Two Great Teams: Bridging the Gap Between Documentation and Customer Support
User assistance (documentation) is basically self-service customer support. Both documentation and customer support are critical to the success of any company, and they work better when they assist and improve each other. How can tap the knowledge of our support agents to improve the documentation, and how can we make the lives of support agents easier in return?
I’ve worked very closely with customer support and customer success teams for years, and I’ve gone from thinking of them as “the RTFM, turn if off an on again folks” to being their biggest advocate and fan.
Let me tell you how documentarians can work with customer support to turn the F in RTFM from F*** to FANTASTIC!
This was an extreme example, but the reality is that if documentation and support are kept
separated and rarely communicate then we aren’t providing good service to our customers
The docs need to answer real customer questions
Often named as a goal for docs, but deflection isn’t the right idea…
We don’t want customers to shut up and go away
We want their feedback!
We need to make sure we address their questions where and when they want answers
Answering your customers’ questions, letting them use your product effectively and get
their jobs done makes for happy customers
Happy customers renew; happy customers buy more; happy customers say nice things
about your product
More work, lower quality (at least, lower than it could be)
If you don’t know what your customers are asking about, how they use the product, then
you’re creating what you THINK is good documentation
Maybe your instincts are great, but after 20 years as a tech writer I’ve learned to NOT trust
my instincts; get the data!
Why doesn’t the documentation answer my questions?
What am I paying for?
Customer Support uses your documentation to learn about the product
Why doesn’t the documentation answer the right questions?
Build a relationship
Not just their names, but what they focus on, their areas of expertise
Work with their manager to make knowledge capture a part of the support team’s goals
Look for types of tickets: ”How do I…”, “I want to...”, “I’ve look at the documentation but...”
Support ticketing systems support categories; you might need to customize this and add
Documentation, as a category or a separate tag
Have anything assigned to Documentation (or tagged) automatically send you a notification
(or even assign it to you)
What’s the level of expertise across customers?
What vocabulary do they use?
Does this match your terminology, or do you need to change to increase understanding?
Remember that support speaks with customers every day
Look for the number of Documentation or Question tickets coming in
Are there a lot? Is there a trend? New vs. Experienced customers?
Do they have a knowledge base?
Better yet, build ONE source of truth!
Don’t underestimate them; they communicate with customers much more frequently than
Give them credit
Show them their information is being used in the documentation, give them a sense of
Don’t give them a huge style guide to follow
Overcome the fear of the blank page
Helps organize their thoughts
Customers see familiar organization
Make them valued reviewers and documentarian partners
Look for change: number and type of “documentation” and “question” tickets
Are the questions getting more complex, more frequent?
Your customers don’t care about your company structure
Silos don’t help you or your customers
Build a culture of information sharing
You want people feeding information to you, not having to play detective every day
The more we do this, the better you can prioritize your tasks and deliver docs that really
help your customers
Use the input from support to set the documentation priorities and build a roadmap for the
This will change your priorities
This will make more work for you
You are a product owner; your product is documentation
This is the goal: better, more concise docs that meet customer needs
This is how we prioritize our tasks and make our work worthwhile.
Because we don’t want to just move the needle…