledge is what differentiates, at the base level, instruction from education.
Expanding on the concept of Customer Education.
- Customer Education is not only platform tutorials. It’s that too.
- Customer Education is not only the onboarding process. It’s that too.
- Customer Education is not only the learning management system. It’s that too.
- Customer Education is not only the base of knowledge. It’s that too.
Customer Education is about reducing the barriers that exist for a customer, either a specific user or an account as a whole, finding value in your product or service OR for them to perceive more value, so they don’t churn and so they increase their monthly fee.
Therefore, it is very strategic for virtually any company.
It is important to emphasize here that, although I have made some comparisons between inbound marketing strategy and Customer Education, in no way am I to belittle marketing efforts. On the contrary, good marketing professionals end up using instructional design strategies, even if unknowingly, on their content.
The point is that because they only focus on (or even are pressured to) generating leads and retaining page engagement time, they end up not taking a look at the big picture and lack formal training in instructional design. That’s where there’s a very common mistake.
The most common mistakes when implementing Customer Education.
With the “trend” of the Customer Education term, many professionals have been looking for instructional design content, believing that Customer Education is content marketing with educational techniques. Yes, it may be, but there are some tricks there.
First of all, what is instructional design? In a nutshell, it is an area that focuses on improving the teaching and learning processes. It’s like education engineering. An instructional designer thinks: who are my students? What are my student’s goals? What do I want them to be able to achieve after this instruction? What is the best way to deliver this content?
A good instructional designer understands the most diverse theories of education and design (that’s why they are designers) the most appropriate content format to stimulate this learning.
Of course, there are always some restrictions. These barriers can be budget, schedule, platform, and the like.
The designer will look at the instructor, the student, the content and the technologies, connecting them all.
And what’s the matter with just reading theories about instructional design?
You definitely will benefit from learning about instructional design on your journey to learn what Customer Education is and how to implement it in your company.
The problems I’ve seen people going through are:
1) The vast majority of reading materials are outdated and do not incorporate more up-to-date technologies;
2) They do not focus on Customer Education, but on traditional education, that is, on academic or internal corporate settings;
3) In the end, you will leave these courses knowing many new terms; but in practice, your daily life changes very little.
What do companies do when they get frustrated? They end up hiring a training instructor or an instructional designer with years of experience. It’s a way for them to feel safe that at least there is someone who knows what they are doing.
What is Customer Education: think about the goals first.
Before you go out there learning everything you can about instructional design, focus on what your goals are as a company and what your customer’s pain points are.
If you work for a startup, this is a mantra that has been repeated over and over again. Solve your customers’ problems. In that case, replace the term from “customer” to “student”.
What does your company expect to achieve from Customer Education and, perhaps more importantly, what your customer needs to learn?
The goal of this initial content was to start discussing the topic and to teach the most diverse professionals, from instructional designers, to HR professionals, enablement, marketing and business owners, to understand what Customer Education is and how to implement it in their companies.
My name is Ivan Chagas and this is the page of my company, Poly Studio, the first Customer Education focused agency.