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Drive success with an engaging customer education program

What goes into designing a strategic customer education program to engage time-crunched professionals? Learn customer education best practices, tips, and trends in this interview with Tomas Nosek, Director of Customer Enablement at Kontent.ai.

Monica Raszyk is the Director of Product Marketing at Kontent by Kentico.

Monica RaszykSep 26, 2022

We’ve all received that LinkedIn notification motivating us to hit the weekly learning goal. Or registered for a webinar that we plan to definitely join live. It’s not so easy to make professional learning & development a priority when the rigor of the daily to-do list begs for our attention.

But investment into lifelong learning has serious benefits for all professionals and the companies they work for. Professional development expands the team’s knowledge capabilities, boosts creative problem-solving, improves employee motivation and retention, and drives overall business success.

At Kontent.ai, education is a strategic priority at every phase of the customer lifecycle, from customer onboarding to customer advocacy. We aim to ensure every user not only adeptly adopts our modular content platform as a core solution, but also continues to grow their strategic knowledge and skill set to deliver long-term value to their projects and business objectives. Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it?

To dive more into this timely topic, I sat down with Tomas Nosek, Director of Customer Enablement at Kontent.ai to talk all things L&D. Having built Kontent.ai’s education portal and customer success services up to what it is today, he offers a distinct perspective on:

  • How to leverage trends in customer education when building your program
  • Considerations on starting a quality customer education program
  • Challenges you may come across and how to tackle them
  • Solutions and toolsets for building a customer education portal
  • The benefits a modular content platform can bring to your customer portal

Can you share some trends that are driving the way customer education is designed?

Working professionals typically need education to grow in their career or even keep up with their current position, yet they often have very little time to dedicate to it. This is in contrast to children who often don’t want to study, yet have all the time in the world to do so.

Another interesting aspect of professional development is that, generally speaking, people don’t like change, so education that can lead to change may go against an adult student’s primary interests or instincts. This is why educators have had to adapt, offering reluctant or time-strapped students more engaging ways to learn. One great technique is known as “microlearning”.

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What is microlearning?

Microlearning considers the fact that most people have just under 30 minutes a week to learn – during their lunch break, a free slot between meetings, or just before they switch off for the day. Microlearning also addresses the shortening attention span we all can relate to. Its aim is to teach a single, discrete concept within 15 minutes. A single course for a single concept.

Check out the latest microcourse from Kontent.ai, Headless 101: Your journey to headless.

The days of multi-day courses are fading away. Of course, some special topics may always require a deep dive, but the question education leaders must contend with is, how much will professionals actually remember – and apply – once the course is over?

What advice would you give B2B software vendors looking to build a successful customer education program?

In recent years, there have been a number of great books published about Customer Education programs – on how to start them and how to make them successful. The latest one that caught my eye is The Customer Education Playbook: How Leading Companies Engage, Convert, and Retain Customers. It contains a number of useful quotes from other books that cover a similar topic.

Image Source: PR Newswire

Books related to Customer Education specifically are a pretty new thing. Listening to the CELab podcast, I recall how they described the evolution from “Account Management” to “Customer Success Management” and how it mirrors the evolution of “documentation” into what’s now called “Customer Education”, just a couple of years later. I fully agree with this statement.

Documentation and help centers have a pretty limited number of goals and how to achieve them; on the other hand, Customer Education programs can have many different goals, may sit in many different departments within a company, and belong to a number of roles and scopes. This can make it more difficult to dole out general best practices that are applicable to everybody. The best thing you can do is truly understand what your goals for customer education are and which roles within the organization own specific deliverables. Otherwise, it’s hard to action any good idea.

What kinds of challenges has your team experienced creating an customer education program at Kontent.ai?

The team at Kontent.ai also originated as a “documentation” team, so our path has followed a similar transformation to the one I mentioned above. While we’ve managed to go through the “customer-ization” of our materials, which I described in my blog post last year, there are still challenges ahead of us.

Looking at the bigger picture, customer education is just one aspect of the entire customer offering. In addition to customer success management, Kontent.ai also provides consulting, professional services, customer support, and more. Since all of these services are interconnected – or at least they should be – we find ourselves looking at the success of our programs more and more though the lens of customer enablement. For us, it’s about connecting all of the touch points of education and consultation to ensure a seamless and valuable customer experience. We’re getting there.

Visualizing a buildable customer enablement program

Every step should contain CTAs with follow-up materials or sessions from the upper step, while information and best practices from each step should, over time, flow into lower steps to ensure ever-increasing quality and relevancy.

Moving to more tactical implementation, what are some challenges when choosing the tools to create an education portal?

If you can master the tooling, you’ll be in good shape, but it’s not as easy as it should be. The larger the Customer Education team, the more platforms you are likely to use. Larger teams produce content such as tutorials, API references, documentation, e-learning courses, and certifications, in addition to other materials for customers, such as cheat sheet PDFs or Powerpoint presentations.

There isn’t a single solution that would cover all of these areas well enough. And integrating tools so that your customers get a unified experience is very hard, cumbersome, and, in many ways, not attainable.

If your team produces a lot content, you’ll certainly benefit from structured content that can be reused. That’s why a lot of documentation teams tend to use the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) framework. However, DITA solutions typically only support documentation, which is just one type of content. Also, some teams say DITA is too complicated, and that a lot of tools that use it focus too much on obsolete channels, such as PDF brochures or publishing to HTML files. This can feel very outdated, and is cumbersome for agile SaaS software.

While I don’t have any hard data about this, my personal assumption is that blog posts or other materials on DITA used to be everywhere in the world of Customer Education. But now, I hardly see them as much as I used to.

What solutions should you use to implement a customer education portal?

To stay agile, I think the right option is to steer away from printed or PDF user guides and navigate towards online, ideally contextual, education. For smaller teams or teams without many technical resources, I’d go for specialized SaaS solutions that are easy to run; you can do smaller adjustments with custom CSS and Javascript. If you can also somehow adjust the search, even better.

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Is a modular content platform right for your team?

For larger companies or teams with access to development power, I’d stick to what we chose: a modular content platform, or more generally a headless CMS, as a single source of truth for all content, as well as a single platform where content creators can work together and collaborate. Using such a platform, you can create pretty much any output – whether it’s a website, an e-learning course, or a cheat sheet PDF.

We, of course, use our own product, Kontent.ai. It’s a central content hub for all of our materials. We produce tutorials that can be exported to PDFs, an API reference, a changelog, e-learning courses, and certifications. All of them are sourced in Kontent.ai.

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What are the benefits of a modular content platform like Kontent.ai?

All in all, the decision lies in whether you prefer having a solution ready fast, though not heavily customizable, or creating a custom solution that fits like a glove to your scenarios. In the long term, this type of solution will help you better grow and scale to match your customers' expectations, but it will require more work upfront.

Takeaways

Many of us feel the autumn chill in the air and the “back to school” vibes. With these helpful insights from Tomas, we can also feel better equipped to have the right conversations about customer education, considering the who, what, where, and why of developing a customer education program. Now is the time to reassess how your organization can deliver education materials and courses in a way that’s engaging for customers and streamlined for your teams.

Want to learn more about how our team created a customer education portal using Kontent.ai? Considering how Kontent.ai can help you design yours? Dive into the following materials or schedule a demo with one of our experts.

Or are you a Kontent.ai user who’s ready to level up their knowledge of all things content, modular, and headless? Check out our newest microcourses in our e-learning courses and certifications section of the Kontent.ai Learn portal.

Monica Raszyk is the Director of Product Marketing at Kontent by Kentico.
Written by

Monica Raszyk

I’m the Director of Product Marketing at Kontent.ai. I explore the challenges that marketers and developers deal with every day and how Kontent.ai’s modular content platform helps them out.

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