Your happy customers are the best salespeople you have.
They just are. There has been a raft of research into most trusted sources of marketing communications, and the findings are always the same: We trust our friends and family more than we trust your brand. This is why companies that embrace their customers and empower them to market for them, typically have higher sales and revenue than companies that do not.
So, if we accept that your happy customers are also your best salespeople, what do we want our salespeople to have?
The best training. Therefore, if you are training your best customers to increase their knowledge and understanding of your products and services, you are also improving their ability to sell those products and services to other customers.
So this is truly a win-win we are talking about here. By giving your happiest customers training on your products and services, you are not only improving their ability to SELL those products and services to other customers, but you are also providing value to those customers. You are improving their sales ability, but at the same time, you are creating something of value for these customers, which deepens their loyalty and affinity for your brand. A true win-win.
The Secret Language of Happy Customers
Before we go any further, I want to make a book recommendation. Please buy and read Badass: Making Users Awesome by the brilliant Kathy Sierra. Badass teaches us that products that enjoy sustainable sales success do so because that success is driven by its users. So if you make your customers ‘badass’, you are simply increasing their ability to drive success for your products.
And customers who are highly skilled in using your product act differently and speak differently about that product.
Think of your favorite movie. The one you have seen so many times that you can recall entire scenes, you have the dialogue memorized. Now if I had only seen that movie once, what would our conversation about the movie sound like? I mean, I would be aware of the general plot, maybe I would remember the main characters and actors, but that would be it.
Now think about how that same conversation would be different if you were talking about your favorite movie with someone who loved it as much as you do? You would have a completely different conversation with that person. You could discuss the plot in detail, you could speculate on what happened in the story after the movie ended, maybe find out that you are both members of an online community of fans of the movie.
Now think about what would happen if you and I were both discussing that same movie with a friend who hadn’t seen it. While I could barely explain what the movie was about, you could go into minute detail about what the movie is about, and why it’s awesome. You could do a much better job of promoting the movie to others than I could.
This is an example of why your happy customers are your best salespeople. Because they love your products and services, they are knowledgeable about them, and they have a passion for seeing other people use and enjoy your products and services as they do.
A B2B Example of the Value of Training Your Customers
A few years ago, I worked with a SaaS company to design a customer advocacy program, which was primarily designed to increase subscriptions to the software, as well as reduce the customer churn rate. With this particular company, many of its customers sold marketing services to small businesses that included training on the same software.
So we created a customer advocacy program that offered expert training on the software as one of the perks for being involved. This training created value for the company, because it gave customers an incentive to not only attract more customers, but to also stay longer as customers themselves. Thus reducing the churn rate. It also created value for the customers, because as they became more knowledgeable of the software, it improved the level of training they could in turn pass through to their own customers.
By creating training for the company’s current customers, it gave the company a way to not only scale its sales (customers selling to other customers), but also its customer support. As customers received training on the software and became more adept at using it, they would also become more adept at troubleshooting problems that they and other customers encountered while using the software. So they could actually deflect calls or requests to customer support that the company would normally field. Which would result in a cost savings to the company!
A B2C Example of a Missed Training Opportunity
Many years ago, I participated in an influencer program where I was in a small group of influencers who were given a very expensive camera in order to use it and, ideally, promote it to other people. The company wanted to give the camera to a select few people it had targeted as being influential in their space, and then have them create content (and pictures!) in order to promote the camera to other potential customers.
The problem that I quickly encountered upon receiving the camera was that I had absolutely no idea how to use it. It was a beast, and it was a professional quality camera meant to be in the hands of a professional photographer. Which is the last thing I am! In the hands of a pro, this camera could have created magic, but in my clumsy hands it created out-of-focus and blurry disasters.
Ideally, I would have received some training on how to use the camera before I received it, or soon after. Just remember if you are crafting an influencer program, make sure the influencers who will be receiving and promoting your products have enough familiarity and understanding of the products to promote them successfully. To be fair to this company, this influencer program was done over 10 years ago, and was one of the first efforts of its kind. So they learned a lot, and went on to improve their efforts I am sure!
How to Incorporate Product Training in Order to Create Value For Your Customers
So let’s think about how we could add product training to our marketing and communications efforts in order to create value for our customers, and how this would also create value for our company. To help simplify how training could be incorporated, let’s view the training as having three levels:
101 Level Training – This is basic product/service training. It’s designed primarily to handle basis issues and problems that might arise from a new customer, as well as to address questions they might have. The level of instruction will be very basic, and this will help eliminate requests to customer support by letting the customer solve their own problems, via this training. The idea behind this level of training is to help the current or potential customer become familiar with the basic functions of the product, as well as helping them solve common problems that other new customers have faced.
This level of training should be free and available to all current and potential customers. Think of this type of training as being an extension of you FAQ, or Frequently Asked Questions. It could include white papers or articles with detailed instructions, or videos that show how to use your product in a particular way, or how to solve a basic issue with using the product. This level of training will serve to not only save costs by deflecting requests to customer service, but it will also lead to more purchases as the most basic questions that potential customers would have are answered prior to purchase.
If we were selling a high end digital camera, the training at this level would focus on getting the customer familiar with the core features of the camera. Basically, here’s what you need to know to turn the camera on and start taking pictures.
201 Level Training – This is more advanced training that’s designed to teach customers how to use your product to its full potential. This level of training is typically not available to all your customers, as not every customer will want or need more advanced training. It can often be offered as a reward for engaging in some pre-determined activity. For instance, if you sign up for a loyalty program, this level of training could be a perk for doing so.
If we go back to the example of selling cameras, this level of training could focus on helping the customer improve his ability to use the camera in certain ways. Such as taking pictures of wildlife, or taking night time pictures in urban areas, etc.
301 Level Training – This is your most advanced level of training. Only a select few customers will want or be offered this level of training. This can also be offered as a reward or perk, for instance if your company has a brand ambassador program, members could have access to this level of training.
Customers who receive this highest level of training are typically the ones you also want to empower to sell your product for you, to other customers. So you could reward referrals or additional sales with more training, if warranted. Remember that the more proficient your customer is at understanding how to use your product, the better, in theory, they will be at understanding how to sell and promote it to other customers.
How Does Your Company Benefit From Training Your Customers?
Let’s close by looking at the benefits that training your customers creates for your company:
1 – Reduced customer service costs. One of the earliest adopters of corporate social media use was Pitney Bowes. The company justified using social media in part because it found that every social interaction it had with a customer about a support issue deflected a call to customer service. And at the time, Pitney Bowes placed an internal cost of around $9 per call, so each call that was averted, was a cost-savings of $9 for the company. So if you train your customers on how to better use your products, they can in turn provide support directly to other customers. Which further lowers costs for your company.
2 – Reduced Customer Acquisition Cost. As your trained customers are engaging with other customers, they become better at selling and promoting your products to other customers. So they are literally creating new sales for you, all the time. Think of it as passive income for corporations. By training your customers on how to better use your products, you turn those customers into an additional sales staff, one which generates new sales for you, while you sleep!
3 – Improved Customer Satisfaction and Increased Brand Perception. If your customers are trained on how to properly use your products, they will have less complaints about them. A good portion of most customer complaints are simply due to user error. The customer thinks there’s a problem with the product, when in fact the product is fine, they just aren’t aware of how to use it properly. Training your customers reduces complaints about your products, while at the same time increasing positive mentions. This can have a massive impact on overall brand perception.
Training your customers is completely worthwhile. It reduces costs, while increasing sales. As a result, the training more than pays for itself.