The heavy lifting is done. The tech writers have interviewed SMEs. They’ve taken screenshots, written the documents, and put them through workflow for publication. Off that documentation goes to the knowledge base. To a web self-service portal or online help.

Maybe a long-form PDF.

Things are generally peachy until we come to find that internal customers aren’t actually using the documentation. They can’t find the knowledge they need, or they can’t find it quickly enough. Maybe they don’t know certain documentation exists at all. In the meantime, the customer experience is flagging and support KPIs are quietly suffering.

Sound familiar?

Welcome to the documentation echo chamber.

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Good content, bad handoff

We know the internal customers we create content for. Customer Support Agents, yes. Training and onboarding teams. Sales. We create the content and tell other departments it’s there. We even show them how to find it.

What gives?

It’s easy (and understandable) to immediately blame the tools. No knowledge management solution is perfect. But it’s not necessarily the technology at fault. What about the ways internal customers access and consume content?

These days, internal customers find, consume, and use knowledge while doing things like resolving cases by phone, email, or chat.  They’re talking to customers, shooing away visitors, balancing a dozen things at once. Having to switch windows and open new tabs—scroll and Ctrl + F—takes too much valuable time.

Can your documentation be extended these moments—to where the support agents and other internal customers live every day?

If the answer is no, this might explain why customer support agents are copy/pasting directly from a shared OneNote file (instead of hopelessly searching for documentation the knowledge base team toiled over). This is quicker and easier than navigating multiple wikis, for example, or switching between tools like Salesforce Knowledge, Confluence, etc.

It’s less disruptive to their day-to-day flow.

Echo-o.

Where’s the internal alignment?

The problem has more to do with internal alignment. An organization can have the best tools, content, and technology in the galaxy; but if that organization fails to align efforts across departments, any content coming from the documentation team  is going to clap off the walls and make sounds no internal users ever hear.

That means customers will miss it, too.

There was a time when silos stood alone on the organizational horizon, solemn vertical spires housing their respective ecosystems. Customer Support over there. Sales and Marketing here. Customer Success, Training, and Onboarding. Not to mention the separate systems and documents tribal to each. The time it took internal customers to bounce between systems and documents, seeking answers, information, and assets was … acceptable?

Or maybe the costs were being attributed to some other cause.

Today, though, failing to span silos—failing to make documentation available in one integrated place that can be extended into all channels—creates too much friction. Friction increases effort. It drives up support costs by making things more difficult on both internal and external customers.

As we’ve found, this friction can be the difference between failure and survival.

Additional categories: Knowledge Management