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Erin Becker

Head of Enterprise Marketing, Uplimit

The next era of customer education: an interview with Adam Avramescu of Personio

July 31st, 2023
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We’re thrilled to be kicking off a series of interviews with customer education leaders about how they’re envisioning the next generation of customer education programs.

For this inaugural interview, I had the opportunity to sit down for an interview with Adam Avramescu, the author of Customer Education: Why Smart Companies Profit by Making Customers Smarter and leader of Personio’s holistic Customer Education team. Previously, Adam built out Slack's enterprise customer learning function, including the Slack Certified and Slack Skills programs. He’s also held customer education leadership roles at Optimizely and Checkr.

Adam is also the co-host of the podcast CELab: The Customer Education Lab, which provides a place for customer education leaders to come together and share their ideas and best practices while building community in the field. This puts him in constant conversation with customer education leaders about how they’re thinking about new trends, challenges, and opportunities in the field, which is why I was so excited to chat with Adam for this interview!

We discuss Adam’s career in customer education, his insights into how customer education can help scale customer success, why customer education is about so much more than training and documentation, and how moving from San Francisco to Amsterdam has changed his view of learning.

Note: this interview has been edited and condensed.


Starting a career in customer education

EB: What drew you to the field of customer education?

AA: Back in 2008, 2009, I was pivoting from my first couple roles out of school, where I started as an instructional designer. From my work in college at the University Writing Center, I knew that I liked creating content and that I liked helping people learn in a non-directive way––letting them come to their own conclusions about things. In my earliest role as an instructional designer, I was working with multiple clients and customers, and loved the variety, but eventually I wanted to move in-house.

I began leading a team doing content and measurement for a client-facing role at a fintech company in Austin, though we didn’t call it customer education at that point. Eventually that led me to a role in San Francisco, where I was working for a SaaS company, and it was really only then that I realized there was even a thing that could be called customer education, and that it operated in a certain way to support SaaS companies in becoming successful with retention and growth over time.

Customer education as a scale engine for growth

EB: Let’s dig into that idea of success. In your book, a major theme is thinking about customer education as a scale engine for customer growth, and how that touches different points across the customer lifecycle, whether that’s marketing or sales or customer success and expansion. Could you speak a little to the power you see customer education being able to have in that?

AA: I became passionate about that topic because when a lot of people talk about customer education, they’re thinking about it first and foremost in terms of activities, not what value it’s providing the business. They think about training, documentation, webinars. And the risk in thinking about it that way is that if you’re defining the function as a set of activities, you’re missing the connection to strategy, and you’re missing the opportunity to treat those activities as a portfolio. This means you’re never going to be able to look at what’s working and what’s not, and adjust your customer education programs accordingly.

To avoid this, you really need your function to point at something strategic––something that matters to the business and to a fast-growing SaaS company. In particular, being able to grow quickly yet efficiently, which means being able to scale. The reason why a lot of people end up investing in customer education in the first place is to be able to scale the things that they have started doing with really smart humans, but at a certain point, cannot continue to do with those really smart humans. In a lot of cases, that’s creating the type of content that can drive behavioral outcomes from your customers.

Scaling customer education as you scale your business

EB: I’m sure that resonates with a lot of people––everything works when you’re a small team and you’re holding hands with all your clients, but what does that look like as you grow?

AA: I have spent most of my time in the B2B world, and in B2B, you start to segment yourself as you scale. You have large, high-touch customers, and then many smaller customers that you serve at scale. For the scale customers, customer education is one of the main ways you can engage them and drive adoption without such constant interaction.

The white-glove service that you would provide to some of your largest customers still needs to be built on top of a base of scalable content and programs that you can use to educate the entire account and make sure that they’re able to adopt the product correctly. Your account managers or customer success managers are building deep relationships with your key points of contact on the customer side. But you are also responsible for making sure that tens of thousands of users can adopt your product in the best way possible.

Customers want to get results as quickly as possible from the software they purchased (or that they have been asked to use by the person who purchased it!).

AI and customer education

EB: Let’s talk a little about AI, which is a big part of our product. I’m really interested in your perspective on AI in customer education––how people are thinking about this, whether it seems very far off, or like something we’re thinking about implementing today?

AA: Teams are definitely thinking about this now, but the question is, how will it be used? I think the thing that scares people is the idea that AI will completely supplant people’s jobs. But to me, just because we have large language models and generative AI now, doesn’t mean it’s going to completely take over work like documentation, course development, and building communities. What it can do very well is give us a starting point for what we’re writing, what we’re drafting. The more sophisticated tools I’ve seen can even automate the creation of procedural content, like “To use this feature, click here, then here, then here…” by scraping your product’s code. But that isn’t usually all that’s included in an effective course, or even article. So although we can prompt AI to give us starting points for course structures or help article drafts, it still needs a human touch to make sure that it’s relevant and fit for purpose.

I’m already seeing how it can provide both speed and consistency for production or ensure the writing conforms to a company’s style and tone principles. Essentially, AI can speed up the manual and production-oriented tasks, allowing us to use our brainpower to do the work that AI is not necessarily going to be able to do. For example: AI is not necessarily going to be able to go to all of the stakeholders that an instructional designer does and do discovery to really figure out what is the most important to clients. But some aspects of those conversations might use AI tools to ingest thousands of NPS surveys to figure out, “what are the most common complaints that clients have?”

That’s a really good starting point, and that’s data we can use to direct our priorities.

A shift in perspective on customer education

EB: I’d love to ask something a little different. You moved from San Francisco to Amsterdam. I’m so curious about whether living abroad changed your perspective on learning or education, or the way you think about this work.

AA: I think it's given me more empathy overall, not just with how to relate to different team members from so many nationalities, but also, when I think about my learners now, I'm not making so many default assumptions based on how American learners approach things.

For example, in the US, it’s very common to say, to get people learning, let’s create meet-ups, and have them be entirely led by a user of the product––you simply need to empower them with the right materials and set them up. For example, Atlassian has been incredibly successful doing this sort of user-group model.

But in Germany, for instance, you say “user group” to someone, and that’s not what they think of at all. Many customers there don’t have that same preference for social learning, and are likely to want something that feels more formal, more produced or structured. So, I do think it’s true I’ve had my eyes opened by moving abroad, and not just by living in Amsterdam, but because I’m now working with so many different European cultures.

Adam's book on customer education

EB: For my final question, I’d love to ask you a little about your book, Customer Education: Why Smart Companies Profit by Making Customers Smarter. Why did you write it?

AA: When I first got into the field of customer education, there were not a lot of resources explaining how to do it, especially outside of mature education services businesses. So I was learning by doing the work, and I was trying to work out loud as much as possible. I started by writing LinkedIn articles about things I was experimenting with, or different conversations I was having with my own leadership team about how customer education was driving different business outcomes. And after doing enough of that, I realized that it would be helpful for people coming into the field to have the type of resource I wished I’d had.

It’s the same reason Dave Derington and I started doing the CELab podcast––we wanted to bring people together, to hear from different voices on the common topics we all struggle with. After only a few episodes, we started bringing on other customer education leaders and practitioners to share their perspectives. Sometimes customer education feels lonely because we’re the only people at our company who are doing this thing. So we wanted to create a network and community around the field, and after several years of doing the podcast, I feel like we have.


A huge thank you to Adam for speaking with me and sharing his thoughts on his own career path and building a community for customer education leaders. Be sure to check out his book and his podcast.

Want to learn more about how we're helping customer education leaders leverage AI to scale high-quality experiences to more learners than ever before? Get in touch here and we'll reach out to set up a chat!

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