For some years now, customer-centricity has been the lauded business approach, and although companies made a lot of strides, one area continues to fall short: The realignment of key strategic personnel, and, yes, that includes your technical writer. If you are a decision maker and are still not thinking of your technical writer as a prime strategic asset, you are doing it all wrong.
I know, how smug of me. But hear me out.
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. (And hopefully on your own support site.)
And this is where your strategic opportunity comes in. With online content, every piece of your documentation becomes a customer interaction: Every technical snippet has the opportunity to catch the attention of a potential buyer, every how-to article has the opportunity 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 customer experience is easier said than done. There are dozens of touch points 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 feels 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.
Enter your help content.
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 your help content to make your customers successful. Does your sales team rely on your help content to relate your product’s capabilities to your customers? Do your sales engineers, via your help content, educate your customers on how to implement your product? Does your marketing team pull new feature documentation from your help content to showcase innovation? 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?
Get my point?
If you said “no” to any of the questions above, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you might be in more trouble than you think. Or at the least, 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 get to your support site.
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; they are based on customer experience points—user experience design, search engine optimization, presales processes, marketing initiatives, success journeys, support interactions and product strategies. 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 in cubicles off in the corner of your office, 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. Here’s how:
- Claim your technical writer 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 emerging for the new and improved technical 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 center with product development, sales and marketing to fine-tune your product message. Staff them around, not inside your existing teams. Ideally, keep your strategists independent so they can focus on answering to the only voice that really matters—your customer’s.
- 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.
Pull your technical writers out of the closet and stick them in the middle of the action. A bold move? Sure. But your customers (and your business) will thank you for it. Keep in mind that if you are thinking of your tech writer as a necessary evil to clean up your manuals and make technically convoluted information digestible to the general populace, you are cheating yourself. Big time.
Other Posts in this Series
- Yes, Times Are A-Changing. The Traditional Tech Writer Is No More.
- Shake Your Fairy Tale Habits: Chapter 3 — Deciding on Structure Prominence
- Shake Your Fairy Tale Habits: Chapter 2 – Alternative Data Gathering
- Shake Your Fairy Tale Habits: Chapter 1 – Forget Sleepless Nights
- The "Doc is In" Series: Shake Your Fairy Tale Habits—The Prologue
- Introducing the "Doc is In" Series: Is Your Customer Self-Service Strategy Just a Fairy Tale?