Apr 5, 2022

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How we got here: why Customer Success and customer education are coming together now

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This is a guest post by Paula Naba, director of Customer Success at Northpass.

Did you know that 32% of customers stop doing business with a brand they love after only one bad experience?

How about this: customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus on customers.

These are just two data points that underscore the importance of the customer experience and one of the major forcing factors bringing Customer Success and customer education teams together.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t always been the accepted train of thought.

Instead, Customer Success and customer education operated in siloes — if they existed at all.

Well, that’s changing as companies realize the value of the customer experience and how alignment between Customer Success and customer education can help improve it.

The past: Customer Success takes center stage

We can trace Customer Success back more than two decades when a CRM company called Vantive started using it to help its customers navigate the relative unknowns of an infant technological world.

While Vantive should get the credit, most people attribute that honor to Salesforce — and rightfully so. Salesforce wasn’t first to the party, but it certainly attracted the brightest spotlight.

But that’s not the point.

The point is that Customer Success isn’t new and has been gaining traction for some time as companies prioritized customer experience and satisfaction. In fact, 72% of companies say improving the customer experience is their top priority.

For years, this materialized as onboarding programs and dedicated CSMs walking in lockstep with customers. As Customer Success matured, Customer Success platforms and executive-level positions became common. For years, this was enough to keep companies in business.

As the digital world became more congested, customer expectations shifted, products became more complex, companies started growing at a rapid pace, and metrics like customer retention surpassed acquisition as the north star; Customer Success alone didn’t pack enough of a punch.

Customer Success teams needed help.

Enter customer education.

The present (and future): Customer Success and customer education share the stage

Like Batman needs Robin and peanut butter needs jelly, businesses need Customer Success and customer education to work as one.

Today, customer expectations are sky-high.

They demand white-glove service, whenever and wherever they want it.

They want immediate value from products.

They expect companies to understand their needs and deliver personalized experiences.

This is the reality of the business world we live in, but it creates an unimaginably difficult situation for even the most mature Customer Success teams and strategies. By adding customer education to their arsenal, you can turn a seemingly impossible situation into something feasible.

Extra firepower for CSMs

CSMs have been — and always will be — your greatest driver of an excellent customer experience. To be this driving force, however, they need to master the product and understand how to help customers realize its expected value.

Unfortunately, this level of mastery won’t happen overnight nor will it occur automatically. To get CSMs to this point — and keep them there — you need to proactively provide them with the necessary knowledge and resources. The more knowledgeable they are, the more value they can pass on to your customers.

While a customer education program is synonymous with, well, customers, the same materials can benefit CSMs. For example, if you’re introducing a new feature and creating a course to teach customers about it, have your CSMs take it first. Not only will this bring them up to speed, but they may catch any gaps or missed opportunities you can fill before giving it to customers.

More profit-boosting conversations

Imagine this: A new customer is ready to get the ball rolling with a kickoff call to cover initial steps and tasks as well as lay down a success plan for the next few months.

Great. This is precisely what you pay your CSM to do; have valuable conversations that benefit the customer and the company.

However, when the customer dials in, it quickly becomes clear that they lack a foundational understanding of the product and other relatively basic information. (This happens more than you think, especially if the people who’ll be using the product weren’t involved during the buying process.)

So, the CSM does the only thing they can do: cover the basics.

This prevents your CSMs from having strategic and profit-boosting conversations with customers — ones that build brand advocates, increase customer lifetime value (CLTV) and grow the account.

Decreased time to value

As the primary line of defense between your customers and churn, your Customer Success team, understandably, has a lot going on. While everything they do impacts the customer experience, there’s one task that can literally be the difference between high CLTV and a customer walking out the door: onboarding. In fact, a poor onboarding experience is the greatest reason for customer churn.

How can you help prevent this? You guessed it: align Customer Success and customer education.

Customers who take advantage of customer education need less hand-holding and, therefore, less time to ramp up. This is especially true if the absence of customer education means a new customer has to schedule a call with a CSM or wait on hold for a support rep.

With customer education, there’s less downtime and no guesswork. Both CSMs and customers have a clear path to success that’s void of barriers and hurdles that can diminish the onboarding experience and time to value (TTV).

Scale and support costs

The goal of any company is to grow, obviously.

As this happens — regardless of how quickly it does — the number of customers who’ll need ongoing support will move in tandem. It’s a good problem to have, but a major barrier to scale if you don’t approach it correctly.

Historically, businesses addressed growing pains and the Customer Success team’s needs the same way: hire more CSMs and support reps. That may work for a while, but as the company really starts to grow, it becomes costly and you’ll soon find yourself spending large sums of money to keep your team large enough to support hundreds, even thousands, of customers.

This isn’t a viable long-term solution.

What is the long-term solution is to tie customer education into your Customer Success strategy. This way, customers can proactively learn and overcome challenges instead of requiring a CSM to guide them over every hurdle.

Less need for hand-holding means fewer CSMs and support reps are required to keep all of your customers happy. The result? Reduced support costs and a situation where scaling will never be a problem.

Customer Success and customer education: a date with destiny

In 2022 and beyond, it’s no longer enough to focus solely on acquisition. To truly succeed in today’s business climate, it’s equally — if not more important — to obsess over the post-purchase experience and do everything in your power to retain your customers.

One of the best ways to do that is to get your Customer Success and customer education strategies on the same page.

To learn how to create a customer education program that establishes customer loyalty and boosts revenue, read our blog, “Customer education & its best practices.”

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