For some years now, customer-centricity has been the lauded business approach. Although companies have made a lot of strides, one area continues to fall short: the realignment of key strategic personnel. Why? Because too often the technical writing team is overlooked. And if you are a decision maker and are still not thinking of your tech writer as a prime strategic asset, you are doing it all wrong.

Your help content (and here I include technical documentation, product information, and release notes) is your opportunity to woo, educate, and dazzle your customers. No, not with sales-pitchy platitudes; those your customers will tune out, guaranteed. Your customers want to know the real stuff—how your product works, how to get your service going, and how your product can make them happy. And where do customers go to find this feel-good information?

Online, of course (hopefully on your own support site).

And this is where your strategic opportunity comes in. With online help content, every piece of documentation becomes a customer interaction. Every technical snippet has is an opportunity to catch the attention of a potential buyer. How-to articles are opportunities to reinforce your brand. And every new document has the opportunity to keep you relevant in the eyes of your customers.

All You Have to do Is Create the Experience

But, creating a good customer experience is easier said than done. There are dozens of touchpoints throughout a customer’s journey. So how do you uphold a consistent, engaging, and branded experience? I know all too well that after reading many a blog, building a customer experience can feel more like a concept than a concrete strategy. The many blogs on customer experience strategies tell us why we need to build a customer experience strategy but never quite seem to tell us how.

That’s Where Help Content (and Tech Writer) Comes In

The reach of your help content may not be immediately apparent, but step back for a second and think about how often your internal teams access help content to make your customers successful. Do your support agents refer to help content to solve a problem for a customer? Does your success team provide tailored customer guidance by consulting your help content?

If you said “no” to any of the questions above, I hate to be the bearer of bad news: you might be in more trouble than you think. Or you may not be as customer-centric as you think you are. Notice that I didn’t include your customers directly accessing your help content on your support site? I didn’t need to. Because your help content impacts your customers whenever they interact with your company—often way before they even attempt self-service support.

A good technical writer knows this.

You may think that the decisions technical writers make are based on arbitrary rules captured in a style guide, but editorial decisions are anything but arbitrary. These decisions are based on customer experience points. To create a content experience that ultimately leads to customer success, the technical writer has no choice but to step in the customer’s shoes—to become the customer and to consider all perspectives.

I get it. It’s easy to ignore those lone writers tucked away in cubicles. But if you truly care about creating an engaging customer experience, don’t just stick your technical writer wherever you happen to have a budget. Let them be the enablers they can and should be. Empower your technical writers, and then you can call yourself customer-centric.

Three Ways to Empower Your Tech Writers

  • Claim tech writers as strategists – First off, let’s stop calling them technical writers. They are strategists at core, ultimately only concerned with the customer experience. Yes, you may pay the bills, but the technical writer would much rather make the customer happy than you. Plenty of new names are cropping up for the new and improved tech writer. My personal favorite: “customer experience strategist.” Change the name, your thinking, and leverage the untapped strategic asset you kept hidden away all this time.
  • Put your former technical writer in the middle of the action – Allow your new strategists to collaborate front and center with product development, sales and marketing to fine-tune your product message. Staff them around—not inside—your existing teams.
  • Use your new strategist as your customer experience weapon – Technical writers are by nature truth seekers and town criers. Use them to get your message to your customers. No entity inside your business can put your company’s brand and your product’s value more aptly in the consciousness of your customers (whether directly or indirectly) than your newly appointed strategist. Give them access to customer data and reports. Let them develop strategic content derived from help content and watch what happens to your customer experience.

Put your tech writer in the middle of the action. Bold move? Sure. But your customers (and your business) will thank you for it. And keep this in mind: if you are limiting your tech writers to cleaning up manuals , you are cheating yourself. And you are cheating your customer success experience.

Big time.

Additional categories: Industry Trends, Knowledge Management