Over the past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the field of Customer Education. As I launched the CELab (Customer Education Lab) podcast with Dave Derington, and authored my book, Customer Education: Why Smart Companies Profit by Making Customers Smarter, I kept coming back to a central question: What does it take for someone to become successful in the field of Customer Education?
When I first started in Customer Education in earnest, I don’t think I truly realized that I had stepped into a new field. I had done instructional design and training work in the past, so I unintentionally assumed that everything I already knew about instructional design, content development, and facilitation would just translate automatically -- I told myself, “Same skills; different audience.”
I was half-right. It’s not like my previous skills were useless, but I learned as much in my first true Customer Education role as I had learned in my career up to that point. And while I’d love to say that it was natural curiosity that drove me, the initial spark actually came from somewhere different. It came when my boss asked me, “Who’s doing Customer Education really well, and what are they doing right?”
I didn’t have an answer.
The pursuit of that answer was what led me to connect with my peers -- both through professional organizations like CEdMA, and in many cases by trying to figure out who was leading training, certification, knowledge, and community programs at companies I respected.
In the process of trying to find out who was doing Customer Education really well, I started to meet more people who did what I did. I was “finding the others.” I met instructional designers like myself, seasoned Education Services leaders who ran successful P&Ls, and “accidental Customer Educators” who landed in the field from more orthogonal routes, like Customer Support or Product Marketing.
One thing I noticed is that very few people take a direct route into Customer Education, and there seemed to be a dearth of best practices, especially for those of us running programs in startups and less established companies. We were all experimenting and reporting our results back to each other.
Between the Bay Area Customer Education Meetup and CEdMA events, I craved connection with more Customer Education leaders. In fact, it was at a CEdMA Spring Conference that I met Dave Derington. I’d seen him talk about data-driven Customer Education and how to connect systems to do more sophisticated measurement. At the time, this wasn’t common, so of course I wanted to pick this guy’s brain. Over time, we struck up a connection.
With the growth of Customer Education tied to Customer Success, we noticed more people starting to enter our field from other backgrounds. I’d see it at the Customer Education Meetup and from new Customer Education leaders reaching out to ask me questions about Optiverse, the program I was at that point leading at Optimizely. Dave would meet a lot of aspiring Customer Education professionals through his work at Gainsight. We realized that there was still opportunity to “find the others” and to answer the fundamental questions that people in our field are asking.
At the heart of it, that’s what our CELab podcast aims to do: connect people, ask thought-provoking questions, and invite people who are new to the field to experiment and “find the others.” Each episode revolves around a hypothesis that we can test, and falsify if it’s untrue. This brings us face-to-face with plenty of myths and received wisdom that’s endemic in the Customer Education field. We hope to continue asking those questions, and I invite CEdMA members both to subscribe and to reach out to us on LinkedIn or Twitter if you’re interested in talking with us on the show!
These same questions led me to write the Customer Education book. Customer Education leaders, whether
new to the field or looking to adapt to new trends in Customer Success, seem to be asking many of the same questions. I wanted to answer these questions to the best of my ability, drawing both from my experience as well as the stories of other customer educators. I wanted it to be the book I wish I had read when I started in this field in earnest, and I hope it can provide that exact value to other Customer Education leaders.
As the field of Customer Education continues to modernize and grow, I’m glad that we can continue to find each other and experiment together. Don’t be a stranger if you have feedback about the book or the podcast, or if you’d like to contribute in another way!
Adam Avramescu is a Customer Education leader with over 10 years of experience working with software companies across finance, marketing, HR, and other industries. Since starting his career as an instructional designer working with organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to higher-education and nonprofits, he has built and grown Customer Education programs for companies such as Optimizely, Kasasa, and Checkr. He currently leads Enterprise Customer Education at Slack.