If you've ever been to the Apple store, you know that it's kind of an experience: you can buy products there; you can get your devices fixed there; and there are scheduled Today at Apple programs — like a music lab, a photo walk, or kids' programs.
Today at Apple may seem, at first glance, like a free Apple-themed summer camp where you get to sign up for a course co-designed by Florence of Florence and the Machine. But look again: the offerings are actually slickly-packaged customer training modules; Today at Apple is the very public facet of Apple's customer training operation.
And customers love these programs. Since the first event in 2016, Today at Apple rolled out worldwide, and more offerings are constantly released in tandem with cultural events (like the Big Draw Festival this month) and — of course — with product releases.
Apple has mastered something many companies could stand to learn: they've found a way to make customers WANT to sign up for their customer training.
Customer training that customers want
Customer training may seem like something a business needs to do as part of a sales or marketing push, but some companies have created demand for their customer training, making it — in some cases — into a commodity people get excited about.
First things first: why train your customers at all? There are several very good reasons you should be educating the people who've already invested in your company.
Customer education allows you to:
- Reduce calls to customer service (and costs associated with customer service)
- Build customer loyalty
- Teach customers how to get the most out of your product
- Market new products to existing customers
Customer education helps you get out ahead of common questions and customer issues by packaging up information you've probably already put together — usually in FAQs, tutorials, user guides, and Terms of Service — and serving it up to customers in a learning module.
Your customers probably aren't reading these documents because they're not engaging. And that's where this article comes in. Apple — and several companies — have made tutorials fun. And so can you.
Below are three ideas for creating more engaging customer education.
- Teach them something they can use right now.
One way you can engage your customers is by giving them a quick win, teaching them something quickly that they can immediately put into practice to improve their use of your product.
Quick wins are important for customers because they build confidence with your product for new users and improve proficiency for more seasoned users. In both cases, there's a sense of immediate gratification because after a short lesson, the customer will be able to do something they couldn't before they took the module.
How can you do this? Go to your FAQ and pick one or two frequently asked customer questions that you can plan a quick, practical module around.
IKEA is a good example of a company that has done this. IKEA is famous for its furniture – but also for how hard it is to assemble its furniture. So the company has embraced this pain point, releasing customer education videos that show how its furniture should be assembled. These videos are quick, helpful, and address a common concern.
- Make sure your training meets your customers where they are.
Food companies probably have it easiest when it comes to engaging training, because who doesn’t like to eat? For years, food companies — particularly companies that sell things like sauces, condiments, and other sides — have used recipes to show how their products can be used in a meal.
Traditionally, those recipes were printed in ads and on packaging, but now the internet allows companies like Cabot and Philadelphia to create videos — basically miniature cooking shows that live online. Cabot is particularly smart about this. The company knows that foodies and family cooks spend a lot of time on Pinterest, so that's where Cabot's recipes live. The company maintains a pretty extensive Pinterest presence that links back to their own customer education site and recipes. It's effective, and meets users where they are.
How can you do this? Find out where your customers congregate online (if you're providing B2B services, it could be LinkedIn, for example) and make sure you've got a strong presence there and are linking your training.
- Give your customers something they can't get anywhere else.
No one knows your product like you do. Part of Apple's training appeal is that its tips, tricks, and hacks are being offered by experts who can make customers better at using their products. What shortcuts don't your customers know about? How can they "hack" your product?
Insider information on your product or service is something only you can provide, and your customers will be thrilled to have it.
How can you do this? Talk to the people who've designed your product and ask them questions. What shortcuts don't customers typically know when using your product, or what new features are coming out, and how should they be used? Then choose an answer and build a module around that.
Making fun customer training is something all companies should be doing.
Not every organization is Apple. Most companies don't have a fanatical customer base, and most companies aren't going to be able to get rock stars to help them create training, but that doesn't mean there aren't lessons to be taken from big companies' approach to customer training and engagement.
No matter what your product, service, or budget is, you can still create customer training that's fun, useful, and makes your customers better users of your product.