Remember the world without the internet? Back when if you bought a car and weren’t satisfied, you had little chance to have your complaint heard?

Your options for expressing dissatisfaction were limited to visiting the car dealership and complaining to a salesperson, or mailing your grievances directly to the manufacturer. And even if you did make a formal complaint, no one else really was aware of or understood your situation.

Even ten years ago this customer relationship still existed. The internet was already here, but the situation was still very much the same. The only difference was that you could use emails to complain. But in the end, it was still one-on-one communication.

In 2017, things are different. People can make a purchase and if they don’t like it, they simply go online and let the world know how poorly a business has produced something, or how bad their service was. Not only does making customer complaints via social media platforms notify (and potentially turn away) a large group of other potential customers, it also encourages others to join the bandwagon of negative commentary about a business, which damages their reputation. Now, more than ever, the voice of the customer has real power.

What this means for businesses looking to grow their operations in New Zealand today is that firstly, more time and effort needs to be put into developing quality products, but secondly, that meaningful customer education needs to take place. Whether it’s texts, videos, or something interactive, customer education is vital content that can give context to products to help customers decide whether they like a product or not.

When looking to create a customer education strategy, the focus should be on the quality of the education tools, not the quantity of material a business can produce. You want to answer customers’ needs as specifically and economically as possible, because their attention is both precious and perishable. Customers don’t want to follow long training courses, or read long articles; they simply don’t have time. All information must be available in a matter of minutes or, better yet, seconds.

People also get bored easily and quickly. Businesses need to create content that will interest their target customers. If you are a technology business, how savvy is your audience? Can you produce technical material for them that will ensure they dive deep into the product in a shorter timeframe? Is your customer base not tech-savvy? Try more basic explainer videos, or something interactive.

Developing an intuitive website and content-rich blog can also help educate potential and existing customers. Web content developed in FAQ format further assists consumers by allowing them to quickly identify the issue, or area of interest, that best reflects their situation and addresses their query.

The key to a successful customer education program is firstly properly understanding your customers.

It’s vital that all businesses are aware of their target audience’s motivations and concerns. Why would they be interested in buying your product? What does it offer them? It’s only after uncovering these facts that you can begin to effectively educate them.

Prior to creating any customer education material, try to think about the overall concept. This is similar to planning a product or feature. Look at the problems through a customer’s eyes, validate it with them, and think about how it all comes together.

Customer education can be divided into multiple subcategories. The most common include:

  • Showing your customers that your product brings them value – that’s partly customer education, partly marketing
  • Teaching your customers how to use your product properly
  • Offering solutions to problems your customers have

It’s important to remember that customer marketing is not advertising – and as such the tone and style of educational material produced should reflect this. Where a business’ advertising activities will try to persuade on an emotional level, customer education provides the consumer with all the relevant information regarding the product (or service) they are interested in.

If you’re looking for inspiration as to the best approach for customer education, technology behemoth Apple offers a great example. Over the years Apple has successfully launched a series of completely new products onto the market, such as the iPhone in 2007. But how did they grow their customer base around such new solutions?

Well, through customer education of course. In addition to standard product information available online, Apple also offers a large number of workshops and programs to help consumers learn about the functions, benefits and capabilities of their new products. As a result, consumers who want basic training can get this from within their device or online sources, and those with specific queries or who want a deeper understanding of a product can get more detailed information.

In today’s digital world, where an unsatisfied consumer is a potential online public relations disaster waiting to happen, businesses looking to launch new products need to ensure that their customers are as informed and empowered as possible. After all, the more a customer understands your product or service, the better use they will get from it and more satisfied they are likely to be.

Wayne Jasek is Director APAC at Kentico.

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