Customer Support and Tech Writing: A Celestial Alliance?

by Steve Wiseman, Context

cs as tw ally_2

At some point during the evolving story of mankind in the search for terrestrial life on distant planets, planet Earth sent powerful spacecrafts to explore the vast pathways of space. Each vessel was totally independent, solving problems alone. When one spacecraft was outflanked by the vicious and energetic Acado enemy, nearly irreversible damage was done. However, the humans pulled through. Unfortunately, just a short time later, another human spacecraft was attacked by that same group of Acado and fell. Had there been some coordination, the tragedy could have been averted.

[Now, as much as I have enjoyed my first incursion into science fiction, it’s probably best to stop when I’m ahead and explain the connection to the field of technical writing, content authoring or whichever term you wish to place on our precious livelihood. I’m also sure you can find some holes in the metaphor but I suggest you just go with it for now.]

Over the last 20 years, essentially the technical content teams have been an independent department located somewhere at the end of the product roadmap. There was little interaction with other departments, apart from acquiring the knowledge required to author the specific product documentation. Even though, the document and customer service teams were essentially performing the same function of helping users to use the product successfully, there was little coordination between them. The “Acado” business attack of unnecessary rounds of expensive customer initiated conversations could have been avoided.

Self-service is more than just a Smorgasbord

Our world has changed. Our customers expect quick answers. They want to Search > Read > Carry on working. No time for multi-branch heading hierarchies and articles not focused on the user. Calling or chatting with the company takes too long, users prefer great “self-service: The term “self-service” is starting to be used in our world. The idea is that if a user uses self-service to find an answer to their needs, they will not want to turn to the company and waste precious time. Our documentation is the “self-service” option.

We can achieve this only with collaboration with other departments in our company.

Here are some departments within your organization where you can coordinate internally right now:

Dep1: Love Your Customer Service/Success (CS) Department

Implement a system where its inherent ecosystem encourages interaction with the customer service department. They are the natural allies of the doc team. However, the CS team generally deals with immediately pressing issues while the doc team deals with the general product. This is changing and so it should.

We should be writing content that’s relevant NOW. It’s a lot more important than simply covering every feature in the product. Coordination with this department for highly relevant articles is critical to the success of modern documentation. If your support team sees a trend of a certain questions users are asking, write an article immediately to deflect those questions away from the CS team and straight to you documentation.

Dep 2: Branding your Content to Enhance Marketing and Sales

Move away from the old webhelp and other restricted deliverable types. The help center design historically was a minor issue due to the inflexibility of the authoring tool. When the technical content is totally in sync with the corporate website, the whole perception of the content is different within and outside of the company. Customers will now want to access your self-service content to find answers to their questions.
When the help content is anonymous (login is not required), the content is searched by the global search engines. When checking out a company’s product, or searching for any product in the field, people may arrive at your technical content first. Ensure your first paragraph always refers to the business case for the article. Let everyone know that you can be the source of sales leads to for your company. Shifting your content from the last leg of the product roadmap to an effective and proactive sales tool!

Bombard Top Management with Analytics and ROI

You can now have immediate figures on the performance of your articles. This should be an integral part of your documentation process – researching, writing, reviewing and acting on stats. When you relate that to the statistics in your customer service department regarding the tickets in their system in relation to customer questions, you can start to calculate the actual benefit to the company from the articles you create. For example, correlate your articles with deflected tickets, suddenly you have actual numbers and ROI to not only justify your work but see the positive effects it has on your company’s well-being.

Whereby in the past we were independent spacecraft within an organization all going our separate ways, we can now become a fully coordinated and efficient flying armada. Providing the benefits in this blog are now relatively simple to integrate, often from the implementation of a single tool. Contact the author of this blog for more details.

Below, let us know your comments and if you have any experience in working with other departments inside an organization.

Steve Wiseman (swiseman@context.co.il) is an expert in implementing customer service and authoring solutions. As an international official reseller of the Zendesk customer support platform, Steve’s company helps Israeli firms to reduce time and costs with their present customer support department and workflows.

 

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