Below are my notes and highlights from this session at Write The Docs Europe 2016 in Prague. This is part of a series I wrote during the conference. This is not meant to be transcriptions and may have missed points made during they talk. They solely reflect my interpretations of the talk.

Documentarians and Support: Work Better Together

by Sarah Chambers

Sarah’s experience has always been working with writers inside of support side-by-side. It shocked her when she learned this was not the norm.

Embedding writers in support puts them in the perfect location because the feedback cycle is ideal:

User gets confused -> User contacts support -> Support and user feedback to docs

Being in support also makes it easier for docs to talk to users. Additionally, your technical support team speaks the same language as the users. This can inform future documentation cycles and style guides. Support has a huge amount of data that is collecting data from users.

How Effective is your Documentation?

Answers might be:

  • Views are up

    Reading is one thing, helpful is another

  • Lots of people clicked the like button

    Out of how many? baseline

  • No one has said anything.

    That’s just guessing

How can support help you answer this question?

Measure Your self-service Ratios

Self-service is any tool that lets a user help themselves. Ratios are great because they measure two things directly. This ratio can be expressed with this equation for a specific context:

(# of article views)/(# of tickets created) = self service ratio

If this number isn’t going up, then your docs are just a bump in the road on the road to contacting support.

A good industry benchmark is 12 Views:1 Support Contact

Customer Effort Score

A scale from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree is used to respond to statements like:

“The company made it easy for me to handle my issue.”

This is measured after a support interaction. This should not be averaged for a number. Look at the distribution of scores.

  • High Effort - What is our blocker for these folks? Are they being passed around? Is search failing?
  • Medium Effort - This is the goal. Effort should be high enough to stop the customer from contacting support for any effort.
  • Easy Effort - This should have been a self-service experience. Documentation is a good start here!

Ticket Tagging

Ask support to tag tickets them with:

  • How-To Questions: These are things to should consider documenting.
  • Bugs: These get sent to engineering.
  • Feedback: These get sent to product management.

This tagging allows you to graph what your support team is actually working on. You do not want the team answering how-tos. This should be documented or self-service.

Qualitative Data

Ask the customer directly while they are in the support contact if they even know you have an online support center? If they say yes, as if they looked there? Why did they end up calling? Was there no relevant article? Was the article not understandable? How did it not meet needs?

Another way to gather data is to track the paths customers follow through the docs and support. Did they read an article and then open a ticket? Did they read and didn’t? Did they search and fail and then searched again or opened a ticket?

A nice added layer is when the documentation is tagged with the same tags as the tickets use to indicate support area. This way it is easy to connect tickets to specific documentation.

This data lets you prove the ROI of docs when combined with cost of support.

Make it easy for support to work with you

  • Have internal style guides.
  • Make it easy to contribute.
  • Show what is in progress and what is being edited, etc. Get people to stop licking the cookie
  • Provide templates.

Pair with support to get a feel for how it all works out when the customer encounters problems.