How a Self-Serve Product Training Academy Fuels Scalable Customer Success

Last verified May 20, 2021

Helping customers reach that coveted aha! moment with your products — and eventually realize their vision of success from when they originally purchased — can be really tough. When you get it right, though, successful customers lead to higher renewal rates, account expansion, and priceless case studies and references. They also provide your team with a deep sense of purpose in their work.

But how can you help all of your customers become successful when “success” can mean lots of different things across your customer base? Or when it’s not feasible to have someone (customer success managers, support agents, etc.) assigned to all of them?

As we’ve expanded our customer base quickly at Guru, we’ve worked to create a scalable approach to customer success. We decided to build a self-serve product training academy, the Guru Academy, to form a core component of that initiative.


I recently had a chance to sit down with Imtiaz Alam, our Instructional Designer who created the Guru Academy from scratch. We have learned a lot over the past several months throughout the process, and wanted to share some of our takeaways.

Using a self-service product training to scale customer success

Imtiaz, for folks who are new to the world of customer education and scalable customer success, why go through the effort to create self-serve product training courses for customers? Is it worth it?

Imtiaz: Absolutely. We want all customers to achieve their version of success, especially those who may not get 1:1 support from our spectacular Sales, Support, and Customer Success teams. When you realize that it’s not scalable to receive that kind of intimate support, a customer education program starts to make a ton of sense. You may also find that some portion of your customer base will not want to interact with a human, and instead would prefer to follow a series of self-paced, self-serve activities to learn your product. This kind of product training respects that everyone learns differently and at their own paces.

Setting goals for your product training academy

Can you give some insight into educational goals you set for the academy?

Imtiaz: Our initial goals stemmed from internal objectives designed to support Guru’s overall mission for customer success. With that as our baseline, we prioritized the following:

Reduce customer churn

We know that when Guru customers are educated and informed on best practices, Guru becomes “sticky.” When that happens, if conversations are happening internally about reducing software spend, the argument for keeping Guru is very easy.

Increase product adoption

We know which Guru features offer the highest impact to customers. After all, we’re customers ourselves! The Academy is designed to showcase the effects those high impact features have on adoption.

Grow the customer base

As a B2B SaaS company that subscribes to a product-led growth model, we know customers will expand their use of Guru to different teams within their organization. When a new team starts using Guru, the Academy provides education so existing customers can continue to focus on their jobs, not on training their colleagues.

This approach also allows us to provide the same quality training regardless of whether we’re talking to a team of 5 or a team of 500. It also aligns with our company goal of serving just-in-time knowledge.


Identifying the target audience of your training and finding the right learning solution

You just mentioned team size, which makes me wonder how you identified your target audience for the academy. Can you provide any insight there?

Imtiaz: We know that customers without a dedicated Customer Success Manager (CSM) still need to learn and train their own teams on Guru. For those groups, a comprehensive self-paced training academy is a great solution.

While we know those without a CSM will need some extra support in order to realize the greatest return on their investment in Guru, that’s not to say they’re the only ones who can benefit. Sometimes customers want to learn without having to reach out to someone; sometimes they are too busy to get on a call; and sometimes customers need just-in-time education. After all, our entire product is designed to reduce workflow interruptions!

Speaking of access to knowledge right away, where does the education in the Academy live?

Imtiaz: For this kind of training, we decided to implement an external Learning Management System (LMS). We vetted the supersaturated LMS marketplace for our best fit, and while there are so many amazing solutions available, we chose Skilljar. Their integration options really stood out to us during our search.

For anyone thinking about where to house self-paced, interactive learning, there are a variety of solutions and narrowing them down can be daunting. My advice is to focus on your goals and audience, and be clear in your vision when talking to sales folks. The market will become much smaller once you know exactly what you want.


How to judge the success of your product training

Last question for you, how do you know if a self-serve training option (like the Academy) is successful?

Imtiaz: Using your goals as a foundation, start to piece together realistic expectations for your education’s impact on customers. Trying to prove causation from education is like trying to teach a fish to climb a tree, so be clear to your internal stakeholders that education correlates to goals X, Y, and Z.

You won’t have all the answers when you launch, but start to create a vision for what you want in 3 months, 6 months, and beyond. If you are lucky enough to have a dedicated CSM for your academy, one of their primary goals should be to help you realize success, so don’t be afraid to lean on them for guidance.

Check out the Guru Academy now!