classroom still life with apple, a,b,c blocks and books
PHOTO: Element5 Digital

Many organizations struggle with customer retention. They offer discounts and freebies, ramp up loyalty programs and increase their technology spend. Unfortunately, they fail to see return on their investment. But, according to Greg Rose, chief experience officer (CXO) at Intellum, there’s one strategy that doesn’t get the attention it deserves, yet can be the most rewarding of them all.

“Education can be a silver bullet for retention,” said Rose. “While customer success often exists to ensure the renewal, it’s not the same as being responsible for educating the user. We need to teach users to recognize the value of our products or services — not expect that they already do. Because if users don’t recognize value, neither will buyers.”

Intellum is a customer education platform provider based in Atlanta and a sponsor of CMSWire’s virtual Fall Digital Experience (DX) Summit, happening Oct. 28 and Oct. 29. Rose will present the session “Why Education Is the Silver Bullet to Customer Retention.” We spoke with Rose about how organizations are using education to help end users understand the value of the tools they work with, and how they’re turning the tide on customer churn.

Getting to the Root of Customer Churn

CMSWire: Describe what it’s like being the chief experience officer at Intellum. What have been some of the most rewarding moments of your job?

Greg Rose: As the CXO, I get to work across functional areas making sure clients get the results they want, and teams have what they need to deliver for the client. We work with clients to help them successfully address business objectives through education. Being part of that process and having the opportunity to work with teammates who have deep expertise is a very rewarding experience.

CMSWire: Can you describe what you’re currently seeing in the customer retention landscape? What’s working and what’s not?

Rose: There’s a major disconnect in business today. We’re very good at making the buying process smooth and easy, and making people feel good about buying a product or service. Yet few companies do a good job of making sure the user can achieve the outcomes the buyer bought.

This is one of the root causes of churn. The buyer makes a purchase. Other people in the company use it, even though they were never educated on how to achieve outcomes. Buyers get to the end of their contract and realize they haven’t achieved their goals, so they leave. It’s a critical miss that’s happening everywhere.

Intellum's Greg Rose: "Make education a core part of your customer experience strategy—not an afterthought.”

Enhancing Experiences Through Education

CMSWire: You’ve talked about how brands like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter are focusing customer, partner and employee experiences around education. Can you describe what this means and give us an example of how they’re doing this?

Rose: First, let me say that the persuasive art of marketing is not the same as the science of learning, which is how we define education. We’re talking about a repeatable, procedural methodology. These companies are walking through this process to alter, improve and drive some kind of business result.

Rather than dumping users in a knowledge base or CMS, these companies first identify the business problem they believe can be addressed through education. They get to know user needs, create content to address those needs, and ensure they deliver personalized content experiences. For example, if you have a product adoption issue, you build content to explain the hows and whys of your product so people will use the tool in the way you designed. Or, let’s say you have a problem with ticket volume. In that case, you’d look for trends and patterns in ticket submissions, likely finding that most of your users are looking for help with how to use the product. You can bring that ticket volume down through education.

These companies are scaling educational experiences across all of their users, making education a core part of their customer experience strategy — not a siloed afterthought.

CMSWire: Why is it important that your customers, partners and employees are aligned around what you’re selling? Are organizations aware of the challenges that come with misalignment?

Rose: Just as companies expect the user to automatically recognize value and use the product as intended, they expect partners and employees to do the same. For us, customer education means educating anyone who has an impact on the customer experience. So not only end users, but also frontline support, success and sales people. Partners and resellers, too. Educating all groups that touch the customer helps close that gap I mentioned earlier.

If your employees and the partners who sell and support your products aren’t consuming the same educational content as your customers, they’ll be better able to demonstrate that value to users, and customers are less likely to churn.

Internal and partner onboarding should be implemented as a true continuing education initiative to ensure that people reach a certain level of proficiency. And it’s going to take a lot more than just sending out a user manual.

Let the Science of Learning Be Your Guide

CMSWire: Let’s talk about the Science of Learning initiative at Intellum. What are some of the key concepts that you’ve uncovered or are studying regarding learning that can help organizations get the most from their education initiatives?

Rose: Learning science tends to be reserved for academic initiatives. It’s generally not discussed in business. At Intellum, we have great relationships with universities and academic organizations, which have helped us build this massive data set to understand more about how people learn — including concepts like flow state, gamification and social collaboration. Our team takes this content and applies it to our own tool to improve the learning experience.

Take flow states. These are scientific moments in our brains when we’re fully engaged in what we’re doing. We’ve optimized our tool to better support flow state, presenting content in ways that keep the learner engaged and connected. This means keeping their attention for just a few more minutes through more user-friendly vertical scrolling rather than slideware presentations. Or minimizing distractions — like having to open separate windows or tabs — to keep learners focused so we don’t break the flow state.

Gamification works well to engage learners, and application of those elements should be strategic. While earning a badge might keep a learner motivated, it's a mistake to incentivize users to complete the lesson just to get it. The research shows this doesn't directly correlate to efficacy or knowledge retention. Simply put, there's more to it, and we dive into more on our blog.

Finally, social collaboration can make a massive impact on learning. It’s an opportunity for users to connect with each other. We provide ways to strengthen the content we present so people will be more likely to retain and apply concepts. We do this by allowing users to share their examples. They help each other by showing how they’ve put their learnings into practice.

CMSWire: What are some of your top recommendations for organizations that want to increase customer retention through education?

Rose: Many organizations take the wrong approach to launching new education initiatives. They think they have to create a large library of content, and cover every aspect of the business. But the opposite is true. People get overwhelmed with so much information.

Instead, start small and look for business problems that you can address with education. Build your content, get it out there, and see what’s working — and not working. That way, based on your products and user personas, you’ll know if you should be investing in videos or articles. If you can figure all of that out before launching a massive initiative, you’re one step closer to more effective education, successful customers and higher retention.

Claim your free pass to DX Summit here.