Companies across the globe are investing billions of dollars on customer education, all with the assumption that this investment will lead to one thing: higher profits. But what’s the connection between education and consumer behavior? The answer, according to some researchers, is loyalty.
Researchers Kaliym A. Islam and Cynthia Akagi explored this concept in a 2018 study that examined the connection between participation in an organization’s customer education program and subsequent feelings of loyalty towards that organization. Leveraging Zajonc’s mere exposure theory, Islam and Akagi hypothesized that participants in a customer education program would feel increased preferences for that organization as their familiarity with the organization increased.
Using a small, purposive sample in a qualitative survey, the researchers uncovered several themes with important implications for customer education programs:
Customers felt an increased sense of loyalty because customer education programs offered useful information that could be shared with clients and colleagues and that could be applied in the workplace. Participants felt that the organization, by developing a program that increased their own expertise, was indirectly investing in them as consumers and partners, and thus felt a sense of loyalty and commitment to the organization.
The professionalism with which the program was delivered increased feelings of loyalty towards the organization. Specifically, participants noted that the friendliness of the instructor, the approachability of instructional and support staff, and the quality of the instruction provided caused them to regard the organization in a more favorable manner.
Manageable, bite-sized pieces of content provided information that increased customer loyalty. By structuring the instruction effectively, the organization created an educational program that allowed the participants to understand “the big picture” and “left no ambiguity,” increasing their trust in the organization and their willingness to remain a customer.
This small but important study provides actionable best practices for customer education professionals in the realm of program coverage, content delivery, and instructional design. These results indicate that purposeful development of a customer education program that provides useful, high-quality, and easily consumable information should lead to greater customer loyalty and higher company profits.
Read the Full Study:
Islam, K. A. & Akagi, C. (2018). An Exploratory Study of Customers’ Experiences with their Financial Services’ Customer Education Programs as it Impacts Financial Firm Customer Loyalty. Services Marketing Quarterly, 39(4), 330-344. DOI: 10.1080/15332969.2018.1514797