Customer education takes many forms, from one-to-one interactions to digital self-paced learning. Each format comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. Whichever platform your organization decides to base its customer education program on, the goal remains the same — to thoroughly educate your customers and partners about your software or services.
Here are four popular customer education strategies, their pros and cons, and how you can use them effectively.
The “Toolkit” Approach
With this strategy, customers receive a “toolkit,” or package of educational materials. These materials range from topical white papers and instructional manuals to short how-to videos and online training courses.
The toolkits can be further segmented by theme, such as how to create digital course content, customer service best practices or sales techniques.
Advantages: Toolkits permit learners to direct their own learning and progress at their own pace, whenever they have the time to engage with the materials. Learners also choose the topics most applicable to their specific job duties. For example, a salesperson probably doesn’t require the in-depth technical knowledge of a software program a customer service rep would.
What’s more, learners can select their preferred learning platform. Some learners absorb training better when presented in a video or digital course, while others prefer to read the manual.
Related Reading: The Key Difference Between Customer Experience and Customer Success
Disadvantages: While a learner may have downloaded the white paper or watched the video, you as the creator of the customer education program cannot easily track whether they actually progressed through the material or, if so, if they benefited from it.
To remedy that, try sending a follow-up email asking what the learner thought of the video, white paper, or whatever “tool” in the toolkit they utilized. Send along a brief quiz to the learner to ensure he or she understood the training as well.
Mentoring brings together the trainer and learner for one-to-one training sessions, either in the same physical location or via Skype.
Advantages: Rather than interfacing with a computer, some learners favor the more personal nature of one-to-one interaction. By working with a mentor, learners receive immediate feedback on their progress through the customer education program. They’re also learning from someone truly versed in the software or subject matter.
Related Reading: How to Create an Online Course in 6 Easy Steps
Disadvantages: Pairing mentors with mentees involves a fair amount of administrative legwork to ensure the right expert matches up with a trainee looking to fill gaps in their knowledge. In-person mentoring may also involve costly travel if trainers visit customer locations.
If you do use mentoring, you want to make sure it isn’t approached in an ad hoc or informal way. Given the time and expense that it requires, be sure that it is structured both in the course content and delivery. A software solution such as Chronus provides a step-by-step process to create mentoring programs, attract and connect participants, guide them through the instruction and assess outcomes.
Social media platforms such as Facebook pages, wikis or discussion boards serve as vehicles for learners to interact with other learners and instructors as they progress through the online customer education program. Even comments on Twitter classify as a community forum as they may provide feedback on the customer education program.
Advantages: Not only can learners educate each other, user comments offer insights into how your customers engage with the educational program — what they liked and didn’t like. Your learners may uncover new and novel ways to teach other learners how the program or service works, thus alleviating instructors of the sole burden of educating your customers.
Disadvantages: You’ll need to assign a staff member to monitor the comments through social listening tools. And those comments may not always be positive. Yet even negative comments can be turned into a positive if you reach out and address any problems in a proactive manner. In addition to rectifying any deficiencies in the customer education program, you’ll demonstrate you take learner’s concerns seriously enough to make changes.
User comments can also shape future customer education initiatives. If you find customers request more information on particular services or skill training, then you fashion a customer education program based on what the customer wants.
User-generated learning content derives from those actually interacting with the educational program — your customers — who then add their advice and tips to other learners via community forums mentioned above. Blogs or podcasts done by long-time customers who have succeeded through the educational program could be considered as user-generated learning content as well.
Advantages: User-generated learning enables one person to spread their knowledge to many. It’s the type of knowledge that was once passed informally in an office conference room. Today, training specialists capture that user-generated educational content and disseminate it via the Internet, tech tools and social media platforms. It provides the same advantages as one-to-one mentoring, but it enables one person to teach groups of learners.
Disadvantages: Although user-generated learning provides a wealth of content, that content may become unwieldy and fall outside the intended purpose of the customer education program if not carefully monitored. Have your instructors or subject matter experts ensure any user-generated content pertains to the actual training so that incorrect information is not shared.
Customer education is not a static, one-size-fits-all model. Find the format or strategy that works best for each individual customer to not only increase their knowledge, but also build brand loyalty.