Conquering the Challenges of Traditional Customer Education

The ‘right-now’ revolution is changing how we learn.

GUEST COLUMN | by Steve Cornwell


We live in a world where learning is always a click away.

Want to learn how to play the piano? There are dozens of apps for that. Trying to cook a meal for your family? There’s a video on YouTube from a celebrity chef. Need to become an effective negotiator? A MasterClass awaits.

The “right-now” revolution is changing how we learn. It’s also raising the bar for how you train your customers. Today and every day in the future, your customers will demand learning experiences that are effortless, fast, accessible, and relevant.

‘Today and every day in the future, your customers will demand learning experiences that are effortless, fast, accessible, and relevant.’

You can only do that with digital customer education.

Why It’s Time to Embrace Digital Customer Education

As a society, we believe we should be able to learn anything we want, whenever we want, wherever we want.

Now, customers expect this same level of access to education about the products they buy.

They’re thinking:

  • I learned to play piano with an app. Shouldn’t I be able to learn how to navigate my new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool while already using it?
  • One of Bobby Flay’s YouTube videos showed me how to cook a meal. Shouldn’t it be just as easy for me to learn about my Human Resources software?
  • I learned how to negotiate using MasterClass on my way to the airport. Shouldn’t I be able to learn about Marketing Technology in the same way? 

Traditional customer training methods fail to deliver this type of experience; they’re too slow, labor intensive, and contradict the way your customers want to learn. 

Plus, they’re placing a burden on customer-facing teams and creating operational inefficiencies.

Think about how much time your Customer Success Managers (CSM) spend training customers and how much that’s costing you. We often hear from Customer Success leaders that CSMs spend about 30% of their time training customers. If CSM compensation in the USA averages $90k, and you have 20 CSMs, and each spends 30% of their time working hand-in-hand with customers, your training expense is at least $540k annually.

Beyond that, traditional methods lack measurement, meaning your teams can’t get the insights needed to make strategic decisions and have valuable conversations with customers.

These methods are also hard to personalize, diminishing the content’s impact. Customer health and NPS will suffer. 

Changing the Game

Instead of waiting for an onboarding session with a CSM, customers receive a link to an onboarding course they can take instantly.

Instead of reading unstructured PDFs, customers can access high-quality, interactive content that’s actionable, enjoyable, and easy to retain—think quizzes, assessments, and certificates.

Now imagine the outcomes:

  • Your customers are more engaged with your product.
  • Your customers gain proficiency, impact their business more, and earn praise.
  • Your customers become motivated to achieve product mastery and share their successes.
  • Your CSMs have more time to focus on higher-order functions that enhance the customer experience.

These outcomes translate to lower support costs, better retention, more expansion opportunities, greater advocacy, and CSAT—and they’re only possible with digital customer education.

How to Embrace Digital Customer Education

Companies like HubSpot and Salesforce have been ushering digital customer education into the spotlight for years. It’s time for you to follow suit.

To embrace digital customer education, start looking at training from your customers’ POV instead of from a business or product perspective. Today, learning must be a central function of the customer experience and seen as an ongoing opportunity to engage them throughout their journey—before and after a sale.

You must also realize that learning data is a vital signal of customer health. But to do that, you’ll need an infrastructure that’s on-demand, automated, and measurable.

1. Measurement that takes the mystery out of content performance, which customers are engaging, and the opportunities for improvement.

It’s not enough to check the box that someone attended training or received an email. You must use quizzes and assignments to evaluate understanding, certificates of completion to reward proficiency, and learner data to track performance.

2. On-demand access that caters to customers’ “right-now” mentality and makes training accessible at the moment of need.

Digital academies enable customers to search and discover courses on any device, allowing them to embark on learning paths from one central destination. Meanwhile, embedded courses, i.e., learning takes place directly in your app or websites, ensures that your customers aren’t jumping tabs to access your content.

3. Automated processes that create efficiencies for Customer Success teams that allow them to do more with less. 

Ditch spreadsheets and manual processes by connecting your tech stack and put scale on autopilot. It’s time to use learner data and behaviors for automatic enrollments, communications, and more, while also using integrations to connect learning with your CRM, Customer Success, and Helpdesk platforms to trigger workflows automatically.   

What Every Company Will Need to Survive

Every company trains its customers. But not every company trains them in a way that meets their “right-now” mentality.

In 2023 and beyond, digital customer education will no longer be a “nice to have.” It’ll be a fundamental building block every company needs to survive, especially when the economic headwinds are causing extra challenges. 

Steve Cornwell is founder and CEO of Northpass, a leading Digital Customer Education platform. An experienced SaaS leader with 20 years of experience building and scaling software companies from the ground up, he has helped brands like Shopify, Freshworks, Pipedrive, and hundreds more transform their customer learning programs into world-class centers of excellence. 


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