What if we could KNOW?

What if we could know?I love helping people. I’m two-parts concierge, one-part overzealous geek. Years ago, when I took my first job as a technical writer, I realized I’d stumbled upon a new way to be a helper. See if your job involves planning, creating, organizing and delivering answers, you are in a “helping” profession. You help by:

  • Solving problems
  • Diffusing frustration
  • Freeing people up to move forward

At the other end of our content is a person who needs an answer. And with the rush of information heading their way, it is becoming more challenging to make sure they receive it. So I’ve been up late nights pondering ways we can become even more helpful as things unfold. One night, it hit me.

What if we could know?”

  • Which customers had purchased which products
  • Which versions they paid for
  • Which versions they are running
  • Which modules they deploy
  • Which operating systems versions they use
  • What they’ve told our tech support team
  • What they are saying about us on the social web

Couldn’t we then ….

  • Push content to them
  • Prune it for their exact product version
  • Optimize it by required OS versions
  • Prune it for deployed modules
  • Increase their user experience
  • Simplify their lives
  • Improve our Net Promoter Scores
  • Drive revenue growth

Every feature I mentioned is already available within existing vendor tools. The trouble is that the features are scattered across a number of disciplines (CRM, SaaS, KM, Listening tool, e20, collaboration tools, authentication). I am determined to find a way to put these pieces to together.

So what about you? Do you have ideas on how to make this happen?

13 Responses to “What if we could KNOW?”

  1. I’m not on the West coast, and frankly, I don’t know how to make this happen, but I’m definitely adding this list of questions to my ‘discovery’ list for clients. The challenge has always been: how do we get our various knowledge systems to talk to each other? I’ll be interested in seeing other responses !

    • Thanks Lise, I’m working on that very thing now (connecting knowledge systems). It’s a tactic that was revealed to be necessary when we developed our content strategy. Right now, we have mature processes in each business function. We have succeeded at connecting the knowledge from #techcomm and tech support. Now I’m looking at elearning and scrm as possible targets. I’m excited to see where it all leads.

  2. At the risk of tooting our own horn, I strongly suggest you look at MindTouch 2010 which does all of the above and more. Granted, some customization may be required, but 2010 was built to be customized.

  3. Good ideas, Tristan. We now have the tools we need to fulfill a long time dream: delivering just the right content to just the right people at just the right time.

    With tools like DITA we can easily filter the content by product version, OS version, and deployed modules. The big one, though, is the last item in your list: drive revenue growth. Tools alone won’t get us there. We have to show everyone — the customers and the people who run the business — that there’s bottom-line value in doing all these other things. Tools can help, but at the end of the day we’ll have to “show ’em the money.”

    • Thanks Larry. I believe there has to be a numerical relationship between successful content strategy implementation and customer care costs. In other words, I believe there must be numerical ROI around preparing and delivering answers, rather than waiting for customers to come looking for them. In the tech support industry, they are referring to this as the shift from “break/fix support” to “proactive” support. If we can place the answers where they should be, we can reduce our costs. But I don’t have the metrics yet to support my beliefs around this. I’m going to find them, if they exist.

      Along those lines, I also believe that customers who can easily find their answers should feel better about a brand, which should then lead to an NPS bump. And an NPS bump should lead to positive word of mouth on social channels, which should then lead to increased revenue. So I plan to “manifest the quon” (to use your metaphor) by seeking out real-world metrics that can illustrate these beliefs.

      Customer finds answers – less likely to call support – support costs go down – customer feels good about brand, NPS goes up – customer says good things – sales go up

      That’s how I see it, in that order. Now I just have to prove it.

  4. Interesting topic. I say this a lot, but “this is not a technology problem.” As you point out, we have the pieces in place.

    I think that the challenge is to identify the person in an organization who has the strategic vision and management authority to make this happen. Then, you have to convince him or her that this is important. THEN, you can move on to addressing the technical implementation.

    People inside tech comm have been generally atrocious at business case and strategic planning like this.

    • Yes, that is a challenge, to be sure. Strategic leadership for company-wide content is not always present and definitely not optional. I’m reading “Content Strategy for the Web” by Kristina Halvorson this week and finding her calling for a dedicated FTE to totally OWN the process. As for me, I’m actually optimistic that I can prove the ROI and reach key stakeholders, but I have the rare privilege of approaching the task from within a central office (CTO). I am quite fortunate to be part of a team that has a mandate to move forward in key areas. It will be interesting to see what happens. This thread is certainly giving me some ideas for STC 2011 proposals.

    • I have to agree with Sarah here on the topic of vision. The question is how to we promote a vision that tech comm’s can take to their decision makers? And, does it have to include the Marketing department, IT, Engineering etc?

      Do you need ROI studies? Proof of concepts? Other success stories?


  1. Systems Documentation, Inc. - August 16, 2010

    Tired of technical writing? How I rejuvenated my career…

%d bloggers like this: