Journeys come in all shapes and sizes. Some are short and easy, like a quick weekend getaway, while others are long and arduous, like a multi-week trip to parts unknown. The longer and more complex the journey, the more a plan or a roadmap, literally and figuratively, is needed to ensure success. Any journey starts with some basic questions: Where do I want to go? How am I going to get there? What do I want to see and do? What do I need to bring? A customer journey is no different than any other type of journey—it starts with some basic questions and is supported by a well-thought-out plan.
So, what does education services (ES) have to do with the customer journey? Everything. Think of ES as the tour guide, that person at the front of the pack describing what you’re seeing, answering all your questions, and shepherding you to the next destination. Just as a tour guide has a map, education organizations do too—a curriculum roadmap, which serves to guide customers through every stage of their product usage journey. Here are three stops along the customer journey where education services can play a critical role.
Part of any customer journey is adoption. Clearly, customers want to realize a return on their investment, and part of that return starts with using the product and using it to its fullest capability. TSIA defines three levels of adoption:
- Low adoption
- High adoption
- Effective adoption
Education and training helps customers to get started with using the product and continuously progresses learners, via the curriculum roadmap, to broaden their usage and knowledge of the product, throughout the customer journey.
I am often asked by TSIA members about the correlation between training and adoption. This was addressed in a recent TSIA Training/Adoption survey, in which 2,800 respondents answered three simple questions regarding training and its impact on low, high, and effective adoption.
The graph below shows the response percentages for each of the three survey questions. At 68%, 56%, and 87%, for use the product more, use more product features/functions and work more independently, respectively, it is clear that learners feel better equipped to use the product, post-training activity. If they feel better about using the product, indeed, they will use it more, thus driving-up adoption. While you can read survey details in my article, “Gauging Value: Answering the Training/Adoption Question,” here’s a quick snapshot of some of the results.
A key element of any journey is engagement. Sightseeing, going to a museum, having a meal at a sidewalk café, and talking with the locals. These are all ways for travelers to engage with their surroundings. It is also the essence of any journey—all those great experiences along the way. The customer journey is also about engagement and education services is in the best position to drive engagement. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I know I always say that ES is in the best position to drive adoption, but I believe it to be true, and the reason is because ES is a one-to-many model, while other service lines are not. Professional services (PS) is a one-to- few model, where a PS implementation team typically interfaces with a few designated people on the customer implementation team. Support services (SS) is a one-to-one model, where one agent typically talks to only one individual. In fact, the ultimate goal of support services is call deflection; the fewer people they talk to, the better. On the other hand, education organizations want to talk to and engage with everybody at the customer site. The more the merrier.
A great way to drive engagement is to “fill the white space”, that is to say, give customers lots of ways to engage with education services and the company. The diagram below shows an example of a high-level customer journey through various stages, such as planning, awareness, application, etc., and various education related activities that map to each stage. Notice that some activities are structured learning and some are not. As structured learning, whether in a physical or virtual classroom, onsite, or on-demand, has a distinct start and end-point, education organizations want to build-in activities that act as a bridge between the learning. That time between the learning is the white space that needs to be filled. The diagram identifies ways, other than structured learning, that ES organizations can engage with customers, such as chats, forums, blogs, whitepapers, collaboration opportunities, and so on.
Many of the engagement opportunities for customers are “social” in nature. One TSIA member has found that learners who are socially active consume 10 times more e-learning courses than learners who are not socially active. Another member who implemented badging, which has a number of social aspects to it, found that 87% of badge earners feel more engaged with ES/the company and are motivated to learn more. For more detail regarding the role of social activity in learning, please refer to the research article, “Digital Learning Strategy: What’s Yours?”
Any journey requires partnership, particularly when two or more people are traveling together. Getting agreement on where to go, how long to stay, what to see and do, requires collaboration and agreement, so that everyone can fully enjoy the journey. Partnership is also a key element in the customer journey. In a recent blog post, “How Customer Journey Mapping Improves the Customer Experience,” TSIA’s vice president of customer success research, Phil Nanus, stated the following:
As part of the customer journey, we usually see two bigger phases of customer success maturity. The first is when we observe a group of professionals working across a company on projects and initiatives that improve the customer’s experience, which we refer to as the ‘thematic’ view of customer success.
A group of professionals working across a company on projects is how I would classify the concept of “partnership.” A great way for ES to work across the company is to partner with other service lines, in fulfillment of a successful customer journey. Consider bundling education with a PS engagement, or adding education to a premium support contract, or creating a customer success package that includes multiple service lines in the offer.
One TSIA member who created a bundled offer with PS, which included implementation services and training, found that the joint offer resulted in a 66% reduction in project implementation time and a 51% reduction in cost. That’s pretty impressive, and it’s good news for both the company and the customer. With a shorter implementation cycle, professional services consultants can burn down any backlog more quickly, which is great news for those waiting in the queue. It’s also great news for the customer because not only are they up and running more quickly, they save a substantial sum of money as well.
In the Training/Adoption survey mentioned in #1, we provided a comment box. One of the most common comments we received was that product usage was negatively impacted because of a disconnect between the time training was taken and the product implementation was complete. The two could be separated by as much as 6 to 12 months. A few of the survey comments about the lag between training and product implementation are below:
- We had to take the training before the software was ready for us to use so I am still not using it and I forgot everything from training.
- We are now live. I barely remembered the training by the time we went live, which was 4 months after training.
- We were trained way before we were to use it, and then when it became time to use it, it looked nothing like it did in training.
- I was required to take the training 6 months before our implementation. I didn't remember anything, and it was a complete waste of time.
Clearly, statements like “I forgot everything from training” and “I barely remembered the training by the time we went live” impede adoption. So, do your customers a favor and partner with other service lines to enable the customer journey and make it as easy as possible.
All service lines have a role to play in the customer journey, but education is truly in a great position to do the following:
- Help drive-up product usage by leveraging a curriculum roadmap that progresses a learner from low, to high, to effective adoption.
- Help drive customer engagement by filling the white space.
- Help drive partnership with other service lines to better serve the customer.
So, when your company starts mapping out a customer’s journey, remember, education organizations have at least three stops on that journey: adoption, engagement, and partnership.