Leveraging Certification to Drive Adoption | TSIA

Leveraging Certification to Drive Adoption | TSIA

In today’s subscription-centric world, customer churn is like kryptonite. Even in small amounts, it is toxic to the business. It’s therefore not surprising that service organizations are looking for every lever they can pull to drive customer adoption of their solution as a means to help secure subscription renewals.

For example, customer success organizations are being put in place to ensure customers are properly onboarded onto the platform. Robust analytics capabilities are being developed that allow solution providers to see how widely and effectively users are adopting their technology. Professional services organizations are starting to develop new adoption services and change management offers whose goal is to improve user adoption.

Adoption Strategies for Education Services

How does education services (ES) play into an effective customer adoption strategy? Clearly, ES has always had the charter of enabling user proficiency through training. While educating users has always been the main focus of ES, there has been a marked shift from 2010-2015 around the objective of enabling user adoption as shown in this snapshot from TSIA’s Education Services Benchmark survey:

the primary objective of education services
The primary objective for education services.
Source: TSIA Education Services Benchmark

What does adoption mean in the context of education services? At TSIA, we define two forms of education adoption: broad and deep.

Broad adoption refers to the total number of people that have engaged in any of your training programs, as a percentage of the total available population of users who are candidates for training. This establishes a broad adoption penetration rate.

Deep adoption refers to the volume of training content consumed by individual learners. Penetration rate calculations are made at the individual learner level, i.e., how much training content has the individual consumed.

We have also defined an adoption gradient where the end goal is always to get users to Effective adoption. For education services, the gradient provides a framework for thinking about the kind of training content you offer. In the context of Effective adoption, this translates to providing advanced-level training that helps the learner use the product better. Note this does not remove the need to provide introductory and intermediate training, but instead is part of the training continuum that gets users from basic proficiency to advanced levels of product usage expertise.

education services adoption gradient
Adoption for education services is made up of a gradient of low, to high, to effective.

Certification aligns nicely with the gradient, such that an associate-level certification maps with low adoption, a specialist-level certification maps with high adoption, and an expert-level certification maps with effective adoption.

A quick way to assess where someone might be on the adoption gradient is to ask the following questions:

  1. Low adoption: To what degree is someone using the product? A little bit? Maybe not at all? How can education services help customers to start using the product more?
  2. High adoption: How much of the product is the individual using? Is it 30% of the features, 50%, more? How can education services help customers use more of the product?
  3. Effective adoption: While individuals may be using many of the features of the product, could they be using those features better? How can education services help customers use the product better?

Given that many organizations now have a company-wide focus around driving adoption, TSIA believes that certification has an important role in enabling effective adoption.

The Role of Certification in Driving Adoption

Certification quantifies a skill set and signifies that based on skill, knowledge, and performance, an individual is ready to move to the next stage. For example, knowing that basic skills are mastered provides a measure by which to know that an individual is ready to use more features and functions of the product (high adoption) and to learn the additional, more technical skills associated with those features and functions. Once mastery of those skills is demonstrated, via certification, the individual progresses to advanced concepts, such as best practices related to product optimization (effective adoption).

TSIA Recommends

Implementing the following seven best practices helps to create a thriving certification program.

  1. Offer role-based certification.
  2. Document the exam development process to ensure legal defensibility.
  3. Establish a retake policy, as everyone is not going to pass on the first attempt.
  4. Provide tiered certification exams per job role. This adds granularity and further defines the skills and competencies needed at junior and senior job levels.
  5. Use a programmatic approach to exam prep and include it as a component of the certification offer.
  6. Sales and marketing matter. Leverage all routes to market and all sales channels to grow the certification business.
  7. Gauge the health of the certification program by tracking these five key metrics:
  8. What percentage of customers who have taken any type of training go on to obtain certification?
  9. Of those certified, what percentage have more than one certification?
  10. What is the average number of certifications per individual?
  11. As a percentage of education services revenue, what is the percentage attributable to certification?
  12. What was the growth rate of the certification program the past fiscal year (based on volume, not revenue)?

Learn Even More About Certification

If you'd like to learn more about how education services can use certification to keep your customers engaged, be sure to read my Education Services Adoption Playbook, which includes information about the best way to implement a customer certification program into your adoption strategy. You can also watch my on-demand TSIA webinar, "Leveraging Certification Best Practices to Drive Adoption," In this webinar, I'll be covering the topics in this blog in more detail, as well as showing you how to use a TSIA outcome chain to improve your ES organization's certification program. You can watch the webinar here.