Can customer education be linked to the bottom line? Is there any economic value that could possibly be accrued by investing in ensuring a more informed customer base?
By CAROLYNE GATHURU
Customer education is popularly referred to in marketing and customer service circles as the production of more ‘informed buyers’ by providing inputs on an organisation’s products, services, capabilities and general direction. This is done with a view to improving the customer experience, and influencing the buyer decision. Indeed, the founder and former CEO of Syms Corporation, Sy Syms, is widely quoted as saying, “An educated customer is our best customer.”
Can customer education be linked to the bottom line? Is there any economic value that could possibly be accrued from investing in a more informed customer base?
These are fundamental questions all business leaders and even more so their heads of marketing and customer experience should ask and follow through.
The value of customer education cannot be further underscored and the emotional connection that drives customer retention and purchasing decisions should be at the heart of every customer education campaign. That knowledge is power is true. Empowering customers, therefore, works in their best interests and in even better interest of the organisation itself.
When carefully planned and executed, customer education results in more knowledgeable clients who then have sufficient information to pass on to those in their networks.
It is important that clarity is achieved when setting out to educate customers to ensure that the correct information is passed on to others with minimised message distortion. This can only happen when the customer education process starts by seeking to understand the target audience for the communication project, the intended reaction to the education materials, and the definition of success from a customer view point. The more curious a customer becomes about a brand after an education blitz, the more successful it should be ranked. Having an inquisitive customer is a very good outcome all round.
To influence customer buying decisions through education, this will call for creativity and innovation in creating the customer education plans and content. This ensures that the messaging doesn’t serve to ram product and service features and benefits down customers’ throats. The key thrust should be to elaborate, in customer friendly language, how a product or service will resolve specific challenges or create solutions that add to the quality of life.
Customers are always looking for solutions to make life simpler, easier and better. Knowing customers in order to service them better works brilliantly to ensure that customer communication materials ‘speak’ effectively. The impact of that has true economic implications. Customers are more likely to trust brands that make the effort to provide them credible information and as such, buy from them and tell others.
It would be remiss to not give due focus to the key role played by the internal customer when discussing the economic viability of customer education. An empowered workforce makes for a naturally effective salesforce.
An organisation’s employees are the first port of call for persons in their networks, and their extended networks, for information to make buying decisions. Whether deliberate or otherwise, enquiries are channelled towards staff who work for a brand, and it is expected by the public that they have more information.
Word of mouth marketing
What works more effectively is when a similar amount of energy and focus is placed on the internal customer as is the external. Word of mouth marketing works. Word of mouth marketing from employees of a brand really works.
Product knowledge by employees is advantageous from a selling and prospect conversion perspective, and informed staff provide excellent customer experiences. The more aware employees are, the more value they place on their roles in the business, and the more helpful they are to customers. Better customer experiences lead to more seamless working environments for staff and as such, a more engaged workforce. Brands are only as good as the people that work there, and positive people yield positive results.
In this information-laden world where customers are drowning in information overload, how client education campaigns are designed is critical. The customer must be at the centre of the communication and brands should desist form tooting their horns and focusing on making noise about their products or services. Customers want to hear: What value the item of focus will add to their lives and to verify that what is being spewed is true; what challenge the product or service they are being educated about will solve; and if the proposed solution is sustainable.
Other things they want to hear are what opportunity is being created to improve their quality of life from the current to some beneficial future, what the future holds and the potential the product or service provides to bring this future.
Customers, within their own right and power, can seek for information independently and this has been made easy by the global Internet penetration spurred by mobile access. Customers that are endeared to brands stick with them, translating to business retention as well as creating an information sharing portal that has them reach out to others with what they have learned.
The great Nelson Mandela said, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” This is not exempt of customer education. The more efforts put in place towards this goal, the more businesses will thrive based on customer focus, and the more vibrant the economic outlook of the country will be. Education is the name of the customer experience game.