Customer education in the digital age

Last month the Nickelled team packed up our bags and attended the Customer Contact Expo at Kensington Olympia for a couple days. It was a great opportunity to meet the industry: the thought leaders, the innovators and the spectators. As part of the event Scott Collen and I gave a talk on "Customer Education in the Digital Age".

You can view our slide deck below. Along with comments of each of the slides.

Over the next couple of months we'll be drilling down into the details of the concepts we spoke about.

Customer Education in the Digital Age from Nickelled

Summarised Transcript

(3) Customer Service Quote

Here's a quote by Doug Warner, JP Morgan CEO in 2000. It reminds us on the opportunities of doing business on the internet but also stresses how hard it is to retain customers.

(5) Customer Education

Customer education is extremely important. Let’s first ask ourselves why your customers need educating. Why are your customers getting confused in the first place? I’m sure you can each give us a 100 reasons why customers get confused with your digital services but it all boils down to mental models.

(6) Mental Models

Mental models are shaped by our experiences, our knowledge and our intuition. They determine how we think, how we act and how we learn. We associate traffic light colours with various actions on the web: green means go, red means stop (an error has occured) and orange is a warning. These are assocations that exist within our mental models and are used to make sense of unfamiliar things.

(7) Required Mental Models

Designers build digital products with the mental models of their intended users. If 80% of your users are also Facebook users then you can adopt UI elements from Facebook. However, this leads to your product having a "required mental model". But what happens to the remaining 20% who haven't used Facebook. If a customer uses your product without this "required mental model", they confusion may occur.

(8-10) Separation Causes Problems

The diagram shows that when there is a gap between the ‘required mental model’ and the customer’s mental model then your customers will encounter problems. They may persevere but they will most likely get in contact with your CS team or leave, maybe never to return. Then it becomes the customer support team's responsibility to help them out. This is a reactive customer support.

But what if we intercept confused users before their mental model sets them on the wrong path? What if we explained the do’s and don’ts of the service and really explained how they get the most value from your product?

Using a proactive customer education strategy, you can reconfigure the customer’s mental model to match the “required mental model” to use your product.

(12) Who's Responsible For Customer Education?

Ultimately your whole team should be responsible.

  • UI/UX Designers decide the flow for your web services.
  • Marketing proactively explain the benefits of the site.
  • Customer service reactively help people complete actions and resolved problems. May be responsible for managing self-service tools.

Emergence of Digital Experience teams who recognise all of these should be integrated.

Digital companies with cross-departmental functions can better facilitate it, but ultimately everyone should be a customer advocate.

(13) Natwest Example

Natwest (a UK bank) have been utilising Vine, a social media app that allows people to great 6 second videos, to educate their customers. One vine they posted explained to customers how they change their alert preferences. It works for a few reasons:

  • 6 seconds: that’s all you’ve got.
  • Able to quantify it's usage.
  • Great way to distribute information to the demographic they are targetting.

See the example below:

(14) Gumtree Example

Gumtree are the #1 classifieds listing website in the UK. They offer support over a number of different channels: email, live chat, phone support, self-service FAQs and Twitter.

About six months ago, Gumtree enhanced their support with Nickelled how-to guides. To date Gumtree have created a bunch of Nickelled guides which appear on their FAQ pages and are delivered via live chat and in their email templates.

Nickelled is great for customer education...

  • Nickelled guides look exactly like the website (it's the same code).
  • Customers don't need to translate information e.g. they don't need to translate videos to the web pages.
  • Guide steps are broken down into small digestible chunks right in the context they are needed.
  • Nickelled guides give you the information to continually improve your customer education techniques.

For more information take a look at our Gumtree case study.

(15) Amazon Example

Amazon have introduced one-click checkout. This isn't proactive or reactive customer service. Through better design they have removed a barrier. They've taken complexity away therefore reducing the opportunity for customers to become confused and contacting your support teams. Fewer steps = fewer places people can become confused.

On another level, consumers' expectations of retailer's websites have changed. Consumer's mental models now tell them to look for the one-click button. This therefore raises the requirement for rival retailers to educate their customers of their buying process.

(16) MailChimp Example

MailChimp is a extremely useful tool for managing your email newsletters. A year-or-so ago, MailChimp underwent a significant redesign of their application. They were concerned that after the launch of the new design engagement would fall, customers would become confused and new features wouldn't be adopted. To combat this, in the run up to the launch they released a series of emails to their customers which showed them how to use the new design through animated gifs.

On a meta level, it showed their customers how to use animated gifs effectively within their emails. Customer education working on two levels.

MailChimp animate gif

Read more about it here.

(17) Best Practices

See slides.

(18) Developing Your Customer Education Strategy

Three tips for developing your customer education strategy:

  1. Understand your customers: understand the problems they are having; understand how they are using your services; understand how they want to receive support. By investigating these different areas you’ll gain a better grasp on their mental models.

  2. The challenge for a solid Customer Education strategy is getting your message across and aligning mental models to your service before they encounter problems. Work out how to get the message to your customers most effectively.

  3. Developing a CE strategy is a continuous process. You need to decide on what metrics you’re going to use and monitor them rigourously. If contact rates are your thing like Gumtree watch those. If you’re concerned about engagement and uptake of new features like MailChimp then watch those.

comments powered by Disqus