Why Customer Training is a Critical Component of Customer Community

smiling man working on a laptopCustomer service has undergone a transformation lately. According to a recent survey of support agents, customer expectations rose dramatically during the pandemic. Buyers expect prompt service, quick access to answers and troubleshooting, and to be able to reach representatives through a variety of channels.

One of the most important channels recently has been the online customer community.

What is a customer community?

A customer community, or brand community, is an online community or forum where customers of your brand can interact with one another and with representatives of your brand. Branded communities are an important way of fostering relationships with customers, building brand loyalty, and gathering feedback.

While brand companies provide customers with a sense of engagement, they’re also important hubs for learning and support. Customers are able to interact with each other if they need help with a product. They can also interact with representatives who frequent the customer community. That’s as far as many brands go, but customer communities are also a golden opportunity to provide customers with training.

Should you bother training your customers?

In a word, yes. Today’s customer expects 24/7 customer care from their vendors, and they’re hungry for information. If they have a question, they want it answered now, and they’re unlikely to call customer support and ask. Data from Salesforce shows that 57% of customers prefer to engage companies through digital channels, and 59% would rather use self-service tools than contact a representative to answer a simple question.

Representatives are still important; almost all customers will contact a representative for a complicated question. If they can find the answer online, however, most customers are likely to try to solve problems on their own.

If you’re not providing those answers, they may go elsewhere to find them, like Google or YouTube.

Because, as Forrester once reported: “your customers don’t want to call you for support.”

A customer community is an ideal way to deliver support and education, such as training materials, tutorials, and other resources to help customers get the most out of their products or services. Such education is a critical complement to the support customers receive from each other and the brand.

How does customer training benefit your business?

  1. Trained customers are loyal customers: Keeping existing customers important to businesses who want to keep their existing customers around because churn is expensive. The Harvard Business Review reports that acquiring a new customer is between five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing customer. One of the best ways to reduce churn is by helping your customers use your product well. No one likes to be mystified by a brand new product. They want to hit the ground running, and solve their business problems as soon as they get started. When you invest in customer training, you are investing in your clients’ success with your product. According to the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), trained customers tend renew their subscriptions at a rate 12% higher than untrained customers.
  2. Properly onboarded customers appreciate the time you take with them: There’s a reason the Customer Education Council finds that onboarding programs are the top objectives of 94% of customer training programs. When you invest in customer success at the start of your relationship, you are setting up that client for success with your product. By opening your customer relationship with your clients with an onboarding course, you establish yourself as the expert when it comes to your product. You’re also managing their expectations. If their relationship with you started with learning, they can expect more learning will be coming later in the relationship.
  3. Improve support (and reduce support tickets.): You want your customers to use your product the way it was intended. But that’s not always how things go. Customers are individuals; they do their own thing, don’t read the instructions, and sometimes try to hack a product so it meets a variety of needs, and those hacks often result in a call to customer service. You can gently head those calls off with customer training. Considering that the average support desk ticket in North America is $22, those calls can pile up and cost your company a lot of money. They can also trigger disgruntled customers and that’s not something your organization wants: According to analyst Esteban Kolsky, founder of ThinkJar, only one in 26 unhappy customers will complain to the company but 13% will complain to others about the company, in person and online, and that isn’t good for business.

Customer training keeps customers in your brand community

Your customer community is a hub for your buyers. You’re creating an engaging community for them to connect with you and with each other. It should also be a hub of materials that help them use your product well, a source of truth about your product or service.

By giving them the learning they want, you make sure they have all the information they need to use their product, and you keep them happy, and that’s good for your organization as well: Bain & Company found that improving customer retention rates by just 5 percent can increase profits by 25 to 95 percent.