Turning technical documentation into an emotional experience (for the customer)

One of the most recent trends organisations are starting to look at is creating a “customer experience strategy”. “Customer Experience Management” is management-speak for generating customer advocacy, brand loyalty and an emotional attachment to a product or company.

With so many people describing their experiences as customers via Social Web sites, Blogs and other media, it’s becoming increasingly important to ensure customers have a positive experience when they engage with your organisation.

Shaun Smith of Smith+Co, a specialist in this field, talks about the steps towards customer loyalty as being like a staircase:

Another player in this field, The Service and Support Professionals Association, has identified three critical components for creating customer loyalty:

  1. Bonding. They argue the quickest way to bond with a customer is to offer the right answer and a positive service experience, every time.
  2. Personalisation.
  3. Empowerment. Empowering customers means changing the way they receive support and freeing them from the burden of long, complex diagnostics.

According to Smith, this means organisations need to:

  • Discover what customers truly value
  • Lead, rather than simply manage and respond

To this end, Citrix is promoting its remote desktop software as a way of improving customers’ experiences when they engage with hotlines and support desks.

However, if we accept this extends to the other means by which customers seek help, then perhaps organisations should also consider user documentation when budgeting for and developing a customer experience strategy for your organisation. Perhaps, also Technical Authors should consider “Customer Experience Management” when developing the documentation.


Matthew Newnham

Couldn’t agree more. I’m an avid advocate of this approach, and I’d offer that we need to get into a natural series of ongoing conversations – online and offline – with our customers, employees and trading partners. If we say we value these people, let’s walk the talk…

And as a small, but perhaps meaningful nod in this direction, what’s your thinking on changing your strapline to “We write that missing information your customers really need.”

Just a thought!

Catherine Hibbard

You make some great points. In our quest to be technically correct we often overlook the human bonding necessary to create a good experience for our reading audience and those who will be influenced by our readers.

Larry Kunz

Ellis, this is a great article. We all need to realize that our customers don’t read our information because it’s intrinsically wonderful. They read it (scan it, actually) because they want an answer to a question.

We should attempt to deliver answers that are relevant, ideally in such a way that we talking to an individual instead of a target audience. For better or worse, user documentation is — as you say — part of the total customer experience.

Ivan Walsh

What amazes me is that in 2010 companies still have to be told this.

You’d think by now they’d know that the quickest way to bond with a customer is to offer the right answer & positive service experience every time.

But they don’t.

Sorry, let me re-phrase.

They know it (in theory) but don’t apply it (in reality).

I just tried to get my camera fixed at a Sony shop. Let’s say, I won’t be buying Sony again…


Bill Kerschbaum

This is right on target. In every project, I ask how the documentation can connect my client and their customers better. I do this by pursuing truth (correct content), goodness (readability/usability), and beauty (visually appealing to the customer). I’ve blogged about it at http://wp.me/pJKIp-11.

Sarah Maddox

G’day Ellis!

Thought you might like to know that I’ve given a couple of presentations recently where I got a bit emotional about the docs. My audience were pretty emotional by the end of the talk too! 😉

I’ve linked to your blog post in the references in the presentation that I gave at AODC 2010 last month. My blog now has the summary and the slides for downloading:

Just a few days ago I gave a related presentation at the Atlassian Summit conference. I referred to your blog post in that presentation too. The slides and video will be posted sometime soon on the Atlassian web site. I’ll blog about it when that happens.


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