Companies across multiple industries are attributing double-digit improvements in KPIs such as time to value, product adoption, customer satisfaction and customer lifetime value to the impact of their customer education programs, according to a newly published infobrief from market intelligence firm IDC.
Findings documented in the report, Investments in Customer Education Lead to Growth, sponsored by Thought Industries, show that investment in customer education is delivering 10 to 16 percent increases in key performance measures across all stages of the customer’s journey, from demand generation through sales, onboarding, renewal and growth. Notably, in the most important measures influenced by customer education, respondents reported improvements between 19 and 22 percent.
Survey respondents said their customer education programs had the greatest influence on increasing brand awareness, increasing customer lifetime value, reducing customer churn, differentiating their organizations from competitors and lowering customer acquisition costs. Respondents attributed approximately one-quarter of the improvement in these performance measures to their external customer training.
Mature programs deliver even greater performance improvements
The research showed that more mature customer education programs—defined as programs with certain characteristics identified in the Thought Industries Maturity Model—deliver greater benefits. Respondents with customer education programs in the least mature category had, on average, a 15.7 percent improvement in key performance measures. Those with more mature programs reported an average improvement of 26 percent, a 65 percent difference, with particularly strong improvements in customer satisfaction scores and in cultivating brand advocates.
“Clearly, a systematic, strategic approach to delivering knowledge that helps customers succeed with your organization’s products or services can be a catalyst for growth,” said Barry Kelly, CEO at Thought Industries, in a news release. “Well designed and implemented customer education programs move customers successfully from prospect to proficient new user to expert, and ultimately, to becoming brand advocates. On the other hand, customers not well trained on your offerings can grow frustrated, which can lead to eroding customer satisfaction and spillover effects, including higher support costs, increased turnover and lower revenue.”
Investments in customer education demonstrated to drive growth
Kelly noted that calculating and communicating the value of customer education programs is frequently cited as an obstacle to organizational investment in customer and extended enterprise training. “The findings in the IDC InfoBrief should put to rest the notion that customer education is an unrecoverable cost,” Kelly said. “The exact opposite is the reality based on survey responses. Investments in customer education drive growth.”
In the IDC InfoBrief’s findings, organizations that spent more on their customer education programs realized more revenue from customer education’s impacts. In 2021, revenue from customer and extended enterprise training increased by an average of 12 percent among survey respondents. In 2022, survey respondents are estimating a revenue increase of 19 percent, based in part on an increase in the perceived value of customer education.
“This research shows that investing in customer education programs leads to greater customer success across multiple dimensions,” said Cushing Anderson, vice president, IT education and certification research at IDC, in the release. “Customer success leaders should consider how to more completely integrate customer education in their operations.”
Benefits span industries with manufacturing leading the way
The performance improvement benefits of customer education programs are being realized across industries. Organizations surveyed for the report included manufacturers, software vendors, technology vendors, and telecommunications equipment and software vendors. Across these industry groups, manufacturers reported the largest improvement in performance measures at 24 percent, followed by technology vendors at 22 percent, software vendors at 21 percent, and telecommunications equipment and software vendors at 19 percent.
More than 250 organizations answered the survey. Respondents included manufacturers, software vendors, technology vendors, and telecommunications equipment and software vendors. In addition to customer education, many respondents’ programs also educate channel partners and extended enterprise parties. The research was conducted in the first quarter of 2022.