LavaCon Session Summary: Corey Ganser on “Who Cares About Your Content?”

Day 1 of Lavacon 2011

Who Cares About Your Content?

Corey Ganser presented a thoughtful session about the importance of engaging technical writers and customer support agents with the goal of decreasing support costs and increasing client satisfaction. Three stakeholders in the question of who cares about content are the company, the customers, and you (the technical communicator).

During his session, he explained how his employer, Mindtouch, forged relationships with its customers and found opportunities for selling its products and services.  The approach was a unique combination of interacting with the customer on a personalized level and allowing the customer to provide feedback whenever possible.

Corey laid out a framework for analyzing how customers utilize help documentation. A key component of this task is to create content measurement methods from the users’ perspective, such as how many times a help topic is accessed, whether the topic solves the issue, or if the topic results in a customer support call. This kind of analysis identifies whether documentation helps resolve user problems. Equally important, ongoing analysis provides a way for the company to anticipate developing issues by observing spikes access requests for online help documents. Staying ahead of technical issues in this fashion can result in savings in support costs and increased customer satisfaction.

A company, such as Mindtouch, can go further by directly interacting with the customer regarding new features, community help, and even contact from a person working specifically on the product they sell.

However, where do the technical writers fit into this equation? The important factor is to break down the barriers between documentation and customer support—in fact, both offer support to the customer and should be very similar. According to Ganser, at his company, documentation and customer support is performed by the same people, and the melding of the two often allows for easier documentation updates. However, not all companies are organized the same; the documentation and support departments are often are separated.  Both need to work together to decrease costs and increase satisfaction.

His company’s approach to collaborating and merging documentation with customer support can increase the productivity of all members involved with the product while focusing primarily on the client.

The three takeaways from this session are:

  • Marketing, sales and support departments all rely upon the technical writer.
  • Documentation is an evolving, collaborative process that involves technical writers, subject matter experts, and customer support agents.
  • Customers need social interaction at some level.

Technical writers should approach content engagement in this way as beneficial for their employers–extending documentation as far as possible to help the customer support team engage effectively and efficiently with the client.

Twitter: @coreygans
Business Site: http://www.mindtouch.com/

Roger is relatively new to the technical communication field; however, he works extremely hard to network and develop professional relationships among colleagues. He also posts articles regarding technical communication on his blog at WriteTechie.com. If you are interested in hiring Roger, feel free to view his resume on LinkedIn.

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