Customer or user education occurs when a business creates helpful resources to teach customers about its offerings (products or services). Often, customer education is an underrated service, and a lower priority than other essential business functions, like marketing, customer service, and sales. However, to offer a great customer experience, businesses should consider placing user education at the forefront of their strategies.
To be fair, a lot of small businesses don’t have the capacity to set up a thorough customer education plan. And some worry that educating customers will give them the knowledge and confidence to seek alternatives. This is rarely true. Marketing professors based out of London, Melbourne, and Arizona, have observed that the more you educate your customers about your product, service, and industry, the more likely they are to demonstrate loyalty towards your business. It’s only natural, if you think about it. The more we read a certain author, the more invested we become in that author’s work. Familiarity with their writing keeps us coming back. Customer education works similarly.
A knowledgeable customer is a loyal customer. The more they know about your offerings, the better they understand the nuances and difficulties of what you do. That usually makes them appreciate your business and your customer service efforts more. In many cases, well-educated customers are the ones who will advocate for you without being asked.
How does customer education lead to a better customer experience?
Good customer education should be available at every stage of the purchasing cycle. Ideally, when the stages are complete, the customer will have received considerate and timely help throughout their journey with you, which will increase their trust and loyalty towards your business. Here’s how you can provide customer education at each stage:
This is the first time a prospect hears about your business. They may or may not need your product or service, but they’ve found your website and are keen to know more. Customer education efforts at this stage should communicate your business's story, policies and culture, and ability to meet your audience’s needs. It may also involve sharing information about your competition to encourage informed decision making among potential customers.
This is when a prospect is looking at your business more seriously. They now have the need for your offering, but they don’t know if you’re the right choice. At this stage, consider educating them about your pricing policies, offering comparisons to other similar businesses, and sharing reviews, testimonials, and case studies from happy customers. All these things will help the prospect learn why you’re better than other businesses doing the same thing.
At this stage, the prospect has signed up for a trial of your offering or has made their first small purchase. They are already sold on your business’s credibility in the industry, but they’re still deciding whether your offering will suit their needs. This is when you show them how seriously you take customer service. Share any supporting material you have, such as recorded walk-throughs, help documents, and ebooks. Offer personalised one-on-one calls to help them understand how your offering could address their needs, and guide them through the evaluation stage with prompt and consistent responses.
Purchase and onboarding
The complexity of this stage varies by industry. If you’re a candle manufacturer and you have a new corporate client who’s made a bulk order, you’d provide them with information about how they can log in to check their order status, manage temperature fluctuations, and dispose of melted wax safely. Meanwhile, if you sell software, like Zoho, your user education will incorporate how-to guides, product setup guides, troubleshooting information, and links to community forums and meetups.
If you’re at this stage, then your customer already likes your business and is convinced that your offering is suitable for them. You no longer have to tell them why you’re different or why your offering is the best. Instead, focus on what else you can offer to improve their experience. Explain what they’ll receive in exchange for their investment.
Going back to the candle example above, your customer education materials at the upgrading stage might talk about candle subscriptions, refillable solutions, or tips for re-purposing candle wax. At Zoho, our upgrade customer education material often talks about maximising usage through more API calls, increased storage space, and additional user accounts.
How to present user education
The key difference between educational content and sales and marketing content is that when you’re building your educational resources, you’re not trying to sell anything to your customers. Instead, your goal is to provide knowledge and context to help them make an informed decision. It’s not about convincing them, but about presenting your offerings thoughtfully and authentically. Here are a few common ways to present educational content to your customers.
• Include comprehensive how-to guides on your website.
• Add a chatbot to your website that addresses frequently asked questions and helps people find relevant information.
• Launch email campaigns to onboard customers, and send periodic follow-ups.
• Post written material on your website, such as ebooks and blog posts.
• Engage with users on social media.
• Share video materials, like how-to guides, live streams, and webinars.
• Host events, such as workshops, meetups, and in-store experiences.
Customer service is often the first point of contact for customers. But there are plenty of chances to support your customers before they even come to you with a problem. This is where customer education comes in. When your educational material is strategically designed to inform customers throughout their experience with your business, they will be more likely trust you as a reliable resource. This leads to long-term loyalty. Your most loyal customers may even go on to create their own educational materials, such as YouTube videos, Reddit help threads, and Facebook and LinkedIn groups meant for customers like them. Ultimately, informed and knowledgeable customers help you build a community, which can be pivotal for long-term business growth.