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The 80/20 Rule of Customer Education

80/20 Rule for Customer Education

The team was overwhelmed. They had a list of priorities from internal groups to build their first eLearning offering. With two resources from the Marketing team, they didn’t know where to start. They had no experience in Customer Education, and wanted to cover everything about their product with high quality videos.

I talked them down from the ledge. Since their office is in San Jose, CA, I illustrated that Customer Education (CE) is like taking the highway to San Francisco. Rather than showing users every possible road to get to their destination, CE emphasizes the main route.

The 80/20 Rule of Customer Education.

Apply the Pareto Principle, or the law of the vital few, to developing Customer Education offerings. Training users on the highway for their journey means focusing on the 20% of your product that 80% of the users utilize. The 80/20 rule of CE also allows you to have a greater impact on customer success and business metrics.

CE’s priority is to enable users. As Adam Avramescu, Head of Customer Education at Checkr eloquently states, customers don’t care about using your products. While internal teams might be enthused about the latest features and functionalities, users want to be better at their jobs. Groups including Documentation and Support are tasked with defining and chronicling product features and functionality. It’s up to CE, on the other hand, to bridge the product to the users. Rather than duplicating outputs from other teams, build courses for the highway. Then, with this “less is more” approach, produce quality content to increase customer skills, rather than increase customer knowledge.

Five Ways to Apply the 80/20 Rule of Customer Education

  1. Talk to customers. When was the last time you talked to your customers? It’s critical to engage users, so meet with a handful to understand their objectives and goals for using your product. Find out the 20% of use cases of 80% of your customers. At my previous company, there was a perception that every customer was unique. It was a misperception. Once I talked to customers, I learned common uses cases and best practices to guide users along their journey to success.

  2. Talk to CSMs and Support Agents. Uncover the 20% of cases where 80% of customers need help, then build courses to address those issues. The result is a scalable way to enable customers, as well as a reduced workload on CSM and Support teams.

  3. Define user roles. Before building courses, define your user types. When I joined a previous company, there was one course for all customers. It covered everything for everyone in four days. Participants received a data dump, but didn’t actually know what to do in the product. They left with a lot of information, but didn’t know how to apply it to their jobs. The first thing I did was to impart the unique roles that used the product. These included business analysts, administrators, and developers. Understand the unique user types, and then train them on their job functions, not the whole product.

  4. Focus on user outcomes. Once you define your user roles, the next step is to understand the jobs to be done each role “hires” your product to do. Using this information, design and deliver CE offerings that are meaningful to each role. If your courses align well, you won’t have an issue with registrations; your customers will want to take training because it helps them be successful, not just in your product, but in their jobs.

  5. Curate content. Are you still building courses from scratch? When you apply the 80/20 rule of Customer Education, you create less content and leverage what’s available across the organization. Point to knowledge articles, marketing videos, and documentation to show users how to get to their destination along the side routes, when needed.

Benefits of the 80/20 Rule of Customer Education

Employing the 80/20 rule of Customer Education allows you to accomplish more with your resources. It forces you to understand your users, and then prioritize the content to build. Clearer priorities allow you to produce courses in a timely manner, aligned with product releases. It helps internal teams to scale effectively as well. Your courses are more effective at enabling customers, not just on your product, but on accomplishing their jobs. Plus, well-educated customers impact your business bottom line, with higher customer satisfaction scores and increased net retention.

The next time someone asks you to build a course, stop yourself from describing all the possibilities in your product. Instead, save yourself time and effort by applying the 80/20 rule of Customer Education. Determine the destinations your users need to reach, then teach the main routes your customers need to be successful.



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