March 7, 2023
The Customer Success team is a vital link between any company and its users. We help bring the voice of customers into the larger organization while ensuring as many people as possible receive the maximum benefit from our products. As the face of a company, a customer success team builds long-term relationships with clients and collects valuable feedback to share with product teams. The resulting loop helps improve product offerings and further cement the bond with users.
I’m a Senior Customer Success Manager at Wiley, an educational publisher founded in 1807. Our print, electronic, and online textbooks, journals, and encyclopedias power higher education in the United States and around the world. We also publish professional development and how-to books for non-academic audiences, including the popular For Dummies series.
I joined the company five years ago to work with WileyPLUS, our interactive textbook, online learning, and course management platform for instructors and students. I also work alongside a team that manages the WileyPLUS Studio, our invitation-only online community for instructors powered by Influitive.
A customer success team builds long-term relationships with clients and collects valuable feedback to share with product teams. The resulting loop helps improve product offerings and further cement the bond with users.
The Studio brings together top WileyPLUS users to share insights, identify best practices, and provide product feedback while earning points they can redeem for valuable rewards. When I came to Wiley, Nicole Dingley was the vice president of our division. She oversaw the Studio team and brought in new people to represent the customer success team by managing and responding to instructor comments and posts. I quickly became active in the community, posting and commenting daily.
Building Community with Tuesday Tips
Despite being new to the company, I was eager and our management team noted my enthusiasm. When a colleague went on vacation, I was asked to take over our community’s popular Tuesday Tips feature. Tuesday Tips are weekly posts that bring our advocates closer to our product. They are often product-related, informing our users how to use specific features and functions through screenshots, documents, and videos. I also write about industry and general education topics, like the impact of in-class student participation on academic success. I create this weekly tip as a challenge (a targeted ask) within the Studio, and it typically generates 50–100 comments from members.
WileyPLUS Studio helps the customer success team strengthen bonds with instructors who use our products. Tuesday Tips are one way we create those connections with them, and it’s a collective effort. We have an active Microsoft Teams chat, and I monitor the questions our customer success managers ask about our product. If a topic comes up frequently, I will turn it into a Tuesday Tip.
One of the hardest things people can do is raise their hand and say, “I need help.” I am always thrilled when someone reaches out to me directly with questions. I recently chatted with an instructor who told me, “I do not think of you as just somebody I work with on WileyPLUS; I think of you as a friend.” That was really sweet, and it is meaningful to make that kind of personal connection. It also opens new avenues of communication, which is crucial because technology changes so fast.
Creating an environment where our customers can confidently ask us questions […] helps them stay on top of technology and educational best practices while ensuring they feel valued.
We are constantly updating our platform, and the pandemic presented a new set of challenges. WileyPLUS users moved courses online, and universities are still making decisions about in-person and hybrid instruction. Creating an environment where our customers can confidently ask us questions about these and other changes in the Studio helps them stay on top of technology and educational best practices while ensuring they feel valued.
Leveraging Our Community to Improve Our Product
The relationships we build in our community have had a direct impact on our product innovation and development. One of our most successful initiatives within the Studio is our Product Advisory Committee (PAC), which provides feedback on potential system improvements. Every few weeks, we issue a challenge asking for participating instructors’ opinions on new features and processes. We then use their input to tweak or even drop a planned change entirely. These instructors are a vital part of our community because they tell us the good, the bad, and the ugly of our roadmaps. Their unfiltered views help us improve WileyPLUS.
The PAC and other community members helped drive innovation as we rolled out new features in 2022, including our Adaptive Assignments feature that tailors the learning experience to individual students’ needs. Everybody learns differently, and some students retain and build knowledge by answering review questions and doing exercises, while others learn through practical assignments, like balancing a company’s books in Excel. Adaptive Assignments let instructors and students choose the most appropriate learning path.
We asked community members for feedback, and 126 responded to our Adaptive Assignments survey, allowing us to refine this feature as we rolled it out. Another 108 respondents helped us fine-tune our bulk grading features, and 105 community members offered input on our updated data and analytics functionalities, resulting in 13 1:1 interviews where we gained further insight into instructors’ needs. In total, we collected more than 2,000 community responses to product feedback surveys, enabling us to refine our products accordingly. And we’ve seen improved customer satisfaction across all key metrics based on the changes fueled by our instructors.
We saved hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars by engaging our customers directly through our Influitive community instead of hiring an external company for UX studies and product research. By bringing the process in-house, we collected the same high-quality data to drive product development and our platform roadmap—all while forging a stronger bond with our customers.
We also saved hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars by engaging our customers directly through our Influitive community instead of hiring an external company for UX studies and product research. By bringing the process in-house, we collected the same high-quality data to drive product development and our platform roadmap—all while forging a stronger bond with our customers. And for all of this, we won a 2022 BAMMIE award for Best Advocacy Impact on Product Development.
The Influitive Effect
Connecting with customers and collecting actionable data about how they use our products can be challenging. The Studio is a shared space that is always available to our customer success team and instructors. We all get emails we delete without opening, but we no longer rely on endless email chains to reach out to customers and share information internally. Unlike messages that get lost, our community is online 24/7. Instructors can pop in at any time to post or comment about our products—and we can pop in at any time to see that information.
We get a lot of business done in the Studio, but Influitive adds sparkle to the customer advocacy process. Thanks to Influitive’s gamification features, instructors earn points that increase their ranking in the community every time they take an action, such as participating in a discussion or a product survey. They can redeem these points for valuable items, including Wiley swag and exclusive experiences. However, the real reward is the deeper connection between WileyPlus and our instructors.
Influitive helps us better engage our instructors, leading to increased interaction with the company and each other.
Influitive helps us better engage our instructors, leading to increased interaction with the company and each other. Were it not for the community’s enthusiastic response to Studio challenges, we may never have rolled out some of our more ambitious programs, including our mentorship initiative, where we pair experienced WileyPLUS users with instructors who are using the platform for the first time. Volunteer mentors help new users learn the basics and guide them through creating their first course. While our customer success team can show new users the ropes, mentors who teach the same subject material understand the unique challenges new users face and can guide them toward best practices in their respective fields.
We also invite Studio members to various webinars and our Wicked Wiley summer camp, which covers a wide range of topics relevant to instructors—not just those related to WileyPLUS. Through these and other customer success initiatives, our instructors become more connected to Wiley and learn the best ways to take advantage of our various product offerings. If we do not engage them, they may go elsewhere for their course materials. Membership in our Influitive community is the gateway to an entire Wiley support team, including our customer success managers, digital learning executives, and affordable solutions managers, all of whom work together to support instructors, no matter their needs.
Innovating in Challenging Times
The publishing industry is surviving amid an era of change. Publishers have scaled back operations by downsizing staff and acquiring fewer titles. Unfortunately, we see some parallels in the education space. Fewer instructors are teaching more students with fewer resources. Instead of preparing two or three classes a semester, they are teaching five or six and adding new subjects.
Under these circumstances, customer retention is critical. We continue to strengthen Wiley’s relationship with instructors by providing better service. We are making our users’ lives easier by streamlining course management and giving them more time to teach and perform research. And our Studio community, powered by Influitive, allows us to engage our customers directly, gauge their needs, and build system enhancements with their input. This positive feedback loop creates endless opportunities to refine our product and expand our user base—while simultaneously offering them a space to connect and share how they are making sense of it all.
As a member of our customer success team, I am happy to help our users get the most from our product and allow them to support its development. Together we are changing how instruction is delivered and innovating for better educational outcomes.
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