Why We Needed to Rethink Product Success — and How We Did It
Originally published on the Product School's blog by Rick Teplitz
Anyone in the business of building software products is in the business of customer success.
The way we build software has been evolving at break-neck speed. In response to innovations such as virtualization, cloud computing and containerization, software makers have embraced new approaches for building and deploying their products. Releases have become more frequent, product capabilities more expansive, and product portfolios more diverse.
I oversee technical documentation at Imperva, a global leader in cyber-security. I also function as project manager for technical projects unrelated to documentation. As a result, I’m positioned at the heart of innovation and watched Imperva evolve from hardware appliances to our first VMware version of our on-Premises product; then packaging it for AWS and Azure; to the development of our Cloud infrastructure; the breaking down of large legacy servers into microservices; their packaging as containers, and through to delivery via automation and DevOps. I have borne witness to the evolution of technology. It’s both breathtaking, and challenging.
In this agile environment, our teams do a lot of learning. One of the most important truths we learned through our innovative partnership with Zoomin Software to transform our product information experience is as follows: Building successful solutions requires a paradigm shift in how we think of our products.
In days past, most product leaders focused on making sure the software delivered the features, usability, and scalability customers needed. Put simply, the product was just the bits.
But Imperva’s products have become more sophisticated and our customers face an ever-growing threat landscape. We can only succeed when our customers are fully empowered to use our products to their full potential. A key enabler of that success is enabling customers to quickly and easily find the information they need, whenever and from everywhere a customer may look for it.
Without investing in how users experience this critical information we were missing opportunities to hit and exceed our goals.
It’s become clear that the right documentation at the right time would contribute to a number of our organization’s objectives including:
- Customer self-service
- Customer satisfaction (CSAT) — e.g. NPS
- Case deflection and cost savings
- Reduction of customer attrition (i.e. “churn”)
- Lead and revenue generation
In true CI/CD fashion, Imperva constantly pushes out new code and releases across our product offerings. But the way we were delivering our documentation wasn’t serving our customers sufficiently. So we set out to modernize our delivery infrastructure to keep apace with an ever expanding line of products and releases, and to deliver our guidance in a more efficient and user friendly manner.
We had been publishing our user guides as PDFs, and simply posting them to our Salesforce-powered customer support portal. While the content was comprehensive and well-written, the experience for our customers was far from ideal. PDFs proved a difficult vehicle for finding the answers our customers need. And for anyone who’s tried to read a PDF on their smartphone, you can appreciate that the mobile-experience for our customers had much to be desired.
To modernize how we delivered our technical content, we deployed Zoomin — a content delivery and product enablement platform. Zoomin provided us a number of key capabilities:
- Authoring Tool Flexibility — Imperva has multiple documentation teams, most using different authoring tools adopted by teams via acquisitions
- Single-Sourcing — Though authored using multiple tools, the ability to continually synthesize and host this diverse content within a single “data layer” was essential
- Searchability — Indexing and natural language processing of the content provided precision findability so customers could quickly find the answers they needed across an extensive array of products
- Version-Control — A well defined taxonomy enables customers to identify the relevant product and version of the content they’re searching for
The result of our work can be seen at the Imperva Documentation Portal, and the impact of this new approach on our measures of “product success” has been significant. We improved overall customer self-service, seeing a 40% reduction in calls to our support team that could have been resolved via documentation (as noted by our support engineers during each case). We are further seeing a projected 365 new sales leads being driven from our technical content engagement (one new lead per day), after implementing a CTA on our documentation pages.
The organization now recognizes that potential customers often navigate to our product documentation even before reaching out to our sales team; our sales prospects regularly reference product documentation to help potential customers evaluate our capabilities; and our customers often use it to explore new features, keep up-to-date with new releases, and of course resolve issues independently. It’s become abundantly clear that our product documentation is a critical and central component of our customer experience, at every stage of the customer journey from research to evaluation, on-boarding, expansion and troubleshooting.
Our collaboration with Zoomin helped us understand that:
Our products are not only the specific software used by its customers, but the sum of all its parts: software, availability, quality, and the information needed for users to be able to independently configure and successfully use our products.
By expanding our vision of what our products are we’ve been able to contribute to improved metrics used to define success in our organization, while at the same time affirming our leadership in the industry.
Read more about how Imperva radically improved their customer experience here.
Rick Teplitz Documentation and Project Manager at Imperva. He is a builder, writer, manager and content strategist with more than 20 evolving content and delivery.