Customer Community & Academy: what are the differences?_background

Today more than ever, customer retention is becoming the number one priority (as opposed to acquiring new customers). And to take care of them throughout the customer journey, companies are multiplying initiatives: Customer Community, Customer Academy... Are these terms familiar to you?

In this captivating article, we embark on an exploration of customer-centric strategies. Step into the realm of Customer Communities and Customer Academies... What exactly do they entail? How do they differ? And what impact do they have? Let us be your guide on this exciting journey.

On the agenda:

  • The new frontiers of modern businesses
  • What is a Customer Academy?
  • What is a Customer Community?
  • The ROI of a Customer Community (and why you should launch one now)

Unveiling the New Frontiers of Modern Businesses

From startups and SMEs to B2B and B2C enterprises, every sector faces its own set of compelling challenges:

  • Mastering the art of effectively guiding customers throughout their buyer journey, from education to activation and long-term loyalty.
  • Making shrewd budget decisions amidst rising internal expenses. When resources are limited, it becomes crucial to adopt a "one to many" approach to customer support rather than a purely individualized approach.
  • Conquering the ever-evolving landscape of customer communication. Standing out in the midst of social media noise, conquering email deliverability hurdles, and emphasizing content quality over quantity - it's time to leverage new tactics.

Amidst these pressing demands, two standout solutions emerge: Customer Academies and Customer Communities. As the pillars of addressing these three core challenges (customer guidance, scalability, and impactful communication), their value has been proven. Are you ready to embark on an exciting exploration of these two strategies and tools? Let's dive in!

What is a Customer Academy?

The term "Customer Academy" first emerged in the dynamic world of SaaS. However, in recent times, its influence has transcended industry boundaries, captivating organizations from diverse sectors.

While an official definition is yet to be established, we sought insights from Simona Dimitrova, the esteemed Customer Education Manager at Pennylane. In a fascinating interview, she shared her vision:

"A Customer Academy is primarily an online training experience. Ours is called the Pennylane Academy, exclusively for our customers, providing access to a comprehensive educational framework, including training videos. The ultimate goal is to offer an online training experience." - Simona Dimitrova, Manager of Customer Education at Pennylane.

In essence, a Customer Academy often takes the form of an engaging series of online courses, available through open access or a cutting-edge Learning Management System (LMS). The aim of this concept is to empower customers by equipping them with the knowledge and resources needed to streamline their onboarding process and foster continuous growth independently.

Remarkably, through the strategic implementation of Customer Academies, trailblazing SaaS companies such as Hubspot, Salesforce, and Pennylane have mastered the art of enhancing the customer experience while infusing elements of gamification into the learning journey. Customers can now embark on an entertaining remote learning adventure, unlocking certification programs (accompanied by enticing rewards!) to further elevate their skill sets.

Here's a small clip showcasing Stephanie Pellegrino and Adam Avramescu's perspectives on the Customer Education.

Nevertheless, does this alone suffice to revolutionize the end-to-end customer experience? At MeltingSpot, we firmly believe in adding an extra ingredient to the mix: the power of community.

What is a Customer Community?

So, you already know about Customer Academies, where you can dive into a world of self-guided learning with online resources like videos and educational goodies, right?

But guess what? We're living in the era of co-creation, interaction, and community vibes! And that's exactly what customers want when they become part of a brand's family: a chance to connect with their fellow buyers, beyond the typical company-customer relationship.

Here's the scoop: academies are stepping up their game and evolving to create a place of collaboration and camaraderie among customers. We could call it "Academy 2.0," but we've got a groovy term for it—Customer Community!

Now, let's break it down and bring the fun into this definition:

"In our book, a Customer Community takes the Customer Academy to the next level by adding a dash of community spirit. When customers join a Customer Community, they enter a world where video experiences (think awesome tutorials and webinars) await them for learning, a buzzing forum is there for sharing best practices, and a treasure trove of knowledge is at their fingertips to centralize and spread all the cool content. At MeltingSpot, we're all about a Community-led approach that turbocharges our Customer Success teams' efforts to educate, activate, and build long-lasting bonds with our customers." - Benoît Chatelier, CEO of MeltingSpot.

By creating their own hip and happening customer community, businesses unlock a whole range of benefits that'll make their heads spin with excitement:

  • It's like a support squad on steroids, where customers help each other out and share inspiring tales of triumph.
  • Easy-peasy communication and individual or group hangouts with the company make it a breeze to get questions answered and ideas flowing.
  • Let's party! The community can organize cool events like workshops where they jam on product insights or keynotes that feature superstar brand ambassadors to inspire everyone.
  • Think of it as a treasure trove of mind-blowing content that's all in one place—no need to dig through scattered resources.
  • Lights, camera, action! Showcase your products or solutions with pizzazz through webinars or thrilling live demos that'll leave customers on the edge of their seats.
  • It's a creative hub! The community and the company team up to co-create exciting new offers, products, or services that are tailor-made to rock customers' worlds.

So, brace yourself because a Customer Community is a valuable sales booster, but, it's also a lively, vibrant, and downright awesome universe of knowledge-sharing, collaboration, and unforgettable connections.

The ROI of a Customer Community (and why you should launch one now)

A Customer Community is a golden opportunity to offer a complete and enriched experience. With such a community, customers are no longer passive consumers of content and training; they actively engage and interact with the company and other customers.

Here are six key points highlighting the ROI you can expect from a Community-Led Growth strategy. A customer community is beneficial for:

The ROI of a customer community
  1. Activation: With a Customer Community, the onboarding process is reduced by a whopping 3 times! Converting free accounts into paying customers becomes faster and more significant.
  2. Self-education: A Customer Community doesn't replace an Academy; it amplifies it. Through these initiatives, customers gain autonomy, freedom, and independence. Meeting their cherished expectations leads to increased satisfaction.
  3. Upsell: Looking to increase your customers' average spending? A customer community is undoubtedly the best lever to achieve that. Within the community, User Generated Content (content created by customers) multiplies. They serve as symbols of reassurance when transitioning to a paid mode or purchasing a higher-priced product/service. According to IPSOS, 88% of consumers trust their peers before making a purchase decision.
  4. Retention: Thanks to the community, customers stay updated on market and product innovations as well as company news. They gain access to expert content while enjoying a special connection with other customers. The customer relationship becomes so strong that the churn rate decreases by 3. At Spendesk, Faustine Rohr-Lacoste (former Head of Community) even revealed that retention is 18% higher for members of their B2B community (CFO Connect)!
  5. Feedback: A community is a discussion group where everyone can voice their opinions. All customers can share their experiences, product reviews, or improvement recommendations. This feedback is invaluable to the company. It can be collected, analyzed, and instantly relayed internally, without the need to use multiple listening channels (email surveys, phone, social media, etc.).
  6. Customer support: The costs associated with customer support are often significant. Nowadays, the community helps alleviate the support burden by handling up to 50% of requests. The result? Increased efficiency and reduced pressure on internal teams, allowing them to focus on high-value customer inquiries while the community takes the lead on other topics.

Now that you understand the benefits of a Customer Community and how it differs from an Academy, at MeltingSpot, we encourage you to prioritize your communities. They are the ones truly helping you move forward, progress, and scale.

Discover our community platform to create, nurture, and engage your communities:


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