November 2023 Question of the Month

Pam Micznik
Pam Micznik Member Posts: 45 Expert
Third Anniversary 10 Comments Photogenic GGR Blogger 2023

Is there a difference between Digital Customer Success and Customer Education, and do you need both?

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  • Felix
    Felix Member Posts: 14 Navigator
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    The transfer of knowledge from product experts (Customer Success) makes up customer education. Customer education is a part of the bigger picture, and we can consider ourselves successful when our clients find value in their purchase.

  • Ajgruber
    Ajgruber Member Posts: 9 Navigator
    First Comment Photogenic

    Digital Customer Success encompasses everything regarding the relationship between a client and the CSM, while Customer education is specifically about giving a client the tools to understand a product and its uses.

  • Brian Aherne
    Brian Aherne Member Posts: 5 Navigator
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    For me they are totally different things, you can educate your customers using digital customer success tools like resources, but you can educate the customer face to face onsite or through calls.

    Digital customer Success involves gathering data which can assess if the education stuck or not.

    Both are super important but I prioritise education every time, onboarding makes or breaks customer success.

  • Amanda Watson
    Amanda Watson Member, Success Network Members Posts: 31 Expert
    Second Anniversary 10 Comments Photogenic

    While I think they go hand-in-hand, there is a distinct difference in function. Digital customer success engages customers and drives them to success, through engagement, nurturing, and even the introduction of customer education.

    Customer education drives adoption by taking a deep dive into the product. In my industry, our customer education not only provides product training but also provides required continuing education for customers.

  • PiperWilson
    PiperWilson HLAdmin, Member Posts: 13 Navigator
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    So, are you saying that customer education is the result of customer success?

  • Felix
    Felix Member Posts: 14 Navigator
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    Hi Piper. Yes, I think customer education in terms of how to extract value from what they purchased is part of customer success.

  • PiperWilson
    PiperWilson HLAdmin, Member Posts: 13 Navigator
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    Okay, @Felix, I'm trying to fit what you're saying (which makes sense by itself) into an answer to the question.

    Basically, they're different, and you can't have one without the other. Is that right?

  • PiperWilson
    PiperWilson HLAdmin, Member Posts: 13 Navigator
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    Would you expand on that, please? Is customer success limited to the client and the CSM?

  • PiperWilson
    PiperWilson HLAdmin, Member Posts: 13 Navigator
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    Can you expand on what you mean by "required continuing education for customers?"

  • Amanda Watson
    Amanda Watson Member, Success Network Members Posts: 31 Expert
    Second Anniversary 10 Comments Photogenic

    Hi Piper,

    Our industry requires official continuing education courses in order for professionals to retain their licenses, etc. - CPAs, Enrolled Agents, and Tax Preparers. My company is an approved provider of the credits/education required.

  • JP
    JP Member Posts: 2 Navigator
    First Comment Photogenic

    Where High Touch CS depends on a CSM and others proactively working with customers to realize value, including driving training, the term Digital CS usually refers to using data (i.e., telemetry, customer stage info) to identify issues/needs and email suggestions. For example, it might identify that a customer is having a problem going live and proactively email useful info (i.e., articles, webinars) and, possibly, offer someone to help.

    Hope this helps,


  • PiperWilson
    PiperWilson HLAdmin, Member Posts: 13 Navigator
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    @Amanda Watson - Gotcha, thanks!

  • tejash_24
    tejash_24 Member Posts: 26 Navigator
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    @Pam Micznik here is what I think

    Absolutely, there's a distinction between Digital Customer Success (DCS) and Customer Education, though they often work hand in hand to ensure customer satisfaction and product adoption.

    Digital Customer Success focuses on leveraging digital tools, platforms, and automation to enhance the customer journey. It involves using technology-driven strategies to proactively engage, support, and guide customers throughout their lifecycle. DCS employs data analytics, AI-driven insights, personalized communication, and self-service resources to optimize customer interactions and outcomes.

    On the other hand, Customer Education involves imparting knowledge and skills to customers to maximize the value they derive from a product or service. This includes training, tutorials, documentation, webinars, and any learning resources aimed at helping customers understand and use the product effectively.

    While there's some overlap between the two, they serve distinct purposes:

    - DCS ensures a seamless, personalized, and proactive customer experience through digital channels, anticipating needs and addressing issues before they arise.

    - Customer Education focuses on empowering customers with knowledge, enabling them to use the product to its fullest potential and fostering self-sufficiency.

    Do you need both? Yes, absolutely! Integrating both Digital Customer Success and Customer Education creates a robust framework for customer engagement and satisfaction. DCS lays the foundation for proactive support and engagement, while Customer Education equips customers with the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve success independently. Together, they form a cohesive approach to enhancing the overall customer experience and driving long-term retention and loyalty.

  • llitton
    llitton Member Posts: 3 Navigator
    First Comment Photogenic

    I agree that both are crucial, and I'd point out that incorporating real-time insights from Digital Customer Success into the ongoing development of Customer Education materials can improve customer engagement and learning experiences. For example:

    • if we use insights gathered from customer interactions through DCS tools to identify pain points, frequently asked questions and areas where customers need guidance...
    • we can then channel these insights into educational materials to preemptively address common issues, offer solutions, and provide targeted resources even before customers encounter challenges. 😀
  • Pam Micznik
    Pam Micznik Member Posts: 45 Expert
    Third Anniversary 10 Comments Photogenic GGR Blogger 2023

    Great conversation.

    Customer Education is a key component of customers' success. It encompasses:

    • Courses - Instructor-led and self-paced. Typically administered using a Learning Management Platform. These must be interactive, and provide practice for the learner. Often learners can earn badges or points for course completion. Mature organizations may have certification programs where learners earn digital badges. (Certification can be complicated.)
    • In-app tours - Often owned by product. It is critical that these be created with finesse, often leading the user to courses.
    • Webinars - similar to courses - but typically, no more than one hour, and do not require practice. These are typically cross-promoted with Marketing and/or Community.

    Smart companies create Customer Education departments. Some are cost-centers and others are profit centers. Either way, it is critical to get buy-in from management to be able to get data from other departments in order to prove ROI.

    I am wondering how you handle Digital CS, which tools do you use?

  • John Brunkard
    John Brunkard Member, Success Network Members Posts: 9 Seeker
    5 Comments Second Anniversary 5 Likes 2023 Success Network - Supporter

    In my opinion ChatGPT provides a nice explanation of Digital Customer Success and Customer Education as follows;

    Digital Customer Success involves leveraging digital tools, technology, and data-driven strategies to enhance the customer experience and ensure the success and satisfaction of customers in a digital environment. It encompasses various approaches, including but not limited to:

    1. Personalization: Using customer data to personalize interactions, services, and solutions to meet specific needs and preferences.
    2. Predictive Analytics: Utilizing data analytics and AI to anticipate customer needs, foresee potential issues, and proactively address them.
    3. Automation: Implementing automated processes and workflows to streamline customer interactions, support, and service delivery.
    4. Self-Service Portals: Providing online platforms or tools where customers can find solutions, access resources, and resolve issues independently.
    5. Customer Journey Mapping: Understanding and optimizing the customer journey across digital touchpoints to enhance satisfaction and loyalty.
    6. Real-time Support: Offering immediate assistance and support through various digital channels like live chat, chatbots, social media, or virtual assistants.
    7. Feedback and Engagement: Actively seeking customer feedback through digital surveys, social media monitoring, or other digital means to understand their sentiments and improve services.
    8. Education and Training: Providing digital resources, tutorials, and educational content to help customers maximize the value of products or services.
    9. Community Building: Creating digital communities or forums where customers can interact, share experiences, and support each other.

    Digital Customer Success focuses on using digital advancements to not only resolve issues but also to proactively engage and empower customers throughout their journey, thereby fostering long-term relationships and loyalty.


    Customer education refers to the process of providing knowledge, resources, and training to customers about a product, service, or industry-related topics. Its primary goal is to empower customers with the information and skills they need to derive maximum value from the products or services they have purchased.

    Key components of customer education include:

    1. Onboarding: Guiding customers through the initial steps of using a product or service, ensuring they have a smooth and successful start.
    2. Training and Tutorials: Providing structured courses, tutorials, or training sessions that teach customers how to use different features and functionalities effectively.
    3. Documentation: Creating and sharing comprehensive documentation, user manuals, FAQs, and guides that offer in-depth information about the product or service.
    4. Webinars and Workshops: Hosting live or pre-recorded webinars, workshops, or live sessions to dive deeper into specific aspects or functionalities.
    5. Self-Service Resources: Offering a repository of resources such as videos, articles, blog posts, and knowledge bases that customers can access at their convenience.
    6. Certifications and Badges: Providing certifications or badges upon completion of certain training modules, demonstrating proficiency in using the product or service.
    7. Ongoing Support: Continuously assisting customers through support channels, addressing queries, and providing guidance even after the initial onboarding phase.

    Effective customer education not only helps users understand how to use a product or service but also demonstrates the value it can bring to their lives or businesses. It reduces frustration, improves user satisfaction, and increases the likelihood of customer retention and loyalty by ensuring that customers are equipped to make the most of what they've purchased.


    Then contrasting the two.

    While Digital Customer Success (DCS) and Customer Education share similarities in their focus on enhancing the customer experience, empowering users, and driving customer satisfaction, they have distinct purposes and approaches:

    Digital Customer Success:

    1. Focus: DCS primarily concentrates on the overall success and satisfaction of customers in a digital environment, leveraging technology and data-driven strategies.
    2. Objective: The main goal is to ensure that customers achieve their desired outcomes, often by using predictive analytics, automation, personalization, and real-time support.
    3. Proactive Engagement: DCS involves proactive engagement with customers throughout their journey, utilizing digital tools to anticipate needs, offer personalized solutions, and prevent issues before they arise.
    4. Holistic Approach: It encompasses a broader range of strategies beyond education, including personalized support, predictive analytics, and community building.

    Customer Education:

    1. Focus: Customer Education specifically targets educating customers about a product, service, or industry-related topics to maximize their understanding and usage.
    2. Objective: The primary aim is to equip customers with the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively use the product or service, often through onboarding, tutorials, documentation, and ongoing support.
    3. Skill Development: It focuses on skill development, providing resources, training, and guidance to ensure customers can utilize the product or service to its fullest potential.
    4. Empowerment through Knowledge: Customer Education empowers customers by providing information and resources, allowing them to self-serve and troubleshoot issues independently.

    In summary, Digital Customer Success takes a holistic approach to ensure overall success in a digital environment, leveraging technology, data, and proactive strategies. On the other hand, Customer Education focuses specifically on educating customers about a product or service to enhance their understanding and usage capabilities. While both aim to improve the customer experience, they differ in their primary objectives and methodologies.

  • KimberlyReneeKnowles
    KimberlyReneeKnowles Member Posts: 21 Navigator
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    Late to the party, but yes, I do think you need both, but I do think they are different.

    I think Digital Customer Success goes beyond just educating customers to also check in with them along the way with automatic touchpoints - both reminders and shoutouts to recognize progress that customers are making along the way as they move towards adoption, renewal, advocacy, etc.

    On the other hand, Customer Education is focused on growing customers' capacity to understand and use the product or to engage in the industry in question (e.g. UI research).

    I think both Customer Education AND Digital CS can benefit customers and end-users beyond just the tech-touch segment.

    And I think Customer Education can greatly enhance Digital CS via 1:many onboarding, webinars, customer academies, etc.

    There is probably a Venn diagram somewhere that could be created here where the two overlap and where they are separate. I'm sure I'd go so far to say that one is a subset of the other because I don't really think that's the case!

  • Felix
    Felix Member Posts: 14 Navigator
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    Yes. In fact, I think a CSM that's not a product expert and an extension of the product knowledge base would probably not be a good CSM. If you cannot educate your clients with information and frame everything from a perspective of value, then you're not truly a post-sales professional. At that point, we are steering more towards customer support, which is not customer success. Therefore, you can't truly be a CSM without prioritizing, breathing, living, eating customer education. 🤔