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Four ways customer education helps support the Customer Success team
This is a guest post by Sara Barnes, vice president of Customer Success at Skilljar.
Every Customer Success team focuses on keeping customers engaged and ultimately, preventing churn. But as a company scales and brings in new accounts, CSMs can start to feel like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory—the customers keep rolling along faster than CSMs can properly manage them!
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Customer education was designed with CSMs in mind to automate their repetitive processes and create a way for customers to self-serve their basic needs so that CSMs can do their jobs better. In fact, customer education helps scale Customer Success, as the company scales business.
The relationship between customer education and Customer Success
Customer education, or training, and Customer Success go hand-in-hand. Training is integral to the Customer Success practice, as the TSIA quick poll, “The Customer Success and Education Services Handshake” found:
- Nearly 74% of respondents said that Customer Success introduces training during the customer onboarding process as a common practice.
- There is a 12 percentage point increase in the median YOY product subscription growth rate when training is integrated into the Customer Success plan.
- There is a 13 percentage point increase in median YoY product subscription growth rate when training is included in a Customer Success package.
- 65% of respondents said it’s common practice to share customer training data with the Customer Success organization.
How CSMs play a role in customer education
Customer education is often provided by a Learning Management System (LMS). With an LMS, training managers can create courses that specifically address the needs of CSMs in relation to their customers. In fact, the most common way training managers determine what content to offer in their LMS comes from directly asking CSMs:
- What repetitive conversations are you having with customers?
- What questions come up most often when you are onboarding a new customer?
- What are customers’ biggest pain points when learning your platform?
- What barriers to success are customers facing today?
- What content are you currently delivering to address user questions?
- What process improvements can be made in the way you address customer feedback?
Customer education is a way for CSMs to do more of what they do best: focus on their customers’ strategic issues so they feel valued.
How customer education improves Customer Success
1. Lighten the load CSM’s normally carry
Customer Success teams typically answer the same questions over and over again as they gain new clients. The good news: They can hone their answers and have information at the ready when the question comes up. The bad news: It’s tiresome to answer the same questions day in and day out! Responding to individual concerns is a largely reactive and time-consuming approach.
Customer education programs help reduce the burden on these teams by developing on-demand training content that addresses these key problem areas. As a result, CSMs can resolve other, more specific issues quickly and with fewer resources.
Automated customer education can significantly reduce a CSM’s load, enabling them to focus on tasks that impact their business’s bottom line (such as building customer loyalty and increasing NPS or CSAT scores), thereby scaling Customer Success.
2. Accelerate customer onboarding
One of the most effective ways to ensure customers quickly find value in your product is through a self-serve onboarding program. Typically, CSMs onboard customers 1:1 in the early stages of company growth. However, this soon becomes unscalable as more clients sign on and the number of CSMs remains the same. Online communication and project management tools like Asana help, but they are still part of a manual 1:1 approach to onboarding.
Automating onboarding with an LMS can help CSMs focus on value-added activities rather than repetitive, time-consuming tasks. It also serves to streamline customer orientation and education across divisions as the LMS becomes the source of truth for all training content. No more training in silos or making updates to some instances, but not others.
Another benefit of automated onboarding is that it can be delivered instantaneously, regardless of time zones or the availability of instructors. Companies can deliver training through courses, videos, webinars, instructor-led training (ILT) and increasingly, virtual instructor-led training (VILT). Many companies connect content from their help center to the automated training platform, so customers can find answers to their specific questions on their own, whenever they have the need.
Providing access to on-demand training enables CSMs to support more customers and create a faster onboarding process. Supplying customers with the right content exactly when they are seeking it helps build the customer relationship.
3. Increase customer retention, lower churn
As Lincoln Murphy writes in Customer Success: How Innovative Companies Are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue, “Proper onboarding isn’t done to prevent churn; it’s done to ensure the customer achieves their desired outcome. Retention comes from that.”
Perhaps the biggest impact that customer education has on Customer Success is this – trained customers are your best customers. Customers who engage with training demonstrate faster adoption, higher retention, and less churn, leading to better overall customer success metrics.
Another benefit of using an LMS for customer training is that you can measure the impact of your training on business metrics to make a case for your team’s success. With an LMS that connects to your business applications, you can measure:
- Time to first value
- Product adoption
- Customer satisfaction
- Customer retention
- Customer churn
- And more
CSMs can correlate this data from both the user and account level to tie training back to customer behavior in their platform, uncover trends, as well as identify accounts that could be at risk for churn.
ChurnZero’s former manager of customer enablement, Bora Lee said this about training’s impact on reducing churn:
“As a Customer Success company, we deeply understand that customer training increases user adoption, which ultimately reduces churn. So, by offering a positive training experience to our own customers, it allows them to learn not only how to use our product to help them fight customer churn, but also learn Customer Success best practices that they can implement within their own organizations.”
4. Increase customer satisfaction
The most common metric used by external education teams to measure the success of their training programs is customer satisfaction, with over 50% currently tracking CSAT scores, according to the 2022 Customer Education Benchmarks and Trends Report.
CSAT for customer training is measured through customer feedback by asking a question or short survey that takes into account the learner’s opinion of the training, such as: On a scale of 1 – 5, how would you rate your overall satisfaction with this course?
It’s important to create an internal benchmark for customer satisfaction as a potential indicator of churn; a customer that is more satisfied with their training is more likely to use the product and therefore less likely to churn. The idea is to increase customer satisfaction scores through training.
Bonus tip: Train the trainers!
Customer education can improve the Customer Success function by incorporating an internal product training program based on the program you use for customers. Often you can repurpose external training content for new employees, including new CSMs your company hires as you scale or as existing team members move on.
What better way for a CSM to train others on your product than by taking the same training themselves? Further, CSMs can supply feedback on training before it is launched to the customer, ensuring you provide the best experience possible to engage and retain them.
Customer education delivered through an LMS can help you scale Customer Success through automating and streamlining onboarding processes, and educating customers on new product features. As a result, CSMs are freed up to add more value to customers and create stronger connections with them.
Sara Barnes joined Skilljar in 2016 and has since helped hundreds of companies implement or transform their customer education programs to drive product adoption and customer retention. As the VP of Customer Success at Skilljar, she oversees the Customer Success and Implementation teams. Sara’s impact was recognized with a 2021 APPEALIE Customer Success Leader award. As a lifelong learner, Sara has completed two online university degrees including a Masters of Professional Studies in Human Resources and Employment Relations at Penn State University.