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How great documentation can stop you losing customers

Recently, whilst having a few drinks with some friends, one of them started explaining to me how Whiskey is made. It starts with the effort spent malting and mashing the grains, then the complex process of fermenting and distilling, until finally, the maturation process starts. This is where the Whiskey is placed in wooden casks and left to develop, and this can take years. And each year a Whiskey is matured, up to 1% of the total amount of Whiskey just evaporates. This is what distillers call ‘the angels share’. While 1% doesn’t sound like much, I looked at the bottle we were sampling (a 16-year-old Aberfeldy which, by the way, I would highly recommend) and realised that the Aberfeldy distillery was losing up to 16% of its Whiskey in the maturation process.

It was only with a slightly sore head the next morning I saw the parallel between Sales and Marketing with what we call ‘Customer Churn’. Like those hardworking distillers, sales and marketing teams expend great effort generating leads, nurturing and qualifying these leads into sales, and if you are lucky, cultivating these sales into upselling opportunities. However, in this process a certain amount of customers is lost, which is referred to as ‘Customer Churn’. Now, there are plenty of articles that go into great detail about what customer churn is, and what causes it, so I’m not going to go discuss it here. What I am going to say is, unlike those hardworking distillers, who have to accept this loss, you can mitigate your customer churn rate with quality product and technical documentation. And, at the risk of stating the obvious, it’s very advantageous to your business to do so;

‘But Derek’, I hear you ask, ‘How can quality technical and product documentation stop me from losing customers?’. Well, firstly, my name isn’t Derek, but thanks for trying. Secondly, I’ve put together three very good reasons below.

Good onboarding documentation ensures loyalty

Product and technical documentation is a vital part of the customer onboarding process (read our previous article about it: Customer onboarding through technical documentation). Great documentation helps customers get the information they need for your products and services quickly, reduces the time and support they need from your customer service teams, and makes your onboarding process clear before customers engage with you.

As we’ve said before in our article about product documentation, your documentation is a reflection of your products and services. If your documentation isn’t easy to find, access and use, your customers may assume your products and services are difficult to use as well. But the reverse is also true, with accessible documentation reflecting well on your products and services. Many consumers also value good documentation and content when onboarding, and appreciate when organisations go the extra mile. In fact, 86% of customers are more likely to stay loyal to a business that invests in onboarding content that welcomes and educates them.

So, investing in good quality product and technical documentation can help you deliver vital information to your customers during the onboarding process in a way they appreciate and value, helping to reduce any churn at the beginning of your customer journey.

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Consumers expect access to information at any time

Regardless of whether your customer is still at the discovery stage of their purchase, or has been using your product or services for 10 years, all customers rightly expect to be able to access information quickly and at their convenience. As a by-product of the digital age, many consumers expect around-the-clock access to information, and while customer service and support teams need to eat and sleep, your customer’s demand for information doesn’t. Don’t just take my word for it – Matthew Storm, Former Head of North American Marketing at NICE Systems put it succinctly:

Further to this, many customers prefer being able to get information for themselves, bypassing customer support teams. In a Zendesk survey, 67% of those surveyed preferred self-service over speaking to a customer representative. So, many customers prefer you to give them problem-solving tools (information portals, product guides and installation manuals) rather than spending time contacting your organisation for the information.

This isn’t consumers being demanding and wanting information on their terms – many appreciate it when organisations put in the effort to make information easy to access. A RightNow survey stated that 55% of customers say that easy access to information helps them ‘fall in love’ with a brand. And consumers that fall in love with your brand are much more likely to stick with you. So, ensuring your customers have the access to the information they need, when, where and how they want doesn’t just stop them from leaving you – it helps them fall for your brand.

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Easy access to information helps your customers like you

What if your product and technical documentation didn’t just help you to stop losing customers, but also helped upsell additional services, and even helped you sell to other customers?

Personally, I can attest to this. Many years ago, I saved up what felt like an astronomically huge amount of money to buy a Marshall guitar amplifier. Much to the annoyance of my neighbours, the user guide they supplied helped me get different tones from my guitar, offered tips on how to correctly maintain it, and groundbreakingly (for the mid-2000s anyway) video tutorials on the various functions of the amp. Now, nearly 20 years later, I’ve purchased another amplifier and an assortment of headphones, polo shirts and other paraphernalia. However, even more importantly, I’ve recommended their amplifiers to other bedroom rockstars as well. And I can trace this back to how well Marshall’s documentation helped me get the most out of my original purchase. I’m not alone in this, as according to research published in Bloomberg, 71% of millennials are willing to recommend brands that provide access to high-quality technical information.

So, not only will good product and technical documentation help you stop the dreaded customer churn, it can help convince customers to invest more in your products and services. Even better than that, really good documentation can help turn your customers into advocates for your brand – helping you make even more sales in the long run with that all-important positive word-of-mouth advertising.

Ditch the churn, so customers return

Now, I’m not going to claim that good documentation is the only factor in reducing your customer churn – far from it. Customer churn is affected by a myriad of different factors, some of which you simply can’t control, such as your competition and their offering, the impact of change in both technology and habits of your customers, and the wider economic landscape. However, unlike some of these big, scary external factors, your documentation and information are something you have 100% control over. You can have control over how well your customers are onboarded, how easily they can find information about your products and services, and also how likely they are to recommend you to their friends and relatives.

So, if you are serious about keeping your customers, why wouldn’t you ensure that they can easily find, access and use information relating to your products and services?

I hope you found this blog helpful, and that it’s helped you realise how important technical and product documentation can be to retaining customers, and helping your customers become advocates for your brand. And, at the very least, I hope it helps remind Mike that he owes me a bottle of 16-year-old Aberfeldy.

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Danny Naylor

Danny Naylor

Working as a Marketing Manager, Danny thrives on thinking up novel ways to reach customers, as well as creating and running campaigns over digital channels. Away from the office, Danny relaxes by obsessing over films and music, annoying his neighbors with his guitar collection and shouting at the England rugby team.View Author posts

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