Are Your Customers Explicit or Implicit Learners?

People have an insatiable desire to learn.

For some, this desire is explicit. Explicit learners are comfortable asking how they can learn to do something. Explicit learners will simply “pick it up” and figure it out on their own and are happy to engage in trial and error as they build their knowledge base.

For others, this desire is implicit. Implicit learners are most likely to nod knowingly at something they don’t quite get yet. However, as they’re nodding, you can see the wheels turning as they try to figure it all out. Implicit learners will take more time to discover and research – to RTFM – before simply “picking it up”.

While someone may exhibit different learning behaviors in different surroundings (e.g. when they’re in a crowd v. by themselves, who is in the crowd, the consequences of their actions, etc.), individuals will typically fall into either the explicit or the implicit group over a period of time.

Herein lies the first challenge for product managers: Are your customers explicit learners or implicit learners?

The answer to this question will have dramatic impacts on the ways in which you:

  • Sell your product / service;

  • Are able to provide support for your product / service; and

  • Engage in and execute all types of customer communications.

A diverse customer base is made of both explicit and implicit learners.

Herein lies the second challenge: Do you know how each of your customers wants to learn?

The answer to this question is significant. Approaching explicit learners with implicit practices will quickly turn them off as they will grow frustrated with an “endless stream of tutorials”. Simultaneously, providing implicit learners without the necessary information will result in them becoming frustrated and walking away just as quickly. The opportunity to provide your customers with the right information at the right time, in the manner in which they will best process it, is a never ending challenge – yet it is a challenge that must be undertaken for long-term product / service success.

Remember, people have an insatiable desire to learn.

If you aren’t properly educating your customers – if you aren’t helping your customers learn in their own way, on their own terms – your competitors will be.