According to the American Marketing Association, the majority of companies say improving the customer experience is one of their top priorities, and 2014 research by the Temkin Group found that 90 percent of North American firms wanted to be “customer experience leaders” by 2017.
What role does training play in accomplishing these goals? A pretty large one. Training frontline employees in good customer service skills is one effective strategy. Ensuring that customers are well-trained is another. And integrating those two functions – customer service and customer training – is a more effective strategy than either in isolation.
Effective customer training can produce a higher return on investment than traditional marketing. Once the customer is on board, education can have a positive impact on customer loyalty and customer satisfaction. Effective customer service, meanwhile, improves revenue, customer loyalty and brand reputation, according to Zendesk research. But customer service and training go hand-in-hand and even feed each other, creating a positive customer experience that makes the company as a whole more successful.
To help customers accomplish this goal, last month, Skilljar announced a new Zendesk app to integrate customer service and customer training for Skilljar and Zendesk users. Customer service agents using both platforms will now be able to access Skilljar training while fulfilling support tickets on Zendesk. “Customer training data needs to be in places where other customer data is,” says Sandi Lin, CEO and co-founder of Skilljar. The company’s clients, she says, have said that one- to two-thirds of customer support contacts “are potentially addressable through training.”
When customer support and customer training teams collaborate, they can learn from each other. The training team can learn what problems customers are having most often and use that information to improve the training they offer. Customer support agents, meanwhile, “can learn from training how to help the customer in a more proactive and scalable way” by not just answering a question but also recommending additional resources.
Brandon Gort, head of customer success for Northpass, calls good customer support a “white-glove concierge service,” where resources are always available. Technology can help; by automating certain processes or, in the case of Skilljar, putting data from multiple sources into one place, it can speed up processes and give customer service reps the ability to provide more complete support.
“Acquiring a new customer,” according to Harvard Business Review contributing editor Amy Gallo, “is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.” She cites research by Frederick Reichheld that found that increasing customer retention by 5 percent increases profits by anywhere from 25 to 95 percent. Making sure your customers are engaged and happy with your product is critical to the bottom line. In short, their success means your success.
The phrase “customer success,” according to Barry Kelly, CEO of Thought Industries, “mirrors the shifting approach of many training and talent development teams,” which are now collaborating with marketing, support and product teams “to drive initiatives that improve customer satisfaction, retention, and lifetime value.” He writes that training content is now “a core pillar” of customer success, and that when it comes to using technology for this training, looking outside traditional learning management system vendors will be important.
“There’s a huge upswell in interest in customer experience,” says Lin. Organizations are now looking at customer experience as an investment, not a cost. That’s because “all the money spent in marketing and sales is going down the drain if you’re not keeping and retaining your customers on a repeat basis.” Lin says as a result of this trend, we’ll see more investments in proactive training and certification as well as data management and analysis.
Gort agrees: “People are finally realizing that customer success has a huge impact on business.” Whether you integrate your platforms using an app like Zendesk’s, or you simply develop strategies to help customer success and customer education teams work better together, it’s now more important than ever to make sure your company is not only acquiring but retaining customers by engaging and training them for success.
“Sometimes companies think customer support can be a substitute for training,” says Lin, but “there’s absolutely a place for both worlds. Training is the proactive strategy, and support is the reactive strategy.”