Many companies end their sales cycles with a purchase order, but then leave the ongoing relationship to a customer support team who functions only reactively, responding to incoming troubleshooting challenges.
Even those vendors who provide training as an initial phase of a product purchase or implementation are missing a crucial opportunity to solidify and lock in the customers via an ongoing, proactive customer success strategy.
The goal of this approach is customer enablement, empowering the customer with the knowledge to maximize product functionality, and the confidence to know that they have acquired a level of expertise to do so. The upshot of this accomplishment – ongoing engagement linking customer training to customer success –yields these tangible results:
- Justifying current – and future – investments – When your customer’s management team reviews the budget and human resources committed to a technology solution, it’s important that stakeholders can confirm that the product is being used. It sounds obvious, but in fact, studies show that over a fifth of enterprise software licenses aren’t actually being used. If you hope to receive orders for upgrades, new versions, and new products, the buyer needs to see it as a visible, essential, active part of day-to-day corporate workflows.
- Reducing the workload for Tech Support – It goes without saying that a well-trained customer will initiate fewer support calls. But there are two additional benefits here. First, there are always unexpected, unusual, unpredictable margin cases that neither your product team nor a customer has foreseen. Part of your customer education strategy should be to help customers feel that they can troubleshoot their own issues, or devise creative solutions on the fly. Second, an empowered employee will be more eager to help his own colleagues as problems arise, saving all the ping-pong communications with your Support team.
- Competition is always around the corner – A competitor battling to replace you as a vendor will do what military experts have always done: look for a hole in the wall, a chink in the armor. As part of their pitch, they will list features and functions that they claim you don’t have or don’t manage well. Unfortunately, your sales and marketing pros are not there to defend these claims, so you need to rely on customers themselves to push back and (we hope) explain that you do, in fact, have them covered. It only takes one stakeholder at a customer site to be “wowed” by competitor claims – a well-trained customer, by contrast, will show allegiance and have your back.
- Partners in Product Development – Any experienced product developer will tell you that the very best source for ideas on creating, improving, or replacing features is feedback from the field. Customers are the best source to provide real-world, practical feedback that will, inevitably, apply not only to them but to countless others. When you have educated a customer effectively, their success with your product means that they have the confidence to challenge, question, and recommend. But this unpaid-yet-productive “virtual product team” can only help when they feel that they, like you, are experts of every screen, every function, and every use case that may emerge. If your customer education strategy does not create this mindset, it’s a missed opportunity.