Do we really have to wade through your 400 page text-based manual you’ve posted online in order to find out why an error keeps us from using your software? Worse, when we finally find the answer it’s incomplete. So what do we do? A Google search and find the answer elsewhere.
Really? Aren’t we done with just dumping paper based manuals online? No one reads that way on the web. Do you realize how much time you’re taking away from us? We cringe when we land on a site that’s stuffed with PDF’s and lacks a search function.
And maybe that’s why your product isn’t selling as well as it should.
You’ve never really invested in documentation or creating a knowledge base for your product because you’ve always viewed it as non-strategic. But you had to have something (those pesky customers and their demands) so you threw someone at it and gave them a budget equivalent to the 5 year old laptop you gave them to write it on.
Why? Because you’re far more interested in marketing the product and less concerned about explaining how it works.
Your customers are complaining about not finding the answers to their product problems? It’s not your documentation, the customer just isn’t looking hard enough. Your customers believe the product performs miracles? Well that’s a marketing problem. The Sales team is losing deals because prospects are telling them that performing due diligence with the competition’s documentation is a snap? Fire the Sales team, they suck too.
Guess what? It’s not a customer, Marketing or Sales problem. It’s your appalling documentation site. No one is reading it. You’re better off outsourcing it to GetSatisfaction.
Seriously, it’s the problem Tristan Bishop outlines in his most recent post on Disposable documentation. Most organizations are optimized for short term revenue growth not in building a sustainable relationship with their customers.
That may have worked in a pre-internet world, but it’s not going to fly now. Why? Because your prospective customers are going elsewhere for support. That elsewhere may be your competition.
Rahel Bailie, in a Steep Price for Bad Documentation, outlines several reasons why bad documentation is creating a lot of missed opportunities and potentially bankruptcy. Scott Abel has recently written about his experience with Facebook’s documentation and how little effort has been put into it despite a massive amount of traffic. Tom Johnson illustrated the experience of customers that couldn’t find the answer to their problems in the documentation only to return back to the product and try to solve it similar to how one solves a Rubik’s Cube.
But there are many companies that won’t accept subpar documentation. They recognize the myriad benefits to building communities around their documentation and product knowledge bases.
Autodesk isn’t just paying lip service to making their customer experience with their products better. They are co-creating documentation with their customers in order to create a better user experience. So are the companies responsible for the Top Ten documentation sites.
These organizations are nurturing their customers and creating cross selling opportunities. They’re simultaneously reducing costs and increasing revenue. They’re not relying on marketing to educate their customers on how their products are solving real issues.
So how do you know that your documentation needs improvement?
- Your documentation looks more like example A than B
|Example A||Example B|
2. The sections of your website devoted to marketing your product receives more traffic than your documentation site.
3. Your customer service department is overwhelmed by customer support calls.
You want to change the situation?
Stop viewing your documentation as non-strategic and do the following:
- Check out the top 10 documentation and customer support sites and learn how the best are leveraging their sites to reduce costs and increase revenue.
- Use the ROI Calculator to determine how deploying a Social Documentation solution can save your organization money and become the number one lead generation source.
- Reach out to the people responsible for your customer experience and tell them you need a better site. Tell them your customers are sick and tired of being disappointed and that you need to start treating them with respect.
- Schedule a meeting with key stakeholders and present a story about how you’re going to increase customer engagement through a social documentation strategy and solution.
- Get internal buy-in, build a plan and execute.
- Stop making excuses. Your documentation is terrible. You know it and your customers know it. Now do something about it.
So before you send the hate mail, I recognize the challenges some of you are facing in some of the less enlightened organizations. There are legitimate roadblocks. Yet, any for profit organization can’t ignore obvious solutions that increase sales and decrease costs. Executives will pay attention if you take the time to present a compelling case. There are also plenty of case studies from high profile corporations that you can leverage.
So you can either bury your head in the sand or take action. It’s easy to fall victim to the status quo. But I am willing to bet you want to take a risk and create something remarkable. Cogito ergo sum.
P.S. Did you know: Most people believe Cogito ergo sum = “I think therefore I am.” The actual definition is “I shake things up, therefore I am.”