Blog Post

Solving SaaS’s Biggest Problem: How to Reduce Churn With Customer Education

Robyn Hazelton
July 6, 2022
February 19, 2024
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When you think about your company’s most important metrics for the year, there’s probably one that tops the list alongside total revenue: Net Dollar Retention.

(If you’re not familiar, Net Dollar Retention, or NDR, is the percentage of revenue your company holds onto over time after factoring in renewals, expansions, downgrades, and churn.)

Why does Net Dollar Retention matter? 

Because your company pays to bring in new customers. And if those customers are churning—or if the value of customers decreases over time—your company loses money. 

There’s always some amount of turnover in a business (you can’t control everything). But there is one reason customers leave that’s within your control: They don’t get the expected value out of your product or service.

SaaS’s Biggest Problem: Overselling and Under Delivering

The biggest problem in SaaS right now is that while companies have gotten really good at selling outcomes, they fail to help customers achieve those outcomes.

Ask yourself (and be honest):

  • How confident are you that your customers can achieve the outcomes they were sold?
  • Is the experience of trying to master your product a positive or negative one?

If you’re confident clients can achieve the outcomes they expect, and that learning the ins and outs of your product is a positive customer experience, congratulations! You’re ahead of the pack.

But, if you’re like most companies we talk to, the answers to those questions aren’t quite what you want them to be. 

If your customers aren’t able to master your product, they won’t achieve their desired outcomes. And when they don’t achieve the outcomes they were sold, they churn. 

Once a customer leaves, the chances of getting them back are pretty slim. That’s why it’s critical to not only sell outcomes, but also teach customers how to achieve outcomes.

How can you help customers become masterful users of your product? Through customer education.

Customer Education as a Solution to Churn

The term customer education refers to the process of educating customers on how to achieve a specific outcome.

Many companies attempt to achieve this with 1:1 customer onboarding. And while 1:1 onboarding certainly plays a role in helping customers adopt your platform, the approach doesn’t scale—and it’s limited to the early stages of the customer journey. 

Customer education can extend training further into the customer lifecycle, leading to better adoption and mastery—and healthier customers who renew.

Reducing Churn With The Intellum Methodology™

Now that you’re clear on how customer education plays a valuable role in customer success and retention, it’s time to roll out a strategic customer education program. 

The Intellum Methodology is the foundation of customer education success. It includes eight strategic pillars that make up a successful customer education strategy. 

Illustration showing blocks and a target.

You can click the link above to read about each of the eight pillars in detail, or you can read on for the Cliff Notes version.  

Define Your Goals and Audiences 

First things first: you must understand who you’re talking to. For example, if you’re a social media scheduling company, your audience might be social media managers. From there, think about what goals they want to achieve. If your main service is the ability to schedule social media posts in advance, it’s important for your customer to be able to create and schedule a social post. 

You usually don’t have just one outcome. In our example of a social media scheduling company, that social media manager probably also wants to understand how successful that post was. So, they want to be able to find post analytics and compare against the success of previous posts or an industry benchmark. With that in mind, you might also create blog posts and other educational content that helps customers find and analyze social media metrics to improve the performance of future posts.

Three questions to ask yourself at this step:

  1. Who are my customers?
  2. What outcomes are they trying to achieve?
  3. What do they need to know in order to achieve those outcomes?

Analyze Your Current Content

Once you know who you’re teaching and what their goals are, take a look at your current content. 

Questions to ask of your current content:

  • How much of it speaks to the audiences you defined? 
  • What currently exists that helps customers reach their intended goals?
  • What’s missing that could help customers achieve desired outcomes?

This analysis will help you identify gaps in your content strategy. You can prioritize creating these new pieces of content based on potential impact.

Fill in the Content Gaps

Now that you know what content is missing, it’s time to get creating!

The goal here is not to create as much content as possible. It’s about helping customers achieve goals. With that in mind, consider what your customers actually need to succeed. 

Questions to ask yourself at this step:

  • How long does the content need to be? 
  • What type of content would be most helpful? (e.g., training, video tutorials, etc.)
  • What content do I already have that I could repurpose for this need?

You might find that similar content already exists, you just need to tweak it for the audience or the lifecycle stage. By taking a step back and looking at what can be repurposed, you can save a lot of valuable time—and drive more outcomes for your customers. (Pro Tip: A modular content strategy can help you repurpose and reuse existing content.)

Consider Delivery 

You’ve probably heard that the key to customer education is to “get the right content to the right customer at the right time.”

As we mentioned, it’s not about how much content you have. It’s about reducing the noise and helping customers find exactly what they need. 

Successful customer education programs have a thoughtful delivery strategy. Delivery is the presentation of discussions, demonstrations, and exercises or activities that will help learners gain the required knowledge and skills for performing a task or learning a subject. 

Question to ask yourself about delivery: What’s the best way to present this material to the customer?

Here are common delivery methods:

  • E-learning (including courses, lessons, and certifications)
  • Videos
  • 1:1 training
  • Group training

At this step, you want to think about the format in which you’re delivering content and the mechanism for actually delivering that content. Too often, customer education experiences are disjointed, leaving customers to guess at where to go for answers. This creates a poor user experience and lots of confusion. Make it easy for customers to find the information they’re looking for.

Measure Success

How will you know if your customer education efforts have been successful?

Think about your high-level goals for customer education: Is it to increase customer renewals? Expand accounts? Reduce customer support tickets? Improve customer onboarding and decrease time-to-value? Those should be your ultimate measures of success.

But when it comes to measuring the success of your program, you’ll likely look at metrics like course completions, webinar attendance, and video views.

Beyond these program-specific metrics, you’ll also want to consider behavior change. Success in customer education isn’t about how much content someone consumed so much as how it changed their behavior.

Questions to ask yourself at this step:

  • Are customers achieving their desired outcomes?
  • Are we seeing increased use of the product?
  • Do trained customers have higher CSAT or NPS scores?

Taking a holistic approach to how you look at your metrics will help you make a better business case for future customer education efforts.

Customer Renewals Are a Joint Effort

Customer success and customer education share a common goal: They want customers to be successful. 

These teams also usually share similar KPIs:

  • Increased customer retention
  • Increased customer expansion
  • Increased product adoption
  • Improved customer satisfaction

Creating a customer education function isn’t meant to take away from the role of customer success. Instead, it should enhance customer success.

Customer education can create educational content, own delivery, and report on metrics. 

Customer success can then use what customer education built to better understand their customers, expand contracts, and strategically intervene when account health dips.

Educated Customers Are More Likely to Renew

Looking for ways to retain customers in the long term? It’s clear customer education is the answer.

In fact, our 2022 report, Examining the State of Organizational Education, found that customer retention is the most common business outcome for customer education programs. And teams that implement formalized, scalable, and curriculum-based customer education programs see the best results when it comes to retention.

How Intellum Helps

The Intellum Platform leverages an approach based on decades of industry experience and a proprietary methodology informed by the Science of Learning. This helps your customers achieve the learning objectives you set out for them.

Intellum is more than a learning management system—it’s a holistic organizational education platform for connecting learning initiatives to business outcomes. As you start or build upon your customer education program, we hope you’ll consider partnering with us.

About the Author

Robyn Hazelton headshot
Robyn Hazelton
Vice President of Marketing and Growth
Robyn is the VP of Marketing and Growth at Intellum and helps to ensure that every interaction an individual has with the brand is as awesome as possible. An experienced and trusted leader with a history of consistently impacting revenue, she's always talking about funnel management and biased toward action.