4 steps to conducting needs assessment with product documentation

Posted by
March 15, 2018

Customers today are impatient. They want everything fast, convenient, and done in their own terms. A byproduct of on-demand services pioneered by companies such as eBay (ecommerce), Uber (transport), and Instacart (grocery delivery), it follows that customers most probably expect the same from any business they interact with. How does yours keep up?

Understanding the on-demand economy and its consequences

According to Harvard Business Review, the on-demand economy is attracting more than 22.4 million consumers annually and $57.6 billion in spending. It cites that customers are “attracted by the user experience, added convenience, and other benefits it provides.”

While there are a lot of opportunities, the on-demand economy also poses some challenges. One distinct downside is customer retention. Because of its fast-paced nature, it’s easier for customers to abandon one company for another. For instance, when they encounter an issue or when they discover that there exist another company offering the same products cheaper, and faster, they can easily make the switch.

Moreover, customers value when companies show they care, offering products and services they need at the right moment. That’s the silver lining. To win over modern customers, your company must know them on a deeper level, find out what works for them, and reach them with the right kind of interaction. What’s the best capability to achieve all of these? Data and analytics. Every company knows these two are competitive advantage. In fact, Gartner predicts that global revenue in business intelligence and analytics is to reach $22.8 billion by 2020.

Tapping data and analytics from the product documentation portal

Product documentation may not be the first to come to mind, simply because it’s often overlooked as a standalone product, but it can help you increase customer loyalty with the large amount of data it collects. Being the entity that interconnects every part of the whole business—from the different teams and departments within the organization, to consumers, industry specialists, and competition outside—product documentation is in the best position to satisfy your customers’ need for relevance and convenience.

Putting analytics, feedback, and sharing tools in your product documentation portal enables your company to understand users. Knowing what they are searching for and which contents are being read or downloaded, as well as gathering both positive and negative comments and suggestions from users themselves—all of these bring you closer to your customers.

Producing insights out of this data, using this insights to launch new features, and iterating fast to reflect consumer and market response, eventually help you offer personalized and relevant products and services. Here are four key steps to help you get started:

  1. Know your user persona/s

Like any other business initiative, you must know who the end users are and why. For product documentation, these are technical writers, employees (from engineering, marketing, after sales support, and more), subject matter experts (SME), community, existing and potential customers, and competition. Knowing your personas enables you to create individualized and customized approaches.

  1. Discover individual needs

Once you have all your personas in place, then you can plot the role they play, their interaction with the product documentation portal, and how they currently benefit (or not) from content. Are they getting the answers they need? Why are they abandoning a troubleshooting process halfway through the tutorial? Which document is the most shared and what could be the reason behind it? Which channel do this particular persona uses most of the time? Being familiar with user behavior in relation to your content lets you easily find out what could be improved.

  1. Implement strategy and follow up

Time to set up your strategy centered around fulfilling the needs of your different personas. Does this document clearly solve the customers’ problem? Is this the best solution for this issue? What other content can be recommended that might help the user? What’s the initial reception to the changes introduced? In this stage, having a dynamic product documentation portal that can do the following pays off:

  • Enabling effortless search across all content to increase user satisfaction;
  • Pushing additional relevant documentation to better lead users to what they’re looking for;
  • Supporting rapid one-click publication to keep documentation updated;
  • Allowing technical writers, SMEs, and other authorized stakeholders to add comments, tables, or images, and debates changes to quickly reflect present issues and solutions; and
  • Giving the option of an automated and faceted search for a solution before opening a support case, live filtering, and search result previews to help users save time.

 

  1. Measure success and evaluate

With analytics tools included in your product documentation portal, you can easily monitor and evaluate success, or find out why it failed. Not only does analytics help in successfully implementing initiatives, but it also provides the relevant inputs for strategic decision making about your next steps.

Now that you know what modern customers expect, it’s up to you to leverage the assets you have—such as your product documentation—and implement a robust and holistic strategy that meets consumer needs. Don’t let the data your portal collects go stale, use it to discover what the market needs, and win long lasting customers with it.

Zoomin’s dynamic knowledge portal extends the reach of product documentation libraries by giving customers easy, personalized access to the answers they need—from any device, whenever they want, and from any location. Zoomin moves your content from a static collection of documents, to a dynamic world of answers. Learn more by scheduling your guided demo.

Zoomin Software