Your customers matter now more than ever before. This truth is absolute, in the otherwise chaotic new abnormal of COVID-19. In my conversations with customer education leaders and chief executive officers, and a recent survey of over 250 customer education professionals, I’ve learned that leading organizations are investing heavily in customer education as an effective means for engaging and retaining customers. Here are five ways we’re seeing customer education programs adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Opening Access to Education Programs for Broader Audiences
Many companies are removing fees to expand the reach of their education programs with new and existing audiences. Beyond driving customer engagement, this move is also helping generate goodwill, social impact and brand awareness during these challenging times.
For example, Moz, a marketing analytics software company, is offering courses on its training academy for free to help individuals develop or improve their search engine optimization (SEO) skill set. By helping new audiences upskill and reskill, companies like Moz are broadening the impact of their training programs.
2. Shifting In-person Training to Online Delivery
Given that it’s impossible to conduct in-person, on-site training right now, businesses are quickly transitioning to online delivery models to engage and educate their existing customers. For some companies, this shift means continuing to offer live, instructor-led training (ILT) via online webcasting tools. For others, it has prompted the creation of on-demand resources, such as presentation recordings, text-based resources and/or other prerecorded videos to serve their customers. Since it may be months before in-person training resumes, providing access to virtual resources is imperative for customer retention.
3. Keeping a Pulse on Changing Learner Needs
COVID-19 and the increase in remote work have meant big changes for learners. For some, it has meant learning to use new tools or new ways of using existing tools. For others, flexible schedules are giving them more time to learn. We’re also seeing a significant contingent of students who previously avoided online learning now happily engaging with digital content out of necessity. Customer educators are being proactive in seeking to understand changing learner needs through in-person interviews, virtual coffee hours and product usage analytics.
4. Speeding up the Development and Delivery of Content
Changing learner and business needs are prompting companies to create, launch and optimize content that quickly and conveniently delivers value. Instructors and content developers who previously had access to high-quality studios and equipment for content creation are now adapting to create content from home. This shift, along with the urgency of creating content that addresses current customer needs, is prompting companies to relax their quality bars.
In practice, this change means focusing on a minimum viable product (MVP) that is authentic and impactful, rather than developing perfect, flawless courses with high production value. Relatedly, in an effort to quickly create and distribute valuable content, companies are trying new formats, like video, to disseminate their messages and are working with new teams and individuals across the company to create this content.
5. Gaining Access to Shared Resources
Best-in-class customer education teams are intentional in sharing their impact and insights with the rest of the organization, which is also helping them gain access to resources that were previously unavailable. With priorities shifting across the business, some training teams are finding that designers now have the capacity to help with the creative side of content development. Others are finding that the travel budgets for training can be reallocated to equipment or software. Still others are finding that subject matter experts (SMEs) within the company now have the time, and the inclination, to help create content. Access to these resources is helping customer education teams become more agile in responding to customer and business needs.
We are living and working in trying times, but customer education professionals have never been in a better position to serve as a force multiplier for businesses looking to serve their customers. They may be hunkering down at home, but they are seizing the opportunity to do more, share more, and reach more people than ever before. Together, we can get through these challenging times by embracing a spirit of service and learning.