How to Get The Most From Certification in the Customer Success Lifecycle

Barry Kelly
May 3, 2018

Certification can be a very important component in assuring that your customers experience success with your products. In practice, certification can occur at different stages across the customer lifecycle, depending on how your organization decides to approach it.

Onboarding Certifications

Some organizations come straight out of the gate and offer certification to their customers as part of the onboarding process. For them, the importance of certification at this stage is tied to delivering value for all customers and user roles while they are still in the early adoption phase. One reason to certify customers at this stage is to improve time-to-value metrics. Focusing on promoting the success of new customers vastly improves long-term engagement, success, and product renewals.

You may have more than one certification pathway in the onboarding process, each designed for key user roles. It’s important to plan these out well when building certifications. Understanding the audience for specific features of the product and the value that leveraging these features can deliver for them will inform the certification pathways you create. For customers, getting certified is an affirmation that their hard work and investment was worth it. For you, the value is the comfort of knowing that your customers truly understand the power of your product during the critical adoption stage.

Partner and Trainer Certifications

For many organizations, certification is a powerful way to ensure that the external ecosystem of trainers, partners, integrators, and practitioners understands the product at many levels. In most cases, these valuable super-users, evangelists, and partners are critical to your business. It’s absolutely crucial that you ensure your channel partners understand your products well enough to sell and support them. Regional trainers need to be on message and up to date with the newest frameworks. Getting your extended network into certification programs should be a non-negotiable component of your success.

Demand for certifications are often driven by the partners and practitioners in the field. There is a lot of value—mostly financial—to be publicly validated by super users. Whether it’s helping a customer get a new job or supporting the growth of a partner business, certifications are an important, if not critical artifact for all parties.

Managing the Complexity of Certification

Managing certifications—and the delivery of them—can quickly become a complex proposition for any organization. From building completion rules and award criteria to managing recertifications and submittals, certificate management is no easy task to scale.
As you focus on your particular needs, consider the following questions:

  • What training programs should my ecosystem complete to be effective?
  • How will I track progress, completion, and proficiency for each learner?
  • Are there different levels of certification? If so, what are the criteria that define each level?
  • What are the recertification requirements for certificates that expire or need to be renewed?
  • Are there governing bodies or states that need to approve these certifications?

The Power of Certification in Customer Success

An educated, certified customer base and partner group can make waves across your organization. From reducing churn and optimizing the onboarding process to monetizing your growing external partner ecosystem, certifications offer real value. Certifications can also be an important part of your business growth and optimization. For instance, companies such as Adobe, Marketo, and Hubspot offer certified customer training programs. Those certifications have become valued by employers and make their way onto the resumes of candidates across the world. By helping users gain better—more highly-regarded and marketable—skills, you empower them to improve their careers and understand your product line more effectively.

That’s a certified win across the board.

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