How to Bridge the Consumption Gap with Customer Education

Post header how to bridge the consumption gap
Thought Industries
September 3, 2020

What is a consumption gap?

A consumption gap is a very serious issue for a company, and for its customers. Daniel Quick, Senior Director of Product Experience at Thought Industries explains:

“A SaaS company experiences a consumption gap when their customer, and their users, are not tapping into the full power of the solution they bought and are paying for, and thus not realizing their full return on investment. The persistence of these gaps, and there may be many, ultimately impacts the likelihood of contract renewal.”

The truth is that in most SaaS companies, customer education is a highly valuable but not always highly leveraged program. Customer training, which begins with onboarding, is all about increasing the value that users get from using your product in 3 ways:

  1. Promoting product features that are particularly relevant to individual customers;
  2. Decreasing the friction of using these features and, in turn, increasing the motivation to use them.
  3. Helping your customers build skills that will ultimately allow them to get more from your product.

Poor onboarding leads to consumption gaps

In a recent webinar, Todd Boes, Chief Product Officer at Thought Industries, suggests the problem begins with the onboarding process:

“Onboarding touches administrators, contract signers and account owners – maybe 5% of an organization. We can’t leave these additional hundreds or thousands of users to figure it out by themselves. It serves no one’s purpose.”

Poor onboarding is the leading cause of consumption gaps. The problem escalates as new features are released, and many SaaS companies, Thought Industries included, are on a fast-track for releases. Last year alone, Thought Industries released 175 new features. With so many new features, it’s understandable if customers aren’t aware of them. However, these consumption gaps are ubiquitous and pose a serious challenge to everyone’s goals.

Identifying the consumption gap

Bridging the consumption gap requires an in-depth analysis to determine which product features lead to customer successes. This analysis is likely to take several forms:

  1. Data. Look at content consumption by feature. Low engagement indicates an adoption issue. Use product usage analytics tools to track user behaviors and deliver insights into how they are engaging, and which features they are (and are not) adopting.
  2. Engagement. Take an in-depth look at your support documentation. How often is a Help article visited? How helpful do users rate the article? If an article is helpful but not utilized, promote it.  If it’s unhelpful but heavily utilized, improve it.
  3. “Voice of the Customer”. Your customer-facing teams should institute a continuous  feedback cycle where they are talking to users and actively listening to their experiences. Where is there friction or frustration?

These 3 sources of information will give you an excellent view of the existing consumption gaps. In fact, they might virtually “leap off the page.”
Lastly, you need to prioritize for two good reasons:

  1. Customer training can’t do everything all at once.
  2.  You want to focus on building skills that are most likely to drive enablement, adoption and contract renewal. Comprehensive NPS (net promoter score) research, with a strong qualitative component, should help you see through the customers’ eyes, and understand what features in your product drive core value.

Bridging the consumption gap with customer education

Here are the 4 tactics to deploy to minimize or eliminate consumption gaps:

  1. Instead of teaching your customers everything about your product, focus on the core actions that enable your customers to get value from your product as quickly as possible.
  2. Promote customer education programs broadly among the customer base, but don’t rely on that outreach. Push the experience to users at key junctures through in-app training widgets tied to micro-learning.
  3. Consider certification programs. They entice customers to master your products by offering visible and tangible proof of their achievement. This will take product usage to a new level and expose your customers to the full power of your products.
  4. Identify super-users and leverage these communities of champions. They are an untapped gold mine of education that exists within the user base, and can be particularly helpful in helping other customers solve for more nuanced use cases.

Some professional advice to reduce product consumption gaps

Daniel provides some advice in closing:

“If you’re serious about identifying and minimizing these consumption gaps to increase engagement and reduce churn, you’ve got to be clear about how you’re measuring success. The ideal scenario is to create baselines around product engagement and course content consumption and use these as key indicators. Deploy your tactics and measure again. Did the in-app microlearning increase consumption? Did the certification deepen product usage? You’ll shrink these gaps through increasingly successful tactics.”

Download Now Maturity Model

Learn more about reducing consumption gaps and more customer education program advice from experts and peers at COGNITION.

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