Product Ignorance: Why You Need to Create a Certification Program

October 7, 2013

5:00 pm

You’ve spent hundreds — maybe even thousands — of hours perfecting the interface, adding requested features, and documenting the functions of your software. You have users, and the product is generating revenue, but you get the feeling that some of your users don’t know how to use key features. Unless you have an army of experts on hand to educate the masses, even a product with a strong user base isn’t necessarily reaching its full potential.

Developers walk the fine line of building software that is intuitive enough for anyone to learn, yet powerful enough to meet the needs of the heaviest users. When you have a piece of software that is extremely feature-rich, the majority of users will only learn the few basic functions they need on a day-to-day basis. What they don’t know is that the other features your team meticulously built out and tested have the potential to make their lives easier.

This is not an inevitable situation, no matter how powerful your software might be. You can ensure all of your users are able to maximize the features of your product by creating a certification program. It may sound like a daunting task, but building a network of certified experts around the software can help unleash your product’s potential on a grand scale.

Here’s what certification does for you:

  • Bolsters brand loyalty and equity: When more people know how to use your product, more people will use your product. Ensuring that all of your users have access to certified experts increases customer satisfaction. All of this reflects well on your brand and entices current and potential customers to engage with your company. Plus, by offering certification, you’re creating employment opportunities in the tech sector for third-party consultants. This boosts your brand’s goodwill.
  • Adds value to client relationships: When you offer clients the ability to become certified, you create a new service offering on top of what you already provide. Establishing another valuable point of engagement is a way to prove to your users that you care about them, which makes them feel even more connected to your company.
  • Frees up your company’s support staff: A network of certified third-party consultants can help you outsource tech support and troubleshooting, easing the burden on your team.

There are some caveats: Every expert you certify becomes a brand ambassador. If a certified third-party consultant doesn’t provide valuable training or does poorly when interacting with users, it reflects badly on your company. You need to embed brand control into your certification program, and fortunately, this isn’t hard to do.

At the outset of every certification program, make sure participants understand the expectations of the role. The program isn’t just about learning to use the software; it’s about learning how to represent the brand. Once someone is certified, offer long-term training to ensure that he or she stays informed of new features and updates, and empower your users to evaluate certified third-party consultants. If someone’s evaluations aren’t up to standards, simply don’t renew that person’s certification.

A certification program takes work. It means creating and standardizing a curriculum, training teachers, and monitoring client satisfaction. However, in doing so, you’re building a foundation of knowledge and expertise that will serve both you and your customers. And the next time you ask how a certain feature is being used, you might just learn something new.

Lena Requist established herself as a powerful force in business before joining ONTRAPORT as COO in 2009. Her background in corporate finance and successful business building has helped to grow the ONTRAPORT organization 5,000 percent, landing ONTRAPORT at No. 102 on the 2012 Inc. 500 list. The organization’s own event, ONTRApalooza, is October 2-4. Connect with Lena on Google+ or Twitter. 

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