I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking and talking about business-to-business (b2b) customer education recently. My comments here are particularly focused on software/webware, but the principles are just as relevant to other tech sectors as well as service-based industries and equipment suppliers.
i find a johari-square analysis to be particularly helpful to understanding where real value in generated via customer education. in this post i will focus my comments on the training component of the customer education ecosystem.
along the horizontal axis is a continuum of the level of knowledge a customer has about an application – from basic/introductory usage to a full understanding of all features of the application.
along the vertical axis is the nature of the application to the organization’s particular practices – from generic, non-specific usage to very company specific usage.
The lower left quadrant then represents basic usage being applied in very generic, non-differentiated fashion. This might include data entry, simple reports, basic search functionality, etc.
the upper left quadrant represents the efficient transfer of current company knowledge and practice into the application. Examples would include self-help resources, document repositories, FAQ’s, etc.
the lowr right quadrant represents the application of new processes which are enabled by the advanced functionality of the application and/or templates and add-ons which expand the applications capabilities.
the upper right quadrant represents innovation and creation of new business capabilities and insights which are very specific to the success of the particular customer’s organization’s needs and goals.
The yellow arrow represents what can be considered the desired customer learning path. The goal is to get the customer to use the application in a way that drives the success of their business. Unfortunately, in the past, training has had limited means to deliver the necessary learning experiences to the customer. Instructor-led training in a brick and mortar setting with ink on paper content is very expensive. By the time the learning needed to get the customer through the lower left quadrant was successfully completed, the training group had run through its budget. the most innovating training groups might have been able to sneak in a bit of the upper left or lower right content, but that was limited.
the emergence of elearning tools and techniques along with systems that enable an organization-wide customer education ecosystem has created new opportunities to spread training resources further along the customer education learning path. online tutorials, document repositories, online forums, wikis, instant messaging, and web conferences can be deployed at a fraction of the cost of ILT and ink-on-paper content. This leaves face-to-face contacts available to help customize and innovate new solutions to particular customer needs. Strategic deployment of resources across the customer education ecosystem can drive value in the customer’s organizations.