According to our State of Education Initiative Ownership 2023 survey, 60% of education professionals think there’s a mismatch between their company’s ability to sell the dream to prospective customers and their proficiency in helping customers achieve desired outcomes.
This mismatch creates a problem for both customers and businesses alike. When customers don’t understand how to find the promised value, they start looking for new solutions and ultimately churn. So how can SaaS and other B2B companies help customers find value faster and longer?
We talk a lot about customer education here at Intellum, but today we’re zooming out to discuss broader customer enablement. Customer enablement helps you support customers, improve relationships, and increase long-term revenue when customers stay longer and spend more.
By the end of this article, you’ll understand what customer enablement is, how it differs from sales enablement, plus strategies and best practices to start enabling customers.
What is Customer Enablement?
Customer enablement is providing the resources customers need to achieve the outcomes they’re looking for when using your product or service.
In addition to templates and tools, customer enablement includes customer education that helps drive customer behavior change and improves business outcomes.
But simply creating customer enablement materials is not enough, companies must also train and empower their customer success (CS) teams to share and use them, as well.
Customer enablement helps you provide the best customer experience to retain more customers, drive more recurring revenue, increase lifetime spend, and ultimately create brand evangelists.
Customer Enablement Examples
To show how those in the customer enablement industry are thinking creatively about enabling customers, we interviewed two customer enablement professionals.
He expressed that his favorite assets to create are the collaborative, cross-functional resources that drive buy-in across multiple teams and result in better content than one team member could create alone.
Sana Farooq, Customer Education and Customer Success Consultant, shared that she enjoys producing go-to-market (GTM) releases that bring the entire company together and help customers get more value from their software.
Other customer enablement examples include the following:
- Customer enablement onboarding processes and checklists
- Customer success playbooks
- Customer quarterly business reviews
- Customer community events and podcasts
- Resources promoting additional features and services
Customer Enablement vs. Sales Enablement
Still nascent in the industry, customer enablement is often ill-defined. A few distinctions can help to understand customer enablement’s definition and how it differs from sales enablement.
Sales enablement is a company’s internal process that ensures its sales department has resources to sell effectively.
Customer enablement is an external process where a company creates materials for the customer to support their success using the product.
Customer enablement ensures teams continue supporting customers after the initial purchase, by providing ongoing materials throughout the customer lifecycle to help them grow and get more value from the product.
Within the customer enablement umbrella, Sana shared that customer education “uses data to get ahead of where or how frequently customers get stuck in the process.”
Customer success enablement equips your customer success team with the knowledge and skills to use your customer enablement materials most effectively with customers. Sana shared that customer success enablement helps your CS team “have comprehensive knowledge of the product and new releases, also for the benefit of the customer.”
So let’s recap—what’s the difference between customer enablement and sales enablement? While customer enablement focuses on creating materials for your customer’s benefit, sales enablement helps sellers make the sale.
To be clear, the distinctions above don’t require entirely separate resources for different teams or functions. Many customer enablement materials are also beneficial for prospects and sellers.
Teams that use a learning management system (LMS) or enablement platform designed to deliver information to multiple audiences save time by not reinventing the wheel each time they need another resource.
How to Get Started with Customer Enablement
By 2025, Gartner predicts more than 60% of frontline sales enablement organizations will enable additional customer-facing roles to improve the customer journey beyond the initial sale.
Your company can become one by listening to customers and anticipating their needs.
Here are four customer enablement strategies to support your customers’ success while using your product.
1. Educate customers
If customer enablement onboarding checklists and templates are roadmaps that help customers see what needs to be done and when, then customer education is the vehicle that helps them get from one destination to the next.
Comprehensive education through video lessons, courses, and certifications helps teams prevent customer challenges, reduce reliance on customer support, and assist customers to grow and reach their goals.
2. Provide outstanding support
While customer education helps prevent many issues, some customers still require direct support.
If your company prioritizes providing outstanding customer support, you’ll retain customers longer—but they aren’t the only ones who benefit.
Customer support requests can help you uncover where customers get stuck in your process and inform ongoing education needs.
3. Create community
Customer communities enable customers to talk things through, learn from peers, and solidify learning in ways that give life to the concepts you taught them. This process frees up your customer support team to handle the most complex issues—and allows your customer education team to focus on content that serves the majority of use cases.
Cohort-based learning combines the best of education and community, giving customers an opportunity to interact, learn together, and feel connected as part of something bigger than themselves in ways that lead to sustainable growth for all.
By offering customers this opportunity for social learning, your company can improve learner retention and outcomes as customers observe peer experiences, collaborate, and get feedback.
4. Collect customer feedback and improve
Customer feedback is essential to understand customer needs and refine your strategies and materials. When customers share their experiences through forums like community, Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, or support tickets, companies can use this data to make improvements and address knowledge gaps.
These insights can enhance your team's productivity and improve processes for everyone from customers and partners, to customer support, customer success, marketing, and sales.
4 Best Practices for Customer Enablement From Customer Enablement Professionals
Beyond the insights included above, our customer enablement professionals shared the following tips and best practices.
1. Don't recreate the wheel.
Sana recommends leveraging all internal resources, including knowledge base articles, courses, different versions of internal onboarding guides, and even interviewing internal employees. Repurposed materials can serve both external customers and employees alike. “There is valuable knowledge everywhere, you just have to be proactive and resourceful in finding it,” Sana shared.
2. Look to internal SMEs.
Dan recommends finding inspiration from within your organization by looking beyond those with formal enablement roles to those doing the work of customer enablement without realizing it. “External inspiration is great for frameworks, ideas, and best practices. Internal inspiration helps to apply those to your customers,” Dan shared.
3. Keep the customer in focus.
While it’s easy to get carried away in the details when you’re in the thick of building resources, these details often matter more to you than the customer, Dan shared. “It’s helpful to schedule regular check-ins to step back, get feedback, and make adjustments.”
4. Don’t strive for immediate perfection.
The first version of a program or resource won’t be perfect, but don’t let that hold you back. “Try things out, learn from feedback, and iterate. It’s said that ‘good is the enemy of great,’ but rarely is great achieved without good,” Dan advised.
Get More Customer Enablement Insights
Customer enablement helps companies improve their customer experience, keep customers longer, and earn ongoing referrals from customers who feel supported and successful. When customers feel successful, companies see lower churn and better business outcomes.
By enabling customers effectively, customer success and support teams are free to focus on more complex customer problems.
If you found this article helpful, subscribe to our newsletter to learn more about customer education and enablement.