5 Lessons I Learned Building a Customer Education Program
Here are 5 of the lessons I learned while building Hopin's Customer Education program.
Build relationships early and often
Customer Education sits at the intersection of marketing, sales, customer success, customer support, and product. Companies often struggle with where to place an education team because we are so cross-functional. As such, it is essential to build relationships early and often.
With our marketing team, we were able to share adapted versions of our education content for them to use on social, which also enabled them to promote our content. Similarly, getting buy-in from the sales team ensured that prospects were aware of our education programs before they even became customers and gave sales reps an easy way to show prospects what the platform could do. Having an education program enabled our Customer Success Managers to focus on being strategic account partners instead of spending time showing customers where to click within our platform. It also ensured customers showed up prepared for meetings with implementation managers. Our education content gave our support reps a place to direct customers who needed more guidance. But the relationship wasn’t one sided. Our customer facing teams provided us with ongoing feedback and gave us a sense of what customers needed help learning. And of course, our relationship with the product team was vital to understanding new releases and keeping our content relevant.
Looking back, it is clear to me how vital these relationships were to the success of our program. Unfortunately, I naively underestimated them when we first launched Hopin Learn and spent a lot of time building these relationships retroactively. If I were to build a customer education program, I would spend far more time in the analysis phase (of ADDIE), meetings with CSMs, IMs, and AEs to better understand their needs and the resources they are already leveraging.
You have to start somewhere
This goes for most creative and professional endeavors. It is highly unlikely that you’ll get things perfect on the first go, but you need to start somewhere. This was the exact philosophy I used when building Hopin’s Customer Education program. Instead of trying to solve all of the educational gaps at once, we narrowed our focus. First, we chose a specific customer base in which to pilot the program (self-serve). Next we identified a focus area that was challenging for our customers and essential to the business (onboarding). We then selected a delivery method that would be easy to launch and low cost: live, virtual events using our own software and a simple webpage built by our web designers from which people could sign up for workshops or watch recordings.
Was the first iteration we launched perfect? Definitely not. The videos we showed during the live events included simple screenshares produced with limited resources. However, it built momentum for our program internally and externally and gave us data to show that we were onto something. Overtime, our program evolved. We migrated to an LMS, hired a video producer, and made the content part of the onboarding experience for every customer. But in order to get there, we had to start somewhere.
Leverage existing resources
By the time an organization is ready to launch a customer education program, it is unlikely that there are no training resources being used internally or externally at the company. Whether it’s CSMs who have responded to a customer question with a short video, a support rep who has created macros to answer FAQs, clips from a marketing webinar, or even training modules the HR team uses to onboard employees, resources exist.
It’s essential to utilize these resources to quickly launch your proof of concept program. You won’t be able to use all of these resources as some might have customer logos or show confidential information (and my goal is never to piss off the legal team!!) but many of them will be usable, with minor edits. While ultimately, you want a cohesive look and feel for your education content, there are simple ways to do this without creating all new resources, such as adding a branded intro and outro slide.
Admittedly, this was not something I initially took advantage of at Hopin and as such, my team wasted valuable time creating new content that already existed. But we learned from our mistakes and started proactively reaching out to customer facing and product teams before developing new courses to help us better understand what already existed.
Feedback is a gift
At Hopin, we were lucky to have an engaged group of learners who wanted to host better events. Our customers shared valuable insights with us via CSAT surveys and focus groups on what they wanted to see more of (or less of) from our program. We also sought out feedback from our colleagues. Not only did we encourage them to complete our courses which enabled them to sharpen their skills, while sharing valuable insights with us, we also set up a form they could submit with suggestions for new content or improvements. After receiving each submission, we would contact the employee to dig deeper into their request and needs to see if and how training could help solve this challenge.
It is impossible to address every piece of feedback (some people said the videos were too fast, some thought they were too slow) but the feedback helped set us on the right path and was an essential part of our education program’s success.
In all of the Customer Education groups I’m in, data is a key topic. How do we measure our success and prove the value of our programs to executives? Often, we focus on the metrics we have access to within our LMS platforms: Monthly Active Students, Registrations/Completions, CSAT surveys, etc. While these metrics can contribute to our success story, they don’t show the full picture. They show the success of the program, instead of the ROI of customer education for a company. This was a major focus of mine towards the end of my Hopin tenure: how can we demonstrate the value of education to the business?
We connected our LMS to Salesforce so that we could truly track the behavior of accounts that completed courses versus those that didn’t. Similarly, we began to look at our monthly active students in relation to our customer base - did enrollment in courses increase because of event season? Did completions decrease because there were fewer events hosted during Christmas break? This data helped tell the full story and is what I hope to track as I build more education programs in the future.
What lessons have you learned from building your Customer Education programs?