A Holistic Perspective on Customer Education

A Holistic Perspective on Customer Education

“Education is best suited to solve a problem or realize a specific opportunity. So, if a desired outcome is to increase revenue, they will dig in deeper to see what specific behaviors would drive revenue at the organization, and then determine if education can impact those behaviors,” says Vicky Kennedy, Chief Strategy Officer, Intellum, in an exclusive interview with EnterpriseTalk.


ET Bureau: Why do you believe that customer education is not marketing?

Vicky Kennedy: While a strong customer education program can serve as a marketing tool if the emphasis is on quality education, I do strongly believe that customer education should not be developed as a marketing initiative. Education and marketing are distinctly different, leading to different results.

Marketing initiatives aim to drive an action among prospective or current customers, which involves appealing to the audience with content that intends to sway, convince, or hook them into taking the next step. Marketing is optimized for short-term action.

Education, on the other hand, is best suited to drive longer-term behavior changes by building knowledge, critical thought, and skill. This content should be objective, not sales-y, and not intended to convince. While you’ll still want to motivate your audience, a skilled instructional designer takes a different approach to this than a marketing content writer would.

ET Bureau: In a span of a year, how has customer demands changed, and how has it led to a data-driven customer education?

Vicky Kennedy: I think more customers want access to education and training regardless of their current tier. Meaning, customer training has historically been reserved or prioritized for top-tier clients, where others have been largely on their own to learn how to effectively use a company’s products and solutions. Now, there’s a lot more emphasis on and demand for self-paced training and education, certifications, and online learning in general.

So, that leaves organizations wondering how to demonstrate value in customer education. If they provide training opportunities that clients aren’t paying additional access for, how can they demonstrate business impact? That’s where data-driven education enters – building education to solve specific problems and measuring success using typical business metrics like revenue, spend, support costs, etc.

ET Bureau: What technology software and solutions are new and beneficial in the customer education category?

Vicky Kennedy: There have been a few great advances in the past few years, but one of my favorites is simulations. Some allow a customer to experience a simulation of really any graphical interface, where they’re prompted along the way in order to learn how to navigate a tool or situation. This is useful for all forms of education, but especially customer education which largely involves platform demonstrations and walk-throughs. Imagine never having to host another walk-through again because the software handles this at scale.

ET Bureau: How does corporate education help with increased revenue?

Vicky Kennedy: Education is best suited to solve a problem or realize a specific opportunity. Companies work with customers to understand the business objectives they want to achieve with education. So, if a desired outcome is to increase revenue, they will dig in deeper to see what specific behaviors would drive revenue at the organization, and then determine if education can impact those behaviors.

In other words, it’s not a simple and consistent formula that customer + education = revenue. For example, complexity is a key factor that drives product adoption, but if a product or solution is not very complex then education may not be the solution to drive product adoption. Instead, that may require informational marketing and other tactics to address factors such as product compatibility or observability.

On the other hand, if one can trace complexity as a driver for adoption, meaning one has determined that a product is complex enough that it requires instruction to fully adopt, then the company can build education that specifically targets that complexity and builds the needed competencies customers need to succeed.

Ultimately, education can help increase revenue if brands are clear on what factors impact revenue, what behaviors are required to address those factors, what competencies are needed to promote those behaviors, and whether education can drive those competencies.

ET Bureau: For a successful education strategy, what must brands prioritize and focus on?

Vicky Kennedy: Brands should think about education holistically. I feel like “holistic” is a current buzzword, but there’s no better way to think about it. Every stakeholder will need education on an organization’s products, services, processes, etc.

Generally, the needs across customers, partners, vendors, and internal stakeholders are not exclusive from each other, so you’ll typically see overlapping needs. It’s best for brands to step back and conduct an analysis of all the educational needs across all audiences, and do a goal mapping exercise to connect the goal to the audience to the competencies. They can then prioritize for a specific goal or audience, but they’ll avoid creating content in a silo that could otherwise be used for broader impact.

Throughout her 20 year career in the education and training industry, Vicky Kennedy has developed certifications for Amazon Advertising, technical training for publisher teams at Facebook, re-wrote curricula for bachelor programs at the Art Institutes, and taught courses on-campus and online for over 10 years. She’s currently the CSO for Intellum, where she leads the company’s strategic teams such as education and enablement, people and culture, and learning science.