Lessons from the White Rabbit

Welcome to our periodic series of articles that explore key considerations in Customer Education (CE) connected to quotes from Lewis Carroll. You’ll have some fun by following Alice down the rabbit hole and through Wonderland. Along the way, you’ll discover the many ways her experiences inform your CE world. You’ll land on some simple concepts and get links to some valuable resources. (We would love to hear your thoughts and comments.) Okay, let’s get you started in making the world a better place for your customers!

Be All About Saving Customers' Time


Your customers are always short of one very precious resource: Time. Concentrate your efforts on getting them more results, faster.

First, let’s establish one truth that will guide you in all your interactions with Alice and her friends – each and every customer you have earned has a bigger goal than just getting proficient with your software. They have a larger, compelling context in which your app has some opportunity to provide value. You’re going to work to understand as much as you can about that larger context as you explore Wonderland. But for now it’s enough to keep in mind that your solution is just a cog on some larger wheel.

Once you accept that premise, you can assert with certainty that your customers have a lot they want to accomplish, and they want you to make a contribution as quickly and efficiently as possible. As Gerry McGovern says in his book, Transform: A Rebel’s Guide for Digital Transformation:

There is no greater sin in the new model than wasting customers’ time.”

Let’s consider for a moment how Alice first met the White Rabbit:

Suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.

There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, ‘Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!’ (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.

Don't Make Customers Dive Into Your Interface Unprepared

Is that so very different than a new customer coming on board with your software? They’re looking for some quick results and find themselves in the unfamiliar situation of standing in your user interface waistcoat, holding a pocket watch they’ve just discovered in their vest pocket. All of this is new and unfamiliar to them, but they’re still in a great hurry to get things done. So more than likely they will dive down that first dark rabbit hole in hope that it leads to where they want to go.

But is that dark and mysterious rabbit hole their only option? It shouldn’t be. As Donna Weber notes in her LinkedIn article, Don’t Let Customers Wander Down Dark Alleys. Why You Need Quick Wins:

As soon as the deal closes, your customers start groping in the dark. They dive into the technical weeds of implementing your product and end up lost down a dark alley. Seeking refuge, they desperately log support tickets, which your support team frantically tries to resolve, all because customers don’t know which direction to point. They shouldn’t be down that dark alley in the first place.

Donna goes on to explore why you must provide quick wins as part of your onboarding and customer-education program. We encourage you to check out her excellent ideas on how, when and where to deliver those quick wins to your customers.

Deliver on Customers' Desired Outcomes and be Quick About It

For now let’s return to the central idea in this post – saving your customers’ time.  The initial outcomes you deliver to customers need to be quick because:

  1. Motivation is fragile and therefore time is limited. As soon as the rabbit-hole darkness envelopes them, their initial excitement of starting a new journey begins to be eroded by fear of the unknown. A quick win or two, however, establishes a critical first impression of, “I can do this!” and “This works for me!” We all know the importance of first impressions. Once customers form an impression, they tend to look for ways to reinforce that impression in their next few interactions.
  2. Renewal ultimately depends on your customer getting some wins in the first few weeks with your product. Again, from Donna’s article:

When customers don't see results in the first 90 days, and especially the first 30 days, their renewal likelihood drops to as low as 10%.

  1. If you truly are customer centric then you must focus on learning what their key, initial and desired outcomes are and deliver on them quickly and consistently.

Of course you say. We get it! 

Three Ways You Might Be Wasting Customers' Time Right Now 

You don’t waste customer time. Well, not deliberately, but let’s look at three ways you may be doing so right now:

  1. The first resource you recommend to new customers is your interface overview video, which probably covers all the key aspects of the interface with visual demonstrations of where to find and access each function. The problem is that this type of resource is usually a time waster for most customers. If it’s a conventional, linear video you can almost guarantee that it takes too much time to view compared to the actual value it provides in getting customers closer to their desired outcomes. One possible improvement is to break the video into outcome focused content bites. Provide a way for customers to select the outcome they want and then deliver only the bites that address the steps needed to achieve that specific outcome. Leave out details and functions unrelated to that task.
  2. You have outdated resources on your website, which turn up in search results. Sadly, the more mature your customer education activities are the more likely they’re  becoming a problem. In his book, Transform, Gerry McGovern talks extensively about the challenge presented by most corporate cultures – the constant drive to produce, create and publish. Less common is the culture that places equal value on review, renewal and removal of outdated content. The result can easily be a collection of learning materials that include resources that reference earlier versions of your product or past functionality. When this material turns up in search results it wastes time. At best, customers realize it’s dated or inaccurate and, therefore, unhelpful. At worst, it will set back their learning or confuse them about things they thought they knew to be true.  Ask yourself if you are spending enough of your time renewing and removing outdated material? If not, get on it!
  3. You have no process to segment learning content by customer outcome. Instead, your information is segmented by product function. Customers mainly care about their desired outcomes, not the process or function that you use to deliver those outcomes. If they have to figure out what function does what, you’re wasting their time. Instead, do whatever you can to organize your education content around desired outcomes to help customers find and do what they need to. A simple example of this type of outcome oriented approach is the way Netflix and Hulu organize their vast content libraries. From the start, their customers self-select the outcomes they want. This filters out content that won’t meet their criteria. The tighter you can segment around outcomes, the more time you save customers.

Empathize and Deliver Better Outcomes Faster

Of course, the bottom line here is for customer-education content creators, editors and reviewers to be as close to customers as possible while creating learning solutions. You must therefore take direction from your customers and be very responsive to their wants and needs.

Whatever customer outcomes your product delivers, you can be absolutely sure they’ll love you for helping them achieve those outcomes faster.

See you again soon, right here down the rabbit hole. In the meantime, enjoy Wonderland!

Let’s Talk About You

Where would you like to take the conversation from here?