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Recap: 2nd Annual Business of Customer Education Conference 2016

Written by Bill Cushard

Published on March 1, 2016

On Thursday, February 25, 2016, ServiceRocket hosted it's second annual conference called "The Business of Customer Education" to bring together a community of customer education professionals to network, discuss pressing issues, and help pave a vision for the future of customer education. The theme of the conference was marketing, measuring, and managing the customer education function and featured thought leaders in the space, including special guest Robert Scoble, futurist at Rackspace, who talked about virtual reality and the future of learning. 

ServiceRocket 2nd Annual Business of Customer Education Conference

Since we did not live stream the event or record each speaker, we wanted to write up a brief recap of the event to give you an idea of what was discussed. As you will notice, we booked speakers and topics that lined up with the theme of the conference. 

Theme: The Future of Learning | Rob Castaneda, Founder/CEO of ServiceRocket and Robert Scoble, Futurist at Rackspace

To kick off the conference, we had a special and unadvertised guest speaker join Rob Castaneda on stage to discuss the future of learning. Robert Scoble dropped by to talk about virtual reality and what is coming. Scoble referred to what's coming in virtual reality as beyond mobile and that in the next 5 years, we are going to see virtual reality impact our lives dramatically, including how we learn. He showed several concepts, including from a company called Meta, which were astounding. 

Robert Castaneda and Robert Scoble at the ServiceRocket 2nd Annual Business of Customer Education Conference


Theme: Marketing | Anthony Kennada, VP of Marketing at Gainsight

It seemed completely aligned with the theme of marketing customer education to have Anthony Kennada, VP of Marketing from Gainsight speak on the subject of how Gainsight takes an education approach to its business and to the customer success community. In his talk, Customer Education as Marketing Engine, Anthony talked about the three ways Gainsight is using education as a means for building skills in and otherwise developing the customer success community.

Anthony Kennada of Gainsight at the ServiceRocket 2nd Annual Business of Customer Education Conference

Customer Success University

When Gainsight created Customer Success University, the goal was not to create a curriculum of product training. The goal was to educate the market and help customer success professionals learn new skills and be better at customer success, in general. There is no product training in Customer Success University. In fact, there is no mention of Gainsight products in Customer Success University courses. The goal is to help CSMs learn new skill and be better at their jobs? Over the long term, the idea is that Gainsight will build awareness and trust in the customer success community and people will consider purchasing Gainsight when the timing is right. The question customer education professionals should ask themselves is: "How could we educate our customers and prospects about how to do their jobs better, without necessarily conducting product training?"

Pulse Conference

The Gainsight Pulse Conference has become a huge success, growing from just a couple hundred people to over 2,000 in 2015. The secret to its grow is that Pulse was designed, not as a user conference, but as an industry conference with an expressed goal of promoting customer success as an industry and developing a community of professionals in this new field. Pulse has a community and education feel that attracts people who want to learn more about the industry and develop careers and customer success teams.  

Success Unplugged

Within the Pulse Conference, Gainsight created a conference track called "Success Unplugged," which is hands-on and educational in nature, and is taught by industry leaders on a variety of customer success topics. The topics do not include product training. They include skills and business functions that software companies are trying to improve every day, including how to create a compensation plan for customer success managers, how to create a customer health score, and how to create on-boarding programs, to name only a few topics. These sessions are designed to be hands-on so that participants work on real problems in the session and leave with actual work done (or the start of actual work) that they can bring back to their offices. 

With an education first approach, Gainsight is building a trust in the customer success community with helps marketing and sales sign up new customers. 

Theme: Measuring | Ray Light, Director, Support at GoodData

Few topics in the customer education space attract more attention and elicit more emotion than analytics and measurement. Accordingly, who better to talk about this subject than Ray Light, who heads of support and customer education at GoodData. In his talk, Ray discussed several ways customer education pros can use data to measure the impact of training on business results. He even told two personal stories about data points he used to measure the impact of training at GoodData. For example:

Reduce Support Calls

Most software companies have support organizations that help customers through phone, email, chat or community support. Support is expensive and ripe for ways training can be used to reduce inquiries to support and reducing support costs. Ray urged all customer education professionals to go find out the top reasons customers contact support and then fugure out ways to design and deliver training to address those specific top reasons. Support calls and support costs can be reduced significantly with targeted training. 

Product Renewals

The ultimate impact training can have on a SaaS, enterprise software company results is to help increase renewal rates. After all, in a SaaS business, renewals are almost everything. Ray told a story about how GoodData analyzed customer data and discovered that customers who attended training were almost four times more likely to renew than customers who did not attend training. Ask yourself if you can have that kind of an impact on business results with your training programs. Although daunting to think of, Ray's talk made it sound so accessible and doable. 

Ray Light of GoodData at the ServiceRocket 2nd Annual Business of Customer Education Conference

The main point Ray made is that when it comes to analytics and measurement, there isn't "the best data" that you need to measure. The point is to use the data that the company cares about most, and measure the impact that training has on that data. For example, if your company cares about customer satisfaction, measure training impact on that. If the company cares about renewals, measure training impact on renewals.  

Theme: Managing | Panel Discussion with Donna Weber and Minette Chan

To wrap up the day, we were joined on a panel by Donna Weber, Senior Director of Education and Enablement at TIBCO Analytics and Minette Chan, Director of Global Sales and Technical Learning and Development at Synaptics. It was a spirited and high-energy panel that dove into topics that included:

  • What role to hire first in a customer education function?
  • How to price training?
  • How, when, and whether to use the term University for a customer education offering?
  • How to decide whether to create and offer certification programs?
  • The difference between training and education.
  • The biggest pain points of a customer education function.

Donna Weber of TIBCO Analytics and Minette Chan of Synaptics at the ServiceRocket 2nd Annual Business of Customer Education Conference

This is just a short list of topics that were covered, and I guess you could say, "You really had to be there." I will say this, the panel was so good that even though it was the only thing standing in the way of happy hour, the audience kept asking questions. How's that for engaging?

Call for Comments

Not that I want to make any promises, but we have already sat down as a group to review the feedback and discuss possibilities for next year's conference that would be even bigger. It was fun to talk about what is possible for next year. If we planned a one or two day conference next year, would you attend? If so, what you would you like to see at that event?

Please comment below.


Originally published Mar 1, 2016 2:15:00 PM, updated May 16, 2016