In May, I attended Zendesk's one-day conference in Dallas titled, "The Future of Customer Experience".
One statement that really resonated with me, as a developer of customer-facing educational content and self-service resources, is something said by Jason Maynard, who is the VP & GM of Zendesk Guide and Data Products. He said "Self service is a fixed cost that pays dividends as your business grows."
"Self service is a fixed cost that pays dividends as your business grows."
The session reported on three typical approaches to launching a help center: 1. the agile improvers, 2. set and forgetters, and 3. patient planners. You can read an elaboration of these approaches here. Having worked with a number of software companies, I can see how the agile approach seems natural and appropriate for developing self-serve content, since many software companies are already using an agile approach to updates. Zendesk's own research bears out that the agile group does best when looking at how well self-service content deflects help center tickets.
I found the Zendesk conference and articles to be very focused on the support audience. And for good reason. I recently read a case study through another tool, MindTouch, about an 86% ticket deflection rate. In that case, the company already had help before (the reported case study), but the help was not easy for customers to use so it wasn't getting the desired results.
Help isn't always enough, but using a well-planned single-source approach to content development benefits not only support, but also can be leveraged for other educational content, like marketing, sales, onboarding and customer success, and throughout the customer's lifecycle.
So for this post, I'd like to offer a few suggestions for creating helpful help, so that the effort and fixed cost that you put into developing your self-service content is as efficient and effective as possible and can easily be reused for other educational purposes.
I don't want to trivialize the work that technical writers like myself do, nor minimize the value of collaboration with subject-matter-experts who may not be as good at writing. But because I'm also very interested in learning, I hope to start a conversation about how to help people be better, more effective workers - not just the people creating the help content, but the readers who rely on it as well.
I'm planning a training session and/or online course to elaborate on these suggestions. I'd love to hear your comments on location, format and any additional topics to include.