How to deliver value with customer education?

In episode #14 of New things in Customer Education, Alex Farmer and Rishabh discuss the importance of having an academy for your SaaS, the benefits, and the advantages.
What are some of the current challenges in the Cognite Academy?
We do an academy. It’s somewhat of an induction type thing. It’s a 2-3 day course. We’re just launching certification programmes for our customers as well. The challenge with us is that we have a data platform that we sell, it’s our core product called Cognitive Data Fusion.

A lot of our customers prefer to work with our services team to build end solutions on top of Cognitive Data Fusion. So we have these two user communities, one, those who build solutions on our product and then two, solution consumers, those who use the end solutions that have been built.

These 2 communities will have two distinct learning needs. And for that, we have an academy in person or video instructor-led training. For the solution builders, we also have a community.

It is a customer community where customers can engage with other customers at the dock site with a bunch of other collateral. I think the challenge that we’ve found is the adoption of the actual training content because there’s so many different formats, different platforms, disparate sources of education that actually finding a curated way to take all the great stuff that our team has built and package that up to the user is something that we are continuously investing in, to improve.
For a lot of tech companies the development team brings in products much ahead in time of training content.

So sometimes the content becomes outdated after a couple of quarters, does that happen to you a lot?
So it’s a slightly adjacent challenge to the one that you mentioned, we actually have a bunch of different engineering teams dedicated to different parts of the product.

It is a very fast and powerful product with different kinds of areas and modules. We have engineering teams that will produce phenomenal innovation in our product. However, contextualizing that release with the overall kind of documentation stack is the challenge.

For example, a charts module is to be added which allows people to visualise data in a new way, but it actually plugs into these other modules that are separately owned by different engineering teams, which means that it’s not keeping it fresh but I guess in some ways keeping it interwoven.

Because our customers don’t see the two engineering teams but see a product that they can click between multiple things. So making sure that the content is user-centric in a way that unifies the education requirements across the internally divided modules is really important.
You remind me of one of our clients, Many Chat; They had their agency and another marketer. They had the same problem and they wanted to show something separately to this consumer.

Their content became irrelevant after one-quarter right because they keep on creating new features, new modules. What’s the hardest part that you struggle with, some other obstacles?
I think we are continuously innovating our product. We are a scale-up organisation and solve industrial problems that are unique for each customer. So here’s the product and it has some unique needs as per customer situation, there’s some configuration and sometimes customization is required.

Right, I think the training challenge that we have is delivering content that’s relevant enough. It applies regardless of the uniqueness of the customer’s situation. There’s content across unique user groups as mentioned.

There are a few other user personas that we also engage with. Our customers really are unique. We work with customers in the heavy asset industries but that specifically is oil and gas, power, utilities and manufacturing. And while they still use our product in an agnostic way, the solutions they are consuming are very specific to their industry vertical.

There are so many different ways to slice and dice how you package the content. Given the solution and the market that we operate in, that’s quite challenging.

Another thing that I find unique about Cognitive is that we are unlike most start-ups in the way that we have much more content and challenging packaging as mentioned before. There’s not enough content or training out there although it may be very well packaged. We’re really pushing customers to go and use it but there’s not enough depth. I think of Cognitive, it’s quite the opposite.

We have a lot of depth, it’s about applying the right depth to the right customer situation given all of those different ways to slice and dice our customer, our market.
For small to mid-size SaaS what will be your advice like top 2-3 things by which they can cut down customer churn?
Well, I think it’s interesting to answer your question since we are connected to customer training and education. Customer Success is about adoption and a lot of things. Adoption is a major area that you focus on in a customer success organisation to prevent churn.

If you use the product and get the value of it then you will want to renew it, but you have to use it first. So adoption is something that we are very familiar with in our customer success lexicon. The challenge is when we roll out things like customer education videos or webinars.

We struggle to drive the right adoption. So the thing that we do with our customers to adopt our product is customer training and customer education. I can have the best documentation in the world but the customer is going to log a support case instead of going and reading the documentation. I’m not necessarily driving adoption and training.

The best place for customers to go when they have a question in the documentation is the training video. They ask the CSM as support and we’re not applying the adoption playbook that we really should be.

So that’s one thing to focus more on. Adopting one too many types of content by getting customers to adopt any one which they prefer. The other thing is getting focused more on customer value to prevent churn.

I think “value” is a word that we put on a pedestal but ultimately it’s becoming real clear that even if you’re a super high touch digital tech organisation or you don’t have a high touch model, it doesn’t really matter.

When the customer is buying the software on your website, instead of just asking for their credit card details you can ask them to type two sentences about what they’re trying to achieve with the product because the next time you speak to them post-sale then you can use that value-centric context to say, “Hey, you’re trying to achieve this, here’s some training that I want you to look at.” Or “Here’s some here’s a customer success webinar that is relevant to your use case.”

You’re going to have more than two sentences and you could probably sit down with the customer for an hour and talk about it. Connecting all of the ones to many pieces of content that I just mentioned to the customer’s overall value case or desired outcomes is really important as well as to the one to one goal of the customer.
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