L&D leaders’ domain isn’t limited to the training of employees and leaders across the workforce. They may also hold roles responsible for training customers or clients, with tangible ripple effects across the business — better brand awareness, more sales, smoother onboarding, higher renewal rates.
Tasked with implementing LaunchDarkly Academy, a customer education platform that launched in September 2022, B.J. Schone, director of learning and enablement, understands the importance of educating consumers on how to use a product most effectively.
“By building out really good education, you can just help your customers achieve more, do more, get more out of the product,” says Schone. “There’s so much value in any company just helping to give their customers a leg up to get better at what they’re doing.”
Senior Executive L&D spoke with Schone to learn more about LaunchDarkly Academy and how to create a functional product for both employee- and customer-facing L&D teams. Read on for an edited excerpt from that discussion.
(Disclosure: Senior Executive Media’s Think Tanks community platform uses LaunchDarkly.)
Senior Executive Media: Before LaunchDarkly Academy, did any customer education resources or content exist, and what was the driving force behind developing the program?
B.J. Schone: Prior to LaunchDarkly Academy, there were no formal customer education resources. Account executives, solutions engineers, and customer success managers often built their own version of a ‘LaunchDarkly 101’ demo that was used for a quick overview and training… When I joined LaunchDarkly, I found about 12 different versions of ‘LaunchDarkly 101’ content floating around the company, so we are happy we were able to consolidate these efforts and create a central, up-to-date resource for prospects and customers.
Essentially, our goal is to help people become proficient using LaunchDarkly. We want them to really just get a good grasp of the software… Almost all of our training is out there for free. That’s our philosophy because we just want people to be more successful, achieve more, get more out of the product and just have a better time with LaunchDarkly.
Senior Executive Media: What educational opportunities does LaunchDarkly Academy offer, and are internal team members trained on what’s available for customers?
B.J. Schone: We offer a number of online modules, so anyone can sign up and just go in there and start the training on their own. One example is a learning path called LaunchDarkly for Developers. It’s a series of detailed courses to really just go in and get to use the product and learn how it might work best for them and their situation, their use cases, their environments. We also offer over 40 individual bite-sized courses on specific topics related to LaunchDarkly. So maybe you’re interested in using tech integrations with LaunchDarkly. Well, there’s a little course you can take there that’s like five minutes. [Other ‘bite-sized courses’ range five to 15 minutes.]
We do run regular live trainings for LaunchDarkly for beginners — 30 minutes, about every other week. We run what we call ‘success office hours.’ So those are really our open Q&A live sessions… Maybe you’re just starting to work with the product and you have questions or you want to come in and kick the tires with one of our experts, you get to do that. We [also] offer a certification program — developer certification program [with Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum certifications]. That was a lot of fun to get to build out.
New LaunchDarkly team members use the Academy so they can learn the LaunchDarkly product inside and out, and so that they can see what is available and what they can offer customers. There isn’t a separate training for them to learn how to steer customers per se, but we widely promote our Guided Onboarding page which has worked well for getting customers started.
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Senior Executive Media: How did you go about learning customers’ pain points, interests, and what they were trying to do with your company’s product in order to determine the right education to offer?
B.J. Schone: We spoke with probably a dozen of our customer success managers to say, ‘Hey, you’re chatting with customers on a daily basis. What are the themes? What are the pain points? What are the goals? What are the use cases?’ Things like that. [We] spoke with customers as well.
Then once we did build some things out, we tested and tried them with some of our very willing and gracious customers… We did one focus group with a customer who had about six team members participate, and then we asked a few key [customer success managers] to share it with their customers for early feedback.
We offered [customers] the ability to guide the curriculum and our offerings from the beginning, and they provided suggestions for what they wanted to see in the Academy. A lot of [the feedback was] around length… ‘We want more of this, but less of this’… Sometimes it was around media types… ‘We wanted to see a little more video and explanation of concepts in that format.’
Some of the feedback we [had was], ‘How can I get more hands-on?’ We’ve been moving toward that direction. We are building learning experiences to teach developers what they would need to do [in different] use cases, with real-world examples, and we aim to give them hands-on opportunities to try everything independently…from targeting specific users for an in-app experience to A/B tests and experiments to large technology migrations… The challenge is building realistic scenarios that exist in a safe, sandboxed environment where people can try, fail, and learn without consequence.
Senior Executive Media: What metrics are you looking at to determine the program’s effectiveness?
B.J. Schone: Measuring learning is really difficult. It’s one of those things that’s just kind of squishy and hard to nail down. Ultimately with the Academy, we were looking at activity first and impact later.
In the past quarter…customers [signed up for] over 2,400 courses and took 960 hours of training. We’re really proud of that — just to see people in there, taking the training… One of the survey questions we ask… ‘On a 10-point scale, one to 10, how much have the Academy courses impacted your confidence in using LaunchDarkly?’ [That score is] 8.0. We’re seeing a good impact there that we’re helping people become more comfortable… The average number of courses per customer is 2.2 and the average session time is 53 minutes.
[Company revenue] is obviously one part of the Academy, but we really had an outward look first. There are a couple of ways you could do customer education. You could approach it very selfishly and say we’re only doing this to drive up numbers; we’re trying to sell training. A lot of companies are really just trying to sell training, and that works in a lot of cases. But our approach has been less about trying to monetize customer education; instead, we see it as more about empowerment… We’re very fortunate that our exec team has been really supportive and embraced the idea.
“Our approach has been less about trying to monetize customer education; instead, we see it as more about empowerment.”B.J. Schone, Director of Learning and Enablement at LaunchDarkly
Senior Executive Media: You talked about measuring learning as a challenge shared by both employee-facing and customer-facing L&D teams. Are there other similarities or differences you’ve found?
B.J. Schone: Similar is in how you construct a training experience… You wouldn’t want to radically construct your training experience different based on internal or external. [That includes] a lot of the instructional design principles and how you craft that learning experience, how you really just try to understand what it is you’re trying to help the individual do. How do you sequence the content? How do you simplify the content? How do you explain the concepts in a way that makes sense?
When you think about customer education, the thing that’s different is you really want to pin down: Why did customers buy your product? What made them sign the contract — to say, ‘We really, really want LaunchDarkly, so much so we’re ready to pay for it.’ Okay, so what are they trying to do with it? What is the pain point? What is the interest? Then from an education standpoint, we say, ‘Great, how can we help them get there faster?’