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What Every CSM Should Know About Customer Education

If you work in customer success it’s highly likely that at some point you have become frustrated by what you customer should know versus what you customer does know, or that they contact you instead of using the on-demand resources available.

Since Customer Success Managers (CSMs) have assumed ownership of the customer, they are increasingly being given ownership of customer education. While CSMs are best poised to provide meaningful learning opportunities based on their knowledge of the customers’ needs and processes, most have not developed the knowledge and skills to effectively educate their customers.

What I’m saying is, if you want to stand out as a CSM and provide the most value to your customer, you need to know a thing or two about how people learn, including learning theory, the mediums available, and most importantly the four learning requirements you need to serve to achieve customer success excellence.

Adult Learning Basics

The theory I subscribe to most is andragogy (if you really want to get into it, this is a great overview). Most product training is structured in a format that people are used to in school, what is missing is awareness that adults acquire knowledge very differently. Instead of appealing to the important factors there is a tendency to “tell them what they need to know.” For product training there are three andragogical concepts that you should ensure are incorporated:

What’s in it for them. Make the training relevant, otherwise attendees will tune out. For example, if your solution is sales pipeline data analytics and you are training a sales team, it’s important to tell attendees that your solution will help them hit quota by showing them which leads are ready to buy.Use their experience. Adults acquire information by connecting to what they already know. It may be helpful to review parallels with a former solution, and build by showing how your solution solves a problem they could not before.They have to want to learn. If you’ve covered one and two this obstacle will diminish, however it’s important to be aware that you can only teach people who want to learn.

Use Multiple Mediums

Most companies start with training sessions that I would describe as walkthroughs; it’s a show and tell of the product and features. There is hopefully documentation provided by the product team with the step by step clicks on how to use a feature.

The next thing I hear requested frequently, which I don’t hate but makes me cringe in most circumstances, is the request for video training. I love on-demand learning solutions, I currently develop them. However, unless you have adoption of your current on-demand resources plus the skills, budget and time to produce elearning, skip this one for now.

I have a great example for this one. I had one client who desperately wanted me to develop video training. I didn’t think it was the right time for their business, so I told them what I initially thought, then dug into the data with them.

Their on-demand resources had five unique visitors on a high traffic week, and one on a typical week.

Where do you think the training videos were going to live?

There was no way they would achieve an ROI, especially since they would need to be redone as they were replatforming the product and overhauling the UI. The better solution for them was to accept the overhead of occasion live sessions, but also to ensure every user was aware of the resources, and they were integrated into a learning journey.

Which brings me to my favorite medium: an automated sequence delivered to an inbox (or even using mobile messaging) to guide your customer through the learning process. These can start off linear and sequential, but as you capture and assess data on user behavior and learning paths this can become more complex and ideally behavior based. Think “You did this, now learn how to do that.”

There are also solutions now that you can install in your application to help guide your customer. In context support (aka just in time learning) is always helpful, however if you choose to roll-out one of these solutions be careful that they don’t obstruct product usage, and I discourage these as a primary education solution.

Know What You Need to Teach

While you are aware of, and probably do, product training, there are additional learning needs to enable your customers’ success that you might not be aware of.

If your solution has an implementation or customization process, educating your customer on key decisions they will make is essential. They will be guided through implementation, but ensuring they are informed on what decision they are making and any implications is important to prevent any rework later on. Reviewing the customer’s existing process and educating on any adaptations is also helpful prior to product training, and allows for product training to be more relevant.

Your customers should also be educated to set effective metrics and goals for your solution, both at launch and over time. Especially when you are introducing a solution that is truly groundbreaking, they may not know where to start or they may set the wrong measures.

Finally educate your customers on their achievements and showcase the success they have can help ensure they understand their performance in context of your larger portfolio or industry. Educating your customer so they realize when they have achieved exceptional results will not only strengthen your relationship, this can be very helpful in developing your advocates.

Is there anything you would add to the list? Are you interested in learning more about any of these elements? I would love to know in the comments!

Do you want to learn the three secrets of high performing Customer Success teams? Get them here.

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1 Comment

Michael Davis
Michael Davis
Feb 17, 2023

Thanks for the interesting article. Our company is constantly improving the software to facilitate the work of the personnel department.

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