When it comes to customer support for products and services, most organizations look to support processes such as online communities, help documentation, customer forums, etc.. But are these tools being used to their best advantage? The truth is, in most cases, they aren’t.
Moving Support into Sales & Marketing
We often take for granted the content used in support processes. Take help documentation as a prime example. It’s probably one of the most hated jobs in the organization, creating help documentation. Nobody reads it, it’s impossible to keep up to date as patches, bug fixes and major updates are completed. It’s shoved in static help documentation files, and placed on CDs, DVDs or in hard to reach places on the website. Is it ever read by a customer? Do they find it useful?
Tech writers and organizations should be happy to know that it doesn’t have to be this way. Help documentation is a great example of how you can utilize content to both help customers help themselves (and thus reduce support calls), help support teams help customers and also offer related information, products and services (sales and marketing).
What you need to do is make your help documentation a living, breathing social knowledge base, constantly adapting to real-time usage and events. As customers use it to resolve issues or simply find information, you can track what information is the most popular and build on it. You can see what content is being marked as not useful and update it. You can offer additional related information or make suggestions for other products and services that the customer might be interested in reading/learning about. Also, consider allowing customers to not only comment or vote on your information, but provide their own content, increasing the value of your knowledge base.
Help documentation doesn’t have to stand alone. This type of information can be used in online communities, it can be used on your website, and it can be used directly within web or desktop applications. In a social knowledge base, information on additional products and services is offered without coming across as a sales pitch because it’s offered in the context of the task you are doing at that moment.
Combine all your company/product/service information in ways that provide customers and prospects with as much information as possible to complete tasks, make decisions.
Support and Sell Within the Right Context
Do you see where this is going? It’s going back to our view of content. We tend to look at marketing materials as separate content from what is used in support processes and this doesn’t have to be the case.
Content is the tie that binds your marketing and support channels together. Without a solid content strategy, you are missing vital opportunities to both support your current customers and bring on new ones. You’re also likely missing a key opportunity: using your support channels to up sell and cross sell.
Think of your content as something that is used across not only all customer channels, but across organizational groups. Don’t think your support channels can’t sell and don’t think your marketing channels can’t support.
They can. They should. Use your content to make that happen.