What is customer education? The ultimate guide
Customer education empowers customers to adopt your products and reduces time to value. Learn how to start a customer education program.
Last updated July 27, 2022
A knowledge base, community forum, and friendly team of customer advocates are critical to helping customers troubleshoot and learn how to use your products or services. But a customer education program is important for ensuring customers have access to training events and courses so they can adopt your products quickly. And when done right, it can increase customer satisfaction, reduce costs, and grow your bottom line. When companies don’t prioritize customer education, their customers often miss out on opportunities to get the most value from the business, which can lead to churn.
Read on to learn how to start developing your own customer education program.
What is customer education?
Customer education is a program that makes it easy for customers or users to access training at critical moments in their journey, empowering them to adopt your products and reduce time to value.
Customer education programs are comprised of a vast collection of resources organized into a curated, engaging, and relevant experience. Companies typically segment customer education content into three stages:
- Onboarding, which includes introductory and foundational learning
- Adoption, which includes in-depth product feature tutorials
- Optimization, which includes certifications and tests for concept or product mastery to establish the learner as the in-house subject matter expert
Across these three stages is an array of customer education offerings, including on-demand online courses, live events, workshops, in-person training, and exams. The cost will vary depending on delivery, duration, and output (i.e., how-to’s or certification).
Why is a customer education program important?
A successful customer education program can improve the customer experience and significantly impact your bottom line. Here are a few key benefits of customer education.
Increased customer satisfaction
Customers want to get the most value from their purchase. With training, customers can take full advantage of your product, reducing complaints, contraction, and churn. This improves loyalty and satisfaction.
Reduced support costs
Your customer education program can be a useful tool for your customer success department, which is responsible for customer onboarding and support.
Improved product adoption
Customer education can shape customer behavior. Ongoing learning can transform simple users into expert users, fostering more successful customers.
Upgrades and expansions
Happy, educated customers are more likely to become repeat buyers, whether they are adding more products or increasing usage.
Customer education programs play an important role in the longevity of your organization and your customer relationships. When businesses focus on helping customers, they build trust and loyalty, which can help them weather turbulent times.
Metrics to manage your customer education program
To gauge the performance of your customer education program, you’ll need to track the right metrics. We outline a few to start with.
- Visits: Through website visits, you can get a sense of how much visibility your program is getting. And with adding tracking (via UTM parameters), you can see the source of this traffic.
- Training registration and attendance: Through gated content, you can capture contact information and assess interest. After the training (or while on-demand), you can determine conversions (total registration vs. attendance) based on training completions or viewing durations. Your attendees are your actual learners.
- Engagement: You can measure this in a few ways. Engagement can be click-throughs within your promotional emails, questions asked during the course, or associated resource downloads before, during, or after the training.
- Ratings: Feedback is crucial to the evolution of your customer education programs. It’s important to offer a mechanism of evaluation, whether it’s a survey, quick numerical rating, or open suggestion box.
- Product adoption and effectiveness: Although less obvious, assessing product adoption can be a strong indicator of the success of a customer education program. Here, we can look at the number of learners from a single customer and compare their training consumption against indicators like feature usage or escalations.
Customer education team roles and responsibilities
The best way to build a customer education team depends on where your organization is within its program. Regardless of whether you’re starting from scratch or backfilling roles, many of the key players include:
- Instructional designers: Develop and design courses and curricula
- Trainers: Create and execute training strategies, initiatives, and materials
- Program managers: Manage the overall program development plan, schedule, and deliverables
- Event specialists: Oversee the design, set-up, scheduling, and execution of events
Best practices for building your customer education strategy
Here are a few best practices to guide you as you develop your customer education strategy.
1. Make your program accessible to all users
A good customer education program is accessible. Components of the program should be easy to find and navigate and available to all users. This includes having content for those who may require closed captioning or speak another language.
2. Include various levels of content
It’s also important to have different levels of content, spanning the range of user expertise—from novice to intermediate to expert. This ensures relevance and continuity, enticing learners to return to your customer education program or platform when they’re ready to level up along their journey.
3. Establish processes for continuously updating content
Keeping content fresh and up-to-date is key, especially in sectors where products update continually or new releases are frequent. Mixed-medium and short-course content can make this lift a bit lighter, but it’s important to establish a departmental process for including ongoing updates as subjects evolve.
4. Find ways to make training engaging
Gamification is a great way to increase learner engagement, happiness, and program loyalty. Using gamification within customer education makes training more fun, and learners are more likely to retain the information taught.
For example, Zendesk’s online training program includes badges for course and learning path completions, which businesses can use to evaluate their top-performing staff and promote those with the highest potential.
Customer education technology
Although most webinar or event platforms will suffice, purpose-built training platforms for external education can have a major impact.
A learning management system (LMS) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, automation, and delivery of educational courses, training programs, or learning and development programs.
Training via an LMS instead of in-person can help you save costs by reducing employee travel, optimizing training expenditure and usage, and minimizing the need for facilities.
Delivering training content through an LMS ensures consistency and gives learners a single hub to find content, course materials, instructions, and support.
An LMS can also track learner progress and performance, with the ability to generate reports on an individual user or account-level basis. This is particularly helpful when customers request insights into their progress toward an established learning goal. (For example, the number of course completions, badges, or certifications by a certain date).
Customer education reporting can be beneficial for you, too. The accounts that are most engaged with training typically have greater expansion opportunities and are less likely to churn, providing a strong correlation to account health.
Customer education the Zendesk way
Zendesk has developed a best-in-class customer education program to meet you where you are and take you where you want to be.
Free online training
With courses available for administrators, agents, and developers, learners can consume training at their own pace by taking a single course or curated learning paths.
Free training gets new hires up and running faster, ensuring customers new to Zendesk can deploy their solution correctly. In addition to helping anyone new to Zendesk, our online training includes resources to refresh the skills of existing employees who might not be leveraging the latest Zendesk features.
We can also help with mass enrollment for your entire agent and admin staff into our online training courses and learning paths. And we can provide the reporting you need to chart progress against your organization’s highest priorities.
Live training events
We continually schedule and host regional Training Days and Certification Preparation and Practice Workshops, including real-time access to our expert trainers, demonstrations, hands-on exercises, scenario-based activities, time for Q&A, and the ability to network with peers.
You can accelerate learning with our live training events because these smaller sessions give you direct access to subject matter experts who are familiar with similar use cases and scenarios, providing the most relevant information to ensure success.
And of course, we offer affordable remote private training that includes tailored or custom examples for you and your team.
With seven different exams, our affordable certification program is the best way for users to prove they have reached a Zendesk-verified level of expertise. Our certification program is designed for managers, top performers, or those eager to advance by testing and showcasing their CX solution knowledge and Zendesk product mastery.
The goal of Zendesk’s customer education program is to provide you with the ultimate return on investment. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now, and we’re here to help. Check out our free online training courses and customized learning paths, or contact your customer success representative or account executive to learn more.