To Tom Studdert, Vice President of Customer Onboarding and Education at ZoomInfo, successful customer education is a challenge without measurement. But the road to securing buy-in, pinpointing what to measure, and leveraging technology to get there has been a journey.
In this Q&A with Tom, we explore the steps to achieve the successful customer education program he leads today.
Following ZoomInfo’s Recent Growth Surge
ZoomInfo experienced tremendous growth over the past six years, moving from 2,000 to 30,000 customers, with over 300,000 users across accounts. The company also recently went public, and made a number of strategic acquisitions to grow to 3,000 employees — of which Tom was number 120, back when ZoomInfo and DiscoverOrg were two separate entities.
MD: Can you talk a bit about the scale of growth that’s taken place at ZoomInfo and on your Customer Education team in recent years?
TS: “When I started, we were a three-person team, and now we have fifty-five. We focus on training customers across the lifecycle, so the enablement team owns our University and Knowledge Center. They create the content for those – then we have an adoption team whose role it is to make sure customers hit certain milestones during the first 30-90 days to help guide them to value with our products.
I remember early on, the CEO would say, ‘I know the customers have to be trained, I just wish they didn’t!’’ laughs Tom. “He definitely thought of us as a cost-center, and in many ways we were. But as we’ve evolved and become a central tenet to customer experience, we’ve learned how to prove our worth.”
Finding the Right Technology & Integrations for Scale
ZoomInfo started their education program on Litmos, an LMS built for employee needs – leaving the customer demographic an afterthought. Customers onboarded, had a single training session, and was marked “complete” on an Excel form before the trainers moved on.
Ultimately, ZoomInfo knew they needed a technology upgrade – and they moved to Thought Industries. The results? Within just 9 months, they saw an increase of unique users over 50%, a near-15% increase in post-onboarding training, a 50% spike in quarterly certified users, and 108% growth in course completions.
As this successful Customer Education team has continued to show value, the data architecture has advanced. They’ve adopted a Business Intelligence tool, Tableau, as well as Snowflake, which collects data on course completions, certifications, and demographics.
MD: What was your measurement strategy in those early days? How did you know what to measure to prove the success of your program?
TS: “There was no philosophy, it was just about keeping up with the backlog and making sure people were trained. I call that stage one.”
At one stage, we were looking at engagement. We were saying ‘Excellent — the customers are enjoying the training,’ and that was all we could measure. But we knew we had to go beyond the smile sheets and the satisfaction scores. We wanted to show a correlation between trained users and their usage of the product. I knew showing that trained accounts displayed deeper product adoption meant we’d immediately have a story to get buy-in for expanding education.
Now, we’re having a direct impact on renewals and upsells. We can prove we’re an engine that does two things: provide ROI to customers and link into revenue generation.”
Spotlighting the Features that Make the Most Impact
Another differentiator within Thought Industries was the back-end capability to integrate into the existing technology stack they were using. For example, our SalesForce integration helped embed the platform into ZoomInfo’s own products. Through Single Sign-On functionality, customers never even needed to leave the ZoomInfo platform. Their content is built out as webinars, VILT, customized videos and more – all within the platform. Using smart tagging and filters to reach the right personas, they deliver a bespoke learning environment through Thought Industries’ Panorama tool.
MD: How did specific technology features and functionality allow you to get those results?
TS: “Almost everything that we do is as a result of us having the Thought Industries technology. These features were not available in any other LMS that we have looked at — and I looked at 35! All 30,000 of our customers are signed up to Panorama, where we can provide them with a dedicated space and their own bespoke training across all products.
For enterprise customers, we can create co-branded courses, log into our executive dashboard, and see who has been trained and what they’ve done.
We’ve also looked into our small business segment who currently get a very high-tech touch without much personal support. It’s great that they’re onboarded quickly, but we’ve found they‘re actually more likely to churn than those with a higher-touch approach. So we’re talking about increasing resources in that group — and that wouldn’t have happened without the data and visibility from Thought Industries.”
Advice for a Successful Customer Education Team
Ultimately, ZoomInfo presented the C-suite with organizational impact metrics like upsells and renewals, all found through the Thought Industries dashboard. Looking at accounts where at least one user completed a course, they found an increase in logo renewals between 10%-15%. And they didn’t stop there… the team was able to report upsell metrics with a similar uplift, between 5%-10%.
MD: Looking at these amazing impact metrics, what advice would you have for organizations looking to prove customer education ROI in a similar way?
TS: “I wouldn’t expect a new Customer Education team to go from no data to the kind of data we have now, but the important thing is to start measuring something. It took us six years to get here. We always wanted it, but we just weren’t ready. Even if you’re starting with Excel, learn who is being trained and compare that training to usage. Then you at least have the data to start the analysis.”
Read more about Tom’s exciting results at ZoomInfo using the Thought Industries platform in their full case study.