The Maturity Model for Customer Education and Learning by Thought Industries

A 5-Step Roadmap for Growing a High-Impact Customer Learning Enterprise

Grow & Evolve Your Customer Learning Program

The cost to attain and retain customers has never been higher – which is why providing comprehensive learning and education around your product that engages clients (and increases their success) is more important than ever before. Great customer learning enables enterprises to drive greater product adoption, increase customer retention, and elevate their brand.

Our customer learning community was hungry to know how to level up their programs and understand what the most sophisticated programs were doing. So, in 2021, we launched a research initiative to find out.

Want to learn how your program’s current performance compares to our research cohort?

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How Did We Build Our Model?

In our recent state of the industry survey 97% of respondents said customer learning impacts overall business revenue. It’s no surprise, then, that 60% of programs also increased their overall customer learning spend by 30% or more in the last 12 months, and the number of brand new, just-launched programs has risen to 30% (up from 8% in 2020.)

With customer learning so clearly on the rise, we launched a research program to better understand how learning programs find their success – and what stops them. We conducted over 50 interviews with leaders and practitioners. We asked about their journey in customer learning, and combed through operational processes, infrastructure, learning environments, and results dashboards.

Our 3 Research Goals Were:

  1. Assess the current performance and maturity of each program,
  2. Identify the most significant barriers to success (past and present), and
  3. Document, in detail, strategies, tactics, and best practices for overcoming those barriers.

Research Cohort Breakdown

We formed our customer learning research cohort from organizations of all sizes, and across
multiple industries, to help us narrow in on the most widely-applicable problems and practices.




Take a Closer Look at the
Thought Industries Maturity Model

Stage 1 – Train Your Customers

Customer learning is delivered primarily live; either via Instructor-Led Training (ILT), or more recently, Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT). And, this stage is not monopolized by smaller organizations – even enterprise-level companies tend to start here before they grow their customer learning programs.

30% of programs are in Stage 1.


Strategic Imperatives

  • Win executive support to grow the customer learning enterprise
  • Digitize high-demand learning content
  • Measure learner satisfaction as a basis for continuous improvement
Key Benefit

Help customers get value, faster

Primary Challenge

Difficult to scale time-intensive, expensive live training as the business grows

Stage 2 – Build Foundation for Scale

When organizations realize that an all-live training offering simply won’t scale with the business, they turn to a digital foundation for learning, and most often, this is when organizations invest in e-Learning and on-demand content.

55% of programs are in Stage 2.


Strategic Imperatives

  • Launch a centralized, easily discoverable academy
  • Streamline content production and reduce friction for SMEs
  • Measure learning content consumption and completion
Key Benefit

Free team bandwidth for strategic/high-value work

Primary Challenge

Capacity crunch, especially for small teams

Stage 3 – Personalize Learning

Digital learning becomes more strategic and personalized to your customers. For many organizations, this means mapping the most critical user personas and defining what their ideal learning offering would look like.

10% of programs are in Stage 3.


Strategic Imperatives

  • Implement persona-based user journeys, built around must-solve problems
  • Establish a “push and pull” learner engagement strategy
  • Develop premium subscription content
Key Benefit

Increase product adoption and customer success

Primary Challenge

Difficult to pinpoint users’ highest learning priorities

Stage 4 – Expand Business Impact

The learning team is focused on impacting multiple significant business metrics across the customer journey. The priorities for measurement have shifted from user impact to business impact. Leaders in this category have an ongoing source of impact metrics that they present to leadership on a regular basis.

3% of programs are in Stage 4.


Strategic Imperatives

  • Measure the impact of learning on business KPIs
  • Source learning from experts, partners, and community
  • Use offerings to onboard and enable internal teams
Thought Industries Customer Learning Maturity Model
Key Benefit

Demonstrate program value and unlock investment for innovation and growth

Primary Challenge

Difficult to connect learning consumption metrics to business KPIs without extensive “human middleware”

Stage 5 – Elevate the Brand

Through technology and innovation, this is where customer learning starts to push the boundary of what a learning experience can be. At this stage, learning doesn’t stop with customers, but is launched on a larger scale, toward the market.

2% of programs are in Stage 5.


Strategic Imperatives

  • Launch public-facing learning to broadcast expertise and generate demand
  • Pioneer learning channels that naturally reach professionals in their flow of work
    and life
  • Define & measure “education-qualified leads” (EQLs)
Key Benefit

Supercharge demand generation

Primary Challenge

Difficult to gain recognition and clout without deep expertise and existing credibility with the industry

Thought Industries Maturity Model

Ready to Level Up Your Customer Learning Program?

Our Maturity Model White Paper can help you discover the steps, challenges, and tactical best practices along the journey to best-in-class customer learning. To map the stage of your program today, take our self-assessment.

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We’re always learning and exploring new research questions. To join our cohort reach out to [email protected]