The ROI of Customer Education: A Fireside Chat With Simon Dunant X Thinkific

The ROI of Customer Education: Driving Success and Growth

Courseprofs recently teamed up with Thinkific to talk about unleashing strategies to measure and prove the ROI of your customer education initiatives. You can watch the entire webinar above or read about some of the key insights below.

In this webinar we cover:

  • Practical recommendations and insights on scaling online learning programs are provided.
  • Strategies for nurturing customer success through customer education programs, with a focus on onboarding, are discussed.
  • The impact of customer education on customer retention rates is highlighted, with a case study example.
  • Building a learning universe and empowering customers to become experts in the product/service is emphasized.

I think the key thing overarching thing is that a customer education academy builds confidence in the customers using the product. Customers feel empowered to reach their goals. And also, more importantly, customers actually feel invested in by your company. If you’ve got a customer education academy to support clients through their journey with a product, it feels like you’re actively thinking about the customer’s next step. And I can’t really emphasize enough how that makes the customer feel.

TL:DR: Here's a summary of what we talked about.

In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, organizations are constantly seeking ways to differentiate themselves and achieve success. One often overlooked yet powerful tool in driving business growth is customer education. By investing in comprehensive educational programs, businesses can enhance customer satisfaction, retention, and ultimately unlock new expansion opportunities. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of customer education and its impact on organizational success.

Customer education plays a crucial role in empowering businesses to improve customer success and retention. By providing valuable educational content and resources, businesses can enhance the customer experience and ensure that customers fully understand and utilize their products or services. This leads to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and ultimately, improved retention rates.

When it comes to nurturing customer success through education programs, there are various strategies and tactics that can be employed. One effective approach is to focus on the onboarding phase, where customers first encounter your product or service. By providing comprehensive training and educational resources during this crucial stage, businesses can set their customers up for success and create a positive initial experience. Additionally, systemizing repetitive tasks through an educational platform can free up valuable time for support teams, allowing them to provide more personalized assistance and build stronger customer relationships.

To demonstrate the success of customer education efforts to organizational leaders, it is crucial to align educational programs with key performance indicators (KPIs) across the customer lifecycle. By focusing on metrics such as awareness, acquisition, activation, revenue, retention, and referral, businesses can effectively measure the impact of their educational initiatives. For instance, tracking the percentage of customers who successfully complete onboarding programs or evaluating the correlation between training completion rates and higher customer retention can provide tangible evidence of ROI to leaders.

Creating a learning universe that encompasses various educational resources, including academies, help centers, and support staff, can significantly enhance the overall customer experience. By offering step-by-step courses and clear instructions, businesses can empower customers to achieve their goals and become proficient in using their products. This not only builds customer confidence but also showcases the company’s commitment to ongoing education and support.

Measuring the return on investment (ROI) of customer education initiatives is crucial for gaining internal support and resources. By tracking metrics such as engagement levels, completion rates, behavior changes, and revenue generation, organizations can connect customer engagement with tangible business impact. Additionally, capturing customer feedback through surveys and testimonials provides valuable insights and social proof of the program’s effectiveness.

In conclusion, customer education is a powerful driver of business success. By investing in comprehensive educational programs, organizations can enhance customer satisfaction, retention, and drive revenue growth. By aligning educational initiatives with key performance indicators and showcasing the ROI to organizational leaders, businesses can secure support and resources for their ongoing educational efforts. Furthermore, by creating a learning universe and continuously measuring the impact of education, organizations can foster long-term customer relationships and stay ahead in today’s competitive market.

Full Conversation Transcript

[00:00:00.250] – Daniela Ochoa
So onto today’s topic, which is measuring and proving ROI in current market conditions. Knowing how to demonstrate the impact and success of your efforts to leaders at your organization has become more important now than ever. Which is why I’m really excited about today’s topic and today’s guests. We will be sharing practical recommendations and insights from their experience scaling online learning programs that will empower you to embark on your journey confidently in customer education. So whether you’re just starting out or looking to scale your existing programs, this conversation is going to really help you get set up on the right path. So during today’s session, you’re going to discover how customer education can be a differentiator in your business success. You’ll also gain some insights on how it can directly impact customer retention, customer success, and help you unlock new upsell and expansion opportunities for your business or organization. And you’re going to learn how you can demonstrate the success of your efforts to leaders in your business or organization. So if there’s anything specific that you’re looking to take away from today’s session, I would love to know. So feel free to let us know in the chat.

[00:01:13.030] – Daniela Ochoa
And as well, if you have any questions that come up as we’re heading into our Fireside chat, feel free to share them in the chat and I’ll make sure to save them for the Q A portion of our time together today. So with that, I’ll introduce our two expert guests. So Aaron Warren who is here with us today. Hi Aaron, thank you so much for joining us. He’s currently leading both the education and community teams at Thinkific and he’s part of our Audience Marketing team. And the team’s goal is to really build a highly engaged following that falls in love with Thinkific and values are educational content for entrepreneurs and online education businesses. His role has allowed him to contribute to these programs on a tactical level, in the execution level, but also as a strategy owner and he aims to scale each one of our programs here at Thinkific as the number one destination for online education and community creators looking to start and grow their businesses with online education.

[00:02:11.850] – Daniela Ochoa
We’re also really excited to have Simon Dunant here with us today. Thank you so much for joining. And he has over 15 years of experience building online learn online Learning B2B academies, C,ustomer Education programs and Digital Training media production at leading companies like Engaging Networks, Eventbrite, Google and Oxford University. To say a couple, he’s helped customer success teams meet their goals around churn, client knowledge and digital support. So we’re really excited to have you here today and hear all of your expert knowledge and insights. So with that, let’s talk about return on investment of your customer education program. I want to start by chatting about one of the key reasons why businesses choose to invest in customer education usually, and that is to improve customer success and retention. So I’ll start by asking you this question first, maybe, Erin, from your experience, what do you believe are some strategies or tactics for nurturing customer success through customer education programs?

[00:03:17.470] – Aaron Morin
All right. Thanks, Danni. I really appreciate the warm intro there. And hi, everybody. We’ve got a full room here, which is really exciting. Let me know in the chat if there are any questions that come into as we’re talking today. I’m happy to take any questions, like Danny said, but yeah, so effective strategies or tactics here, it really kind of depends on where you’re at in your customer education journey at your organization. So for people who are just getting started with customer education at their organization, or maybe you have some knowledge base articles, maybe you have a help center, support customer success managers, they’re doing everything high touch, one to one over email, that kind of thing. And you want to start scaling out some knowledge across all of your channels for customers to access. I highly recommend thinking strategically from the beginning about how you can translate any kind of engagement or uptake in that customer education to your ROI. I think that a lot of people get started with just trying to help make things efficient, and that’s really good. So you can go to your support agents and say, what are the biggest problems?

[00:04:30.710] – Aaron Morin
Let’s build out some content for those biggest problems. But it’s very important to think about that in the context of your overall strategy. And so I highly recommend, if you haven’t already, to go and explore. I use pirate metrics, so it’s AAR, and that’ll be sorry, AAR, and that’ll be awareness, acquisition, activation, revenue retention, and referral. And it’s very important to think about customer education across all of these stages of the customer lifecycle. But the best thing that you can do if you’re just getting started is to focus in on that space of the customer lifecycle around when someone either starts to pay you or starts using your product because you’re going to get the biggest bang for your buck there. So typically that’s onboarding, customer onboarding, that could also look like creating some training to help incentivizing people to start paying you. If you’re on a freemium model or if you’re on a B, two B model, your salespeople can start to include training as a part of deals to make it a little bit more valuable. That’s where you want to get started as a strategy, and then you start to radiate out from there.

[00:05:50.820] – Aaron Morin
So AAR, you want to start in the middle of that and then radiate outwards towards retention or potentially towards acquisition, using your customer education as a lead magnet, for example, or using your customer education in programs that are designed to save customers from churning. But if you focus on the onboarding space in the beginning, I think you’re off to a good start.

[00:06:17.190] – Daniela Ochoa
Thank you for that really insightful answer, Erin, and that’s something that I keep hearing or coming back to. When it comes to customer education, starting with Onboarding is a really easy step to take because it’s usually where customers first start encountering issues with your product or service as well. It’s like their first experience with your brand or your business. So it’s super important to make that the best experience as possible. Simon I was wondering if you have any thoughts around this question that you’d like to share, or perhaps we would like to move on to our next ones.

[00:06:49.490] – Simon Dunant
Yeah, no, I agree with Aaron about the onboarding. I mean, onboarding is usually a heavy lift, and I think it’s kind of very assistive in the onboarding process because your support team, specifically, and very much account managers, if you have some high touch points there, it’s like their time is very valuable digging into client customer specific issues or topics. And what you find is and certainly with the clients I work with, you find that basically it takes a huge amount of time by kind of systemizing some of those repetitive things that take up so much time of an account manager or support team. Putting those into an academy just gives so much time back, and it means that the relationship with the customer and the client really is that much better. And it can free up as much as 40 50% of the time that account managers and support teams spend with new clients in the onboarding phase. And also means that the customers are kind of very committed because they have some homework to do, right? So they can come back and report that to account managers and support teams. So there’s a lot going on there, but it’s really powerful for Onboarding, for sure.

[00:08:15.150] – Simon Dunant
In terms of how I’ve seen customer education directly impact things like customer retention rates, I work and have done so with for the last six years with Engaging networks. They’re a Thinkific Plus customer, and they actually have three academies in their Thinkific Plus package. One is for clients, one is for partners. They train partners as well. And in fact, they extended it to have their internal staff academy as well, to train internal people as well. So they’re really making great use of the Thinkific Plus platform now. Their retention rates have always been quite high because it’s a private business. I think it was about 94% back in 2018, and they kind of wanted to keep that really high and obviously not lose customers over a period of time and give them the best experience. So as the business kind of grew and scaled over the last couple of years, they took on Thinkific to basically kind of support all of that. And it really has been a vital assistive resource for account managers and support sales and all the internal staff, as I said. And they set out with a real kind of mission, commitment and determination to really focus on helping clients succeed.

[00:09:38.390] – Simon Dunant
That was their kind of North Star so when they invested in a customer education academy. We started off small with some experimentation six years ago. And in the last two years since moving on to Thinkific Plus, engaging Networks has moved from a few hundred learners to 3000 plus students. It has 15,000 enrollments across all three academies, has about 50 plus training courses on the products that Engaging Networks provides. Engaging Networks is a private company that provides nonprofits with fundraising and advocacy tools to help nonprofits raise funds for some amazing charities and nonprofits right across the world. And as I said, they use it for their client, their partner academies. And it’s kind of part of a learning universe. They still have their help centers, they still have their support staff. It’s not a replacement for that, but it’s a huge kind of piece of the customer education puzzle that really underpins the whole kind of learning universe. And the goal really is to turn customers into experts. And also, as I mentioned briefly, that touched on with partners as well, you’re looking to potentially turn partner agencies into accredited, trusted service providers who can actually extend the help to clients, which is exactly what Engaging Networks has done over the last couple of years.

[00:11:09.050] – Simon Dunant
And really it builds up this ecosphere of really good relationships and product knowledge right across the board. And what you’re doing is you’re investing in the customer’s skill set, you’re showing them how to achieve their goals and with courses that can be done step by step at their own pace. And like I said, one of the biggest areas that we’ve seen it really help with is through the heavy lifting of the onboarding stages I mentioned, especially if you’ve got a large client coming on board and you need to upskill them in your product really quickly at scale. So if you’re taking on a company that has 5100, 200, maybe even more staff that will need to learn your product quickly, it’s very difficult for people to actually dive in and get people started and get them orientated. And certainly difficult to put them all in a room if you’re doing in classroom training, which I know a lot of people do as well. And the feedback that I’ve seen from those academies are things like it gets the new team members up to speed, it’s a great introduction to the product, there’s clear walkthroughs and instructions, it’s structured really well, provides comprehensive training on the platform.

[00:12:24.220] – Simon Dunant
This is all fantastic feedback that you want to hear from customers that are starting to use your product. I think Thinkific Plus has been a massive improvement to helping get that retention rate up to now 97%, which is phenomenal. And hopefully we can just continue to improve that even though we’re at the top end of the scale of that. But I think the key thing overarching is that it’s built confidence in the customers using the product. Customers feel empowered to reach their goals. And also, more importantly, customers actually feel invested in by your company. If you’ve got a customer education academy when they’re starting out right through their journey with a product, it feels like you’re actually doing something and you care about the customer and you’re actively thinking about the customer’s next step. And I can’t really emphasize enough how that makes the customer feel, which is a massive bonus for your business.

[00:13:26.610] – Daniela Ochoa
That’s great. And I really like that idea that you’ve brought forward of building a learning universe that can help your customers become experts in your product or service and how it’s about really building an ecosystem that they can live in or just encounter that builds their knowledge across the board and really helps them find success. I really like that learning universe term. So, bringing on to our next question, and I think you touched on this very deeply as well with Engaging Networks and the work you’ve done with them as well and how customer education can impact retention with businesses and examples that you’ve seen. So maybe I’ll let Aaron jump in here as well if he has any examples that come to mind. But I think that what you mentioned with Engaging Networks is great example as well, how they’ve been able to improve their retention across the board through partner programs, also improving their employees knowledge and their teams as well. But I’m wondering if you have anything you’d like to add or if we want to move on to another question.

[00:14:25.670] – Aaron Morin
Yeah, I can add a couple of things here. We have some really cool case studies on our website that you can check out. And one of them is an oldie but a goldie, but we got started a long time ago, in 2016 actually, before that working with Hootsuite and Hootsuite Academy. And they’ve taken their education. They were kind of like a role model for a lot of people out there. And I think they did exactly what you said, Simon, which is they took their education material and they kept iterating it and doing an incredible job at marketing it towards marketers so that they can feel very satisfied and accomplished with a certificate. And that certification got turned around to be a kind of badge of honor or an entry badge into the Hootsuite marketplace for service providers as well. So they got a lot of mileage out of their product training and they moved on to other training like best practices and industry education, which further built their reputation up and of course hit all of the customer retention metrics that they wanted to hit. Another one that comes to mind is later did what I said earlier, which is they really attacked the onboarding issues that they had with their customers and they were dealing with creators, so they had to make it really fun and exciting.

[00:15:59.150] – Aaron Morin
So their video series is nice and short, sweet, and help them reduce churn by a ton by basically getting people set on the right foot right away. And both of those examples I love using just because we’ve learned a lot from them too, in our experience with customer education.

[00:16:16.710] – Daniela Ochoa
Yeah, those are really good examples. And I really like how Hootsuite started with using it as lead generation as well, and has also used it for not just like lead generation, but also helping their customers expand through their online courses and even now they can get certificates as social media managers. That is pretty impressive, and it does help build brand loyalty as well, and for later, too. A really interesting point of their story is how they took existing materials they already had. So maybe you don’t have to start from scratch to build your customer education program or your first one. Maybe you already have existing content that can help you build your first course. Moving on to our next question, and I’ll direct this maybe to you, Erin, first. How do you think, specifically, since you’ve had a long time here, building customer education initiatives and programs here at Thinkific, what are some ways that perhaps you’ve measured the ROI of these initiatives in the past? And do you have any specific metrics or methodologies that you would recommend to those joining us today that they track or just keep an eye out for in order to prove their return on investment?

[00:17:29.150] – Aaron Morin
Yeah, for sure. I mean, we could probably spend an entire hour here for sure. But I kind of thought about this beforehand, and there’s a million metrics that you can be tracking out there and having conversations with customer education professionals. I think that it’s very important. It’s like baseline a must, a requirement that you measure things that show engagement levels in your courses or in your programs, or completion rates or quiz scores, those kinds of things. But that doesn’t directly translate to a return on investment for your CEO or for your CFO. So when you are advocating for your programs internally at your company, it’s incredibly important to show the kind of knock on effects of engagement in your programs. And not a lot of people have the ability to do that because they might not have a data team or a data analyst to work with. They might be missing some of the tool set required to do that, or the skills, if you can’t hire a data analyst or somebody on your team can’t take a look on that. So those are some of the blockers to look out for when it comes to showing ROI and finding some of the metrics that I’m going to talk about here.

[00:18:49.840] – Aaron Morin
But I think a lot of you might be familiar with this framework. It’s called Kirkpatrick. So it’s the Kirkpatrick evaluation model, and it looks like a pyramid. You can Google image search it and it’s just quite useful. In general for education. I don’t think it was built for customer success, but it’s definitely been used to report on customer success initiatives. And in a nutshell, what it measures is five levels of metrics, with the last, the 6th one often being added on later, which is just ROI hard. What is the cost? What did we make? Was it worth it? And so I won’t spend too much time on that because you get that. But through the levels, it’s important to know that the first two levels, attendance and reaction, are the levels that people tend to over index on, which is, did people show up? Did they engage? How long were they in? Did they like the course? Or did they like the webinar? What’s their NPS? Those kinds of things. And those are incredibly important, like I said to iterate, and develop your programs with. But to go farther than that, and to start measuring things like learning with quiz, scores, assignments, surveys, those kinds of things, incredibly important to show that it’s having some self reported or skill assessment impact.

[00:20:15.990] – Aaron Morin
The fourth and the fifth level of Kirkpatrick are harder to measure for those blockers that I mentioned earlier, but are super, super important to connect the dots between your engagement and your customer satisfaction with your education experiences and ROI. They’re the missing path there. And those two levels are called behavior and results. And so behavior, if you’re working in SaaS software as a service, or if you’re providing any kind of digital product, typically the nice things about working in that space is that you have the ability as an organization to review customer activity in your app. So what you want to do is for every single education experience you have, you want to say, what kind of product activity am I going to affect with this? And then you use tools like Mixpanel, for example, which is a great analytics tool if you haven’t used it to watch those activities and then to connect it further. You want to hopefully understand which product activities are driving the most value for customers, which leads to retention and people upgrading their plans or paying you more down the line. And so you want to say, okay, in Thinkific case, our customers sell courses, so we want people to sell more courses, of course but what leads to that right?

[00:21:38.780] – Aaron Morin
So we watch on the behavior level, we watch how many people are going in and creating their sales pages successfully, or how many people are going to hook their checkout up and how many checkout starts and successes come out of this educational experience. And so we can tie that activity towards course sales. So in your experience, it might look completely different, but you get the gist of it, hopefully. And then from there, you can say, okay, these people are making more money on our platform in Thinkific’s case. So they’re more likely to stay from a logical decision basis where they’re making money than they can pay and they don’t cancel their plans. So in your case, it kind of has to look similar. Whatever your value is in your service, you have to watch to see how these education programs are affecting it. And there are some biases here for sure. So some of the things that we’ve identified in the past is that people who take courses or people who show up on webinars like this tend to just do better. They’re keen to do better. And so there’s a bit of an intent bias in that.

[00:22:50.310] – Aaron Morin
So if you have the volume of customers, an A B test is a wonderful way to show some causation instead of correlation. But don’t discount the correlation either. It’s very important to show the impact of your education here. And then, like I said before, the 6th level of that model is ROI where you say, we drove this many sales, so that should impact churn in this way. The estimated benefit of that is reduced churn by however many percent and then that will equal more revenue in the month or in the pay period that you work in. And then you can take the cost from the program. And the beautiful thing about education, online education, is that you set it up once and you should be able to see the benefits from that for a very long time. Typically, you don’t have to go back and update things too often or you want to design it in that way to reduce cost.

[00:23:48.330] – Daniela Ochoa
That’s a great answer and you gave so many actionable takeaways from there. But I really like what you mentioned about finding out what activities really are indicating the success of your customers and making sure that you have that very clear in your mind so that you’re able to track that and also measure your metrics and your goals against that and that success that you’re trying to help your customers achieve. Go ahead.

[00:24:14.140] – Aaron Morin
Sorry, I was just going to say I think it’s very lucky that if you’re working in a technology business like a SaaS company, it’s incredibly lucky as an educator, you get to actually see the impact of the education. You can track it with numbers and typically in traditional education spaces, you kind of just have to rely on test scores to show some kind of impact and the long lasting impact you’ll never see. So we’re in a very awesome position to be able to see that kind of impact. I think it’s really cool.

[00:24:42.170] – Daniela Ochoa
I love that. And I think tracking engagement in your courses is something that you can also do inside thinkific, and it’s a great tool that you can leverage to just see the impact of your courses and how everyone’s engaging with them. Would you like to chat about this further, Simon, or should we move on to a different question?

[00:25:00.930] – Simon Dunant
Yeah echo everything that Erin said. There just a couple of Think. You know, on the behavior side, that’s one of the reasons that I get so excited is you can see that you actually move the needle on the business by what you do in the customer education academy. And like Aaron said, there are some data that you need to kind of match up. I know a lot of SaaS platforms use something called Churn Zero. That’s certainly something that people I’ve worked with have started using. And it’s incredibly easy to get at the data in Thinkific, and you can even pull that out into a CSV file, upload it into a simple spreadsheet, and do some pivot tables. Before, I’ve used Google Data Studio, which I think is now called Looker, to build some dashboards from a Google spreadsheet, just literally from an export from Thinkific, and you put a couple of filters in there. You can filter it down by client. You can see how well particular clients are doing, and then you can kind of integrate that. And this is very much the Holy Grail. You can integrate that in perhaps with a report from an export of product usage from something like Churn Zero or Mixpanel or whatever in product tracking you’re using.

[00:26:19.020] – Simon Dunant
And then you can kind of correlate that, and you can see where people might be undertrained or whereby you might need to put some slight kind of prompts in and maybe interject with some humans. Or you can actually as well find out ambassadors, which I think is important if you’ve got highly trained users, they are also people who can go out and champion your product, potentially. And you might discover that as well. But it doesn’t have to be really data heavy. You can get started with literally just spreadsheets, really.

[00:26:51.170] – Daniela Ochoa
Thank you. And those are very actionable tips as well for Thinkific. Oh, go ahead, Simon.

[00:26:56.310] – Simon Dunant
Yeah. No, I was just going to say if you’re looking at some kind of success stories on some of the impacts on how customer education is really instrumental in kind of moving the needle, some of the things that come to mind for me, really, are things like if you’re releasing a new product, customers are usually excited to hear about that, learn about it, and if you’re releasing a new product, you want uptake quite quickly so that people are really excited about it as you’re releasing it. Traditionally, webinars documentation, that’s great, that’s part of your learning. But when it’s new, these webinars and kind of documentation, they’re not guided that. They’re sometimes hard to find after the fact on an ongoing basis. So adding courses to your academy on product releases gives kind of a clear destination to where people can learn about this after a webinar, for example. So that’s important. And for current products that you might have, then this whole thing about moving the needle, you can really see in terms of time reduction that your staff are spending with people, you can show people the possibilities behind the scenes. Effectively, they’re getting a sneak peek to something that they might not have yet purchased, and then you can go on to see if they’ve actually gone on to use that and then make some correlations from your in product.

[00:28:29.970] – Simon Dunant
Tracking as that’s that I really love that part about being able to see the impact that you make, because, as Aaron said, you don’t always get to do that in other areas of online learning, whether that’s HR based kind of employee training or, as you say, academia, you don’t always get to see that end to end journey. But I’ve seen people move over the two years if they stayed at a company and they’re learning a product, you can actually see them grow in the data, which is amazing because that’s why I got into this whole business was to help people grow. And it’s amazing to see digital products allowing you to do that.

[00:29:11.890] – Daniela Ochoa
Yeah, that’s wonderful. And that’s really good advice in terms of how you can directly measure the impact of your education initiative with a product launch by aligning it with the launch of a product or something that you want to teach your customers about and then putting up an online course about that and directly tracking the engagement and the impact is very actionable as well. So with that, we’ll move on to our next question. And I would say you mentioned this in terms of how customer education can help drive adoption of products and services. And I’m curious to know a little bit more about from your experience, have you been seeing customer education help drive upsell and expansion opportunities for businesses beyond just adopting a product or learning how to use the basic functionality of it? I know that you mentioned you saw or you’ve seen from your experience, people in the same role over the years in the data, how you can see them grow with a product or a service. So I’m curious to know if you have any examples of how customer education can help that and it can help customers stick around for longer since they are achieving more success and maybe getting more opportunities.

[00:30:26.410] – Simon Dunant
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, going back to Engaging Networks, what I’ve seen is that back in the times of the Pandemic, when people were being laid off, they actually opened up their own agencies. And then because they’d used the Engaging networks product, they opened their agencies and started off actually serving clients of engager Networks and became an accredited partner through the partner program. So as an expansion of kind of driving upsell, once you’ve got customers actually trained, going back to this whole Ambassador champion thing as well, is that they feel empowered and they feel they’ve got this inbuilt skill because you’ve invested that time in training them. And as sales, I’ve seen ex employees of customers of Engaging Networks go off, set up their own agency, go. On to help other clients bring new business in and also obviously become kind of their own master of their own destiny, right? So after the pandemic, I personally spoke to people who were thinking, what’s my next career move? Got inspiration for creating their agency, realized that they had this massive skill and generated more business even though they didn’t work at the company anymore, which is amazing.

[00:31:49.280] – Simon Dunant
So, I mean, that’s one amazing route that I’ve seen for Upsell. But certainly I think it comes back to that whole thing that it’s finding out about what the value of the product is. And people who are using SaaS products or any kind of digital product, they’ve got reasons of why they’re doing it, they’ve got their goals and they are kind of sometimes focused very much on those goals and haven’t seen the possibilities of other things. And they don’t always want to sit through a demo of the product to see how it would fit. But they are curious and they will obviously go out to your YouTube channels, look for things like that. But to sit down and actually go through and have their questions answered in a structured step by step way means that when they get to the end of that course that they’re interested in about potentially a new part of the product, for example, they feel like they already know it and they’ve already kind of, like, experienced it. So it’s much less of a jump to suddenly think, okay, this really is something I need to recommend that we upgrade to because they feel like they’ve actually been involved in it.

[00:32:57.470] – Simon Dunant
So certainly for upsell, it’s amazing and certainly expanding into what you’ll find is that once you launch a successful customer education program and this is absolutely true, because I’ve seen experienced it firsthand once you launch a customer education program, even if it’s just for clients. And onboarding, you’ll find different parts of the business come out the woodwork and ask you, oh, could we use it for this? Could we put a couple of sales demos to kind of systemize and take out some of the heavy lifting there. So the business will come to you once you start seeing some momentum in that and you’ll start discovering a lot of different uses that you can put your customer education channel to and parts of business will start coming to you and asking if you can help. So be prepared for that.

[00:33:46.390] – Daniela Ochoa
Really like that point of how building a course or building an online learning program really allows you to avoid having just the scattering of information across all of these different places. Because I’ve had that experience as well, like trying to learn a new platform and just clicking around different videos and links and articles and not feeling like maybe I had a full experience of how now I know the basics. So when you get over that initial hurdle and people know how to just fully use the basics of your product or service, it opens up so many more possibilities as well.

[00:34:18.470] – Simon Dunant
Yeah, and I think you’re building a destination here, a learning destination, and it sits alongside your help center. I would say kind of. There’s some pillars that you want to build in your customer success program online, and that is the help center is a quick get in, answer my question and get out. Your academy is where, okay, I’m going to go in and I’m going to really become an expert in this. And then you’ve got your live help for when you really need just immediate help or there’s some specific item for your particular client. So those are kind of the pillars. But really, if you make the destination your academy, then people feel kind of guided. And as you say, there’s a lot of fragmented items and many customers start out that way, right. They’ll start up a YouTube channel, they’ll start up some webinars, they’ll put up a blog, and that’s great. But what you need to do is kind of put it into some guided, coherent journey. And as you mentioned earlier, all of those things, if you’ve been doing them and they are kind of scattergunned across the web, it’s useful to kind of look at those because a lot of the work you might have already done and you can repurpose a lot of that for your academy when you get started.

[00:35:38.010] – Daniela Ochoa
Great. I just shared that little tip there. But I think it’s such an important takeaway like making your academy a destination so that your customers feel excited about their journey with your business and also feel guided and supported throughout it. Moving on to our next question, and I’ll direct this one to you, Erin. For people that might be joining us today and just starting their customer education journey, what are some tips that you would share with them to get started, maybe or some practical recommendations or best practices from your own experience building and scaling customer education programs?

[00:36:13.110] – Aaron Morin
Yeah, so we touched on a few things that I constantly say already, which is kind of like have a vision, build towards it. Build that universe that Simon was talking about over, you know, when you’re first getting started, it’s okay to start really small. I think that it’s common misstep to just go and start producing as much as possible and hoping it’s going to have some kind of effect. I think as customer education professionals, you want to avoid the appearance of your program as a cost center as much as possible, something that has to be scaled back when budgets become tight. You want to keep it a revenue producing you want to build it to be a revenue generating center in your business. And by starting really small and with that intention in mind, you can start to prioritize the activities that are going to drive business results and then capture those business results and show them. So I think a lot of people don’t toot their own horn enough. So if you’re just getting started and you are seeing some impact, especially on key business metrics, if you’re driving new revenue upsells, if you are reducing the time it takes for customer success managers by 50% or something, you have to capture that stuff and you have to put that in a slide deck and you have to show it at Town Hall.

[00:37:37.470] – Aaron Morin
You have to say these things. I think sometimes people are a little bit bashful about it and the same with your qualitative results as well. So I think Simon touched on this earlier about customer satisfaction and customer loyalty here. But it’s very important to not only look at the numbers and show that you’re driving efficiency and you’re driving revenue, but you want to look at survey results, you want to look at NPS scores for your programs, those kinds of things. And you want to capture, like, the sound bites, the quotes from customers, the testimonials specific to your programs. And you want to show that as well, not only internally, so that you can get more resourcing down the road. And your budget doesn’t get cut down the road, but also externally, you want to collect that information because you want to show other customers that this online course that yes, it’s an hour of your time. 2 hours of your time. It’s going to take a couple of weeks to finish, maybe it’s super worthwhile, right? So we teach that constantly to the people who use Thinkific to sell things on their own. We serve entrepreneurs and solopreneurs and small businesses too and we tell them all the time you have to show social proof, you have to show testimonials, you have to get people excited to take your products.

[00:38:54.170] – Aaron Morin
And another thing that Simon mentioned earlier was like people don’t want to sit through a demo. A lot of the there’s there’s an important distinction between what kind of content is really good for the sales moment and what kind of content is really good for after the sales moment and just understanding the nuances between the two is super important. So you don’t want to create a really boring dry demo that’s more acceptable after the sales moment. You want to make a really exciting experience for your customers or for your prospects to go through when they’re learning about your product or your service and that’s super important to understand the nuances between those things and get gifts for your data analyst or try to make some contacts there. Because we didn’t always have data analysts at Thinkific back in startup days and I had to do that work myself. I mentioned in the chat learning mixpanel myself was a chore. But it pays off, it really does pay off. And to work with data analysts and get their help with your work is incredibly important. So make sure that they’re always smiling when they see your face or they see your slack message.

[00:40:01.870] – Daniela Ochoa
That’s a really great tip and I think it’s so important and something I’m trying to work on myself as well. And I think what you mentioned as well, it’s really important to remember understanding the nuances between the content that your prospects or customers are going to see maybe before sale and after the sale, and the nuance there and even how you build your content is really important. So we have maybe one or two questions that we’ll quickly chat through before we head into the Q A portion of today’s session. I’ve seen a couple of questions come in which I’m excited to field to both of you. But if you have any questions that came up during our chat today or come up during the last few minutes of our Fireside chat here, please feel free to send them in the chat or send them once we get into the Q A portion and I’ll field them to both Erin and Simon. So I would love to know from your experience, Simon, what are some common challenges or roadblocks that you’ve seen personally that businesses face when trying to implement a customer education program? And maybe what are some tips that you’ve seen or some actionable takeaways that you’ve seen that people and teams in customer education use to overcome these challenges?

[00:41:11.180] – Daniela Ochoa
I know we mentioned at the beginning people usually get overwhelmed when they’re thinking of their first course. So one strategy to overcome that obstacle is like starting with onboarding. But I’m curious to know what you’ve seen from your experience.

[00:41:26.650] – Simon Dunant
Yeah, no, absolutely. As Aaron said, just start with your single onboarding course. At Engaging Networks, when I started working with them, they literally had zero content and we started with an academy with just one course. That’s all it took. The old adage, it all starts with the first step. Right? And you can use that to kind of iterate and find out what works, what doesn’t work, and then take those learnings forward. I think one of the key things that really drives overwhelm is it’s like, who’s going to be responsible for kind of launching an academy, right? So you’re going to put a tool in the hands of the Customer Success Team and it’s going to be great. But the business has got to commit to actually putting somebody in charge of it and taking responsibility. Otherwise what you find is, it’s a great idea and we want to do this, but then in practice, nobody has the bandwidth to actually put it into place. So it’s really important to actually have somebody have responsibility for this part of your business because it does take a little time to actually invest and get it started. Like anything, if you’re launching a rocket, it takes a lot of fuel to get it off the ground, but the benefits are immense.

[00:42:36.250] – Simon Dunant
We had men on the moon. It’s amazing. So we might even be eventually living on Mars. So things are really possible. But what you need to do is look into your business for somebody who’s a natural leader, somebody who, as Erin said, will promote the whole benefits that are coming back from the customer education Academy. And also try to find somebody who’s got like, a mix of skills, of maybe they have a media production background. I mean, one thing I constantly get asked is, like, how do I get into customer education from other professionals that I speak to? And there isn’t really a way. Everybody’s kind of landed here because they’ve been in a business, and it’s really kind of like they just landed there because there was a challenge in the business and it needed fixing. There’s no real formal path to customer education, and it feels very freeing, but the business has got to give kind of the bandwidth to somebody to really focus on this. And you don’t have to do it all yourself. You’ll actually soon find very quickly that once you get involved in setting up an academy, there are many parts of the business that can help with the input and the output of the academy.

[00:43:51.130] – Simon Dunant
And it’s something new that not every business has. So it’s growing so fast that people are kind of like, oh, they’re curious about what’s this new thing we’re doing here with custom education? So, yeah, I think that’s one of the biggest things is making sure that somebody takes responsibility for the academy and driving that. I think that’s one of the key factors of success. Even if it’s just one person, they have to multitask at the beginning. Once you start building, you’ll be able to maybe pull in some resources, have some kind of, like, people coming in, whether that’s interns or maybe some people in the business want to look at moving into that area and do a little bit of extra work. So I think that’s probably one of the biggest things about overwhelm is don’t just pile it onto somebody else who has already stretched. Make sure you give them some time to spend on this, especially when they’re first starting, for sure.

[00:44:48.440] – Daniela Ochoa
Yeah, that’s great. And having that long term vision and channel or strategy owner for that academy is always going to help the long term success as well.

[00:44:58.300] – Simon Dunant
Yeah, and one last thing I’d say on that is that using something like Thinkific with something like the bulk publishing tool that you have in Thinkific, it just makes it so easy and fast to actually get your content out once it’s produced. That’s why you can keep a lean team in the customer education team when you’re using tools like Thinkific as well. So that’s a big bonus.

[00:45:24.470] – Daniela Ochoa
Really like that point, like making use of the tools that you have also and how that can help you avoid overwhelm by just using a tool as well. And I’ll share a link for the bulk importer as well, in case people joining us are curious. So coming to the end of our Fireside chat today, I would really like to bring it around and circle around the topic of proving return on investment and showcasing that to your leadership team and the impact of your efforts and the success as well. So I’ll ask this question to Aaron first since we just heard some great actionable tips from you, Simon. But I’m curious to know if there’s any advice that you would want to give professionals that are wanting to build a strong case for business, strong business case for investing in customer education with their leadership team and maybe some strategies that you’ve used in the past that have been helpful for you.

[00:46:15.050] – Aaron Morin
Yeah, for sure. I think it comes down to just clearly painting the picture of what is going to come from this. I think that we’ve already mentioned it before. I’ve talked to so many people in customer education and it’s very surprising to me how many people don’t know specifically what their education is doing in terms of revenue or in terms of reductions to cost, which are the most important things. So what I mentioned earlier about the Kirkpatrick model, what I’ve done in the past, just to communicate that very simply, is kind of breaking it down and saying, if we get this many people into the course and they complete at this rate. This is going to translate into what I think is going to be a big impact on their behavior in product on these specific product metrics. And those product metrics will drive these lagging indicators of overall customer success. I think it’s also important to keep track of that with your customer success managers who can provide that information for you too, if you don’t have access to that kind of information. But yeah, you just need to paint that picture and be as accurate as possible.

[00:47:29.020] – Aaron Morin
And it’s okay sometimes to say, this is my best estimate. It doesn’t have to be perfect here either. You just have to say, this is my best estimate, and this is why I think it should be a huge priority at our company. And then you have to consider the fact that your decision makers are going to have to weigh this option against other options coming from different parts of your business. So it’s very hard to get things started when you have no baseline evidence, which is why I say you should really just start small. If you’re just getting started, start with the basics. Product education is a baseline. You want to focus on onboarding product education, not the whole app, not everything under the sun that could possibly happen in your app, just the things that get your customer to value faster, essentially. And that should be a bit of an easier ask to make than a giant universe, which you’ll get to. And it’s important to have a vision and sell the vision, but start small. Start small and most impactful, lowest hanging fruit. Very important.

[00:48:36.790] – Daniela Ochoa
That’s great advice and I always hear that advice as well, like start small, launch and then learn from your first launch and iterate towards your ultimate goal over time. Go ahead.

[00:48:49.720] – Aaron Morin
Sorry, I just have one more thing to say there. Of course, the other advice that I wanted to give earlier that I missed was that it’s incredibly, incredibly important to talk to customers as well. So you can talk to your customer success managers, you can talk to your support agents, you can talk to product managers, anybody who’s secondary sources, but try to get primary sources, especially when you are thinking about creating your education. Because another thing that really helps with these proposals to build a business case is straight from the horse’s mouth. Somebody saying I want this. I am a customer and I want this. That’s going to help you immensely. Don’t just focus on just the numbers.

[00:49:31.990] – Daniela Ochoa
That’s great. And showing that to your leadership that your customers are actually asking for. This is always incredibly impactful. And I’ll direct this question a little bit to you Simon, as well, since I know you have a lot of experience with proving as well and building a strong case for investing in customer education. So I’m curious to know if you have any insights to share here.

[00:49:52.430] – Simon Dunant
As mean, I just I second everything that Erin says really is you’re focusing on your customer and their journey and, you’re know, have the vision of the individual who’s sitting down to actually use your product. What’s going to get them to their goal? How can you sit beside them and walk them through that journey at every single stage? And that’s the beauty of guided learning and courses, is that you can build micro learning, small chunks that they can consume within a lunch hour or a coffee break where they just upskill and come back to their desk or wherever they’re working and do their job a little bit better incrementally day by day. And if you achieve that and you can focus on that goal, then you’re guaranteed to win.

[00:50:41.950] – Daniela Ochoa
Thank you so much for both of your insights here. I’ll head into our Q A portion of today’s session and with that we’re coming to the end of our conversational, part of our time together today, but we really want to make sure that we get all of your questions answered. So if you have any blockers or any questions that came up during our chat today, feel free to send them in the chat. But I’ll start with one that we had come in from Tyler earlier and Tyler asked, could you please do a recap or an overview of the main metrics that you would recommend tracking and presenting internally to help justify investment in customer education programs? I know Erin, that you mentioned on the pirate metrics, they are metrics. But I’m curious to hear both of your thoughts here.

[00:51:28.430] – Aaron Morin
Yeah do you want to go Simon?

[00:51:30.990] – Simon Dunant
Yeah. Basically you’re looking at obviously, initially you’ll probably start with quantitative metrics, but as Aaron said earlier, you very quickly need to get into qualitative metrics as well. And in fact, before you even begin, you need to be looking at how much time is being used inconsistently within the business, just taking away the heavy lifting of the repetitive training onboarding, taking people away from these huge time sucks of zoom calls. And in classroom training, there’s a place for that, but it should be used wisely. So if you’ve got things that can be homework for customers, then use that time wisely. And I think that’s a big metric and it’s actually a hidden metric because there’s a cost to that in the business. Right. You’re using your most valuable staff to do some of the most simplest things, right? So what could those valuable staff be doing more valuable work with, and what can your academy start? Taking that heavy lifting off? That’s what I would probably say is key.

[00:52:42.210] – Aaron Morin
Yeah, I would agree with that. There’s two sides to ROI. It’s cost and revenue. Right. So paying attention to that cost part and reducing it as much as possible for other departments is incredibly important when you are collecting the different types of metrics to present internally. The quick overview of the model that I gave earlier, I would definitely pay attention to the baseline metrics. So if you look at Kirkpatrick levels one, two, and three, which is attendance, basically, did anyone show up? Are they attending, are they engaging? Are students actually entering courses if you have enrolled them? I like to look at has a student viewed any lesson in the course yet versus the students who have not viewed any lessons whatsoever? And then you divide those numbers to get a kind of activation rate for how many of your customers are actually checking this stuff out. Those will tell you operationally if things are working on your end, but then you start to get into value metrics down the line. So operationally, you still see things like completion rates, progress rates, quiz scores, survey completion rates. I consider NPS or customer satisfaction surveys as operational as well.

[00:54:01.170] – Aaron Morin
It helps you do your job better. And then you get into value metrics down the line on Kirkpatrick, which is behavior. So key product activity that has been changed from when somebody wasn’t educated or trained to when they were trained. What kind of impact are you making there? And then the results on level five, which is what did this do for our business, essentially? And that can vary wildly, but tying it back to new money in expansion, money coming in, reactivations. So if somebody is churn and they come back after a training that you did, that’s awesome. Obviously you want to take a look at churn and retention. I find that that can be harder to say that you had a causal effect on just because there’s so many other things going on there for sure. But if you can link it back to some product activity that has been identified by product leaders or your data team in the past as a driver for new business or expansion, then you’re solid. That is like the golden ticket to more budget and headcount and everything else that you want.

[00:55:08.050] – Daniela Ochoa
Yeah, it reminds me of what Simon mentioned as well, of knowing those key activities that prove success and linking that back to your efforts of what you’re doing. And you’re right, that is the golden ticket. Pretty undeniable. Thank you.

[00:55:24.630] – Simon Dunant
One other thing I’d add there is that if you’re selling a product to teams so, for example, if you’re selling a SaaS product and it’s an organization especially, and there’s a team of people, the group analyst feature in thinkific has been amazing to get somebody take responsibility for measuring metrics within teams and kind of championing that internally and making sure that the internal teams are able to kind of have a team leader that gets their team following up on product courses. So keeping an eye on how your champions are doing is also important because you kind of then acquire a group of people that are actually assisting you with all of this. So putting the metrics in the hands of the people as well at the organizations you serve is important too.

[00:56:16.710] – Daniela Ochoa
Yeah, I really like that point and I think that’s a great closing thought as well, putting those in the hands of the people that you serve as well and not just like yourself or your internal team, but getting that out there. With that, I don’t see any additional questions coming in through the chat, so we’ll begin wrapping up today’s chat. Thank you so much, Simon and Erin, for joining us today. I’m really appreciative of your time and your really insightful takeaways. So with that, I want to remind you of our key takeaways from today’s session. Customer education can be a key differentiator in your business success and your team has the ability to directly impact customer retention, customer success, and also to open up new expansion opportunities for your customers through the power of customer education and to gain additional support and resource. It’s really important to track and measure the return on investment of your efforts. So with that, I will say if you want to kickstart your customer education program and have dedicated one on one support as you launch fast and build a long term strategy for customer education for your business, feel free to book a free strategy call with the Thinkific Plus expert today to discover how we can help.


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