You’ve got an amazing technical product in which you believe, deeply. You know you can solve your customers' most worrisome pain points. But how can you onboard, engage, and educate your customers quickly and efficiently enough to ensure their confidence?
Furthermore, can you up user retention simply by giving your customers the power to become self-reliant? Our Manager of Customer Education, Sara Anderson, says unequivocally, yes.
Sara set out to design useful content for Automox users through in-person and on-demand channels. Her mantra: Always focus on the customer’s needs.
Here, Sara will walk you through a few easy and engaging ways to onboard, educate, engage, and hold onto your customers.
But before we get into the thick of it, let’s meet your host for this chat.
Sara Anderson has always loved teaching. Her passion was born during her summers in college. Sara spent several seasons teaching kids science as an outdoor educator in Michigan, Alaska, and California. When she started her career in tech as a technical support engineer at Splunk, she realized the importance of educating customers. At Automox, Sara runs the newly formed Automox University program to help customers keep their IT environments safe.
Here’s what Sara has to say about building a training platform from the ground up.
What is Automox University?
Sara: Automox University (affectionately, AXU) is our go-to training ground for technical product courses. We built it to help our customers onboard and use the Automox product. AXU is hosted on Skilljar, which is a great learning management system (LMS) that’s easy to use and configure.
Who is AXU for?
Sara: Automox University is best for a brand-new customer who’s never used the product before. The intention is to help them get a general idea of all of Automox’s features and functionalities. Recently, a major customer used AXU to onboard its new hires. So, for example, when a new Automox administrator joins the client’s team, they’ll complete their AXU courses to get on board quickly. Then, when they meet with their Automox Customer Success Manager, they’re already able to dig into deeper questions because they’ve been well introduced to our product.
What was your North Star in building out Automox University?
Sara: Well, when I joined Automox, I was a Customer Success Engineer (CSE). I facilitated countless onboarding/training sessions with our customers virtually. While the process was engaging, it was totally unsustainable. Automox was growing so fast, and there weren’t enough of us to properly serve our new users. It was troubling because the Automox CSEs have an advanced technical skillset. It just seemed we couldn’t share the breadth of our knowledge with the customers because we were sort of stuck in this mode of repetitive basic training. We needed a way to get the user set up quickly and to give them the confidence to dig deeper. Guy Lever, the SVP of our customer experience team, knew something had to be done, and he offered me the opportunity to take on this project. We selected Skilljar as our LMS given its ease of use and strong reputation in the education space.
So, given that background, I set my North Star on offloading those repetitive tasks so that our team could provide deeper-dive training for our integrated and advanced customers. The hope was to inspire self-reliance in our customers even faster.
We thought if users could take a 45-minute training session first, by the time they linked up with the CSEs they’d already recognize how to leverage Automox for their unique use cases. So they’d show up with questions based on that value, like, “How can I use a Worklet to manage configurations on all my devices?”
Can you walk us through setting up the AXU curriculum?
Sara: We worked with HelloCCO to develop our curriculum plan. Together, we conducted a needs analysis by interviewing existing customers and Automox support teammates. We noticed a lot of connections between problems our customers were having and the support tickets our team was getting.
Our new customers were experiencing issues while studying our knowledge base articles. Mainly, it seemed the context was missing. Based on that analysis, we labeled five major themes to help organize our courses:
1. Agent Deployment Strategies – These courses focus on setting our agent onto users’ devices. If a customer installs our agent on a device, they can get started patching right away.
2. Configuration Management Strategies – In these classes, we focus on helping customers configure all of their devices using Worklets.
3. Cloud-based security considerations – These sessions explore industry best practices. These classes are for anyone; not just Automox users.
4. Planning, Scanning, Patching, and Device Maintenance – Here, we discuss the basics of creating patch policy. There are a lot of how-tos that relate specifically to our product. Here’s an example: How can a customer migrate devices from Microsoft SCCM to Automox? (Theme #4 goes hand-in-hand with theme #1, usually.)
5. Extending Automox using the API – In this group, customers work with the brilliant Laurie Laidley, Automox’s API Technical Documentation Writer. Laurie helps our customers create scripts and leverage their API. We’re rolling out an awesome new series of courses with her.
What was your biggest hurdle? How did you circumvent the challenge?
Sara: Oh, there were scores of challenges. Honestly, at first, the biggest challenge was internal. I had to figure out how to market the idea to our own people. So, I had to nail down what we were trying to do and clearly express why it was so important. It can be a huge struggle to share the value of an idea that has yet to be fleshed out. Of course, now everyone’s on board. But during the project planning phase, you don’t yet have a course example to share.
So, to conquer that, I started building an onboarding course. I just thought if I built it, they’d see it. I crafted the first course and followed up by soliciting feedback from my peers. It turned out to be a great way to bridge communication gaps. Everyone was able to voice their concerns and I could assure them their voices were heard.
Plus, it was a fun process. It turned out I was simultaneously building the courses and also creating a collaborative community within Automox. I see that now. At the time, I was just asking for eyes, ears, and advice.
How will you measure the program’s success?
Sara: Well, this is kind of a loaded question. At the start, we hope to see how many customers, overall, are taking courses. Then, we want to check their completion rates. This is where Skilljar comes in handy with its reporting capabilities. When I log into my admin dashboard in Skilljar, I have easy access to information about students like how many students are taking courses and when they are dropping off during a course. I use this information to improve the courseware.
It appears AXU will be an ongoing, ever-evolving program. How often do you foresee adding new concepts and courses?
Sara: Oh yeah, absolutely. Currently, I’ve been able to complete about two courses a month. But we’re gearing up to create at least three or four new a month. Once we develop each lesson plan, we can gather feedback. Based on those responses, we can lay out and build more courses in that theme.
So, the goal is to add new themes as new product features are launched.
What’s your vision for the future of Automox University?
Sara: We’re hoping to onboard two new developers as there are over a dozen new courses we intend to offer by the end of 2022.
Would you offer up advice to anyone like you setting up a similar program at their own organization?
Sara: Yes. Again, always focus on your customer’s needs. The customer should drive all of your content and dictate how you’re building it. Everything should be engaging and easy for the user. If I get feedback that a customer doesn’t love a course, I’m 100% making adjustments to incorporate their feedback.
There will always be new concepts to tackle and we’re entirely committed to keeping our courses current, relevant, and based on the best practices established by Engineering, Customer Success, and most of all our customers.
Already though, our customer success managers, support engineers, and customer success engineers can direct their customers to certain courses to help with onboarding. Looking forward to a year from now, I'm excited about the customer experience we will be able to provide our customers. There will be a wide variety of courses and integrated tools to help customers learn how to use our product and keep their environments safe.
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