What’s Wrong with Company Documentation Portals – and How to Fix Them

Posted by
July 11, 2016

While much has changed on the business landscape over the last several years, McKinsey & Company has confirmed a customer service truism that is as valid today, as it was long before the web was born: consistency is vital for making customers happy. However, despite investing significantly in training, technology and techpubs collateral, many companies are discovering that their efforts to deliver a consistent customer experience are being undermined in the last place they expect: their very own documentation portals.

Indeed, it is arguably more the norm than the exception for documentation portals to make it difficult — and sometimes impossible — for customers to quickly access relevant, updated, and above all consistent product documentation. As such, customers are forced to wade through multiple channels (e.g. docs, training, support, knowledge base, communities, etc.), or contact support departments. Either way, they generally find the experience tedious, unsatisfying and inconsistent – which, for companies, is a recipe for losing customers to the competition.

Yet, if this is the big booming problem that companies face, why don’t they simply align their web documentation portal so it supports product documentation consistency instead of prevent it? According to technical communications expert JoAnn Hackos, the obstacles are not superficial; rather they are systematic, and include:

  • There are no tools that make information development straightforward and simple.
  • There is no single, integrated tool set across all organization groups.
  • Each team has invested in tools that are customized for their own type of content.

The good news is that companies can efficiently overcome these obstacles – and end the costly inconsistency that afflicts their web portal – by embracing a new infrastructure paradigm: intelligent content.

Simply put, intelligent content is the “glue” that brings disconnected silos together, so that company web portals are reliable – rather than risky – customer touchpoints. The infrastructure is built upon and driven by four core elements:

  1. Structured and XML-Based

Structured and XML-based content enables authors to “chunk” product documentation into reusable components vs. copying and pasting. As such, content is automatically updated to the most recent version, which increases relevance, accuracy and of course, consistency.

  1. Topic-based

When they access product documentation, customers are not looking for diversions, simulation or entertainment: they want facts ASAP. Topic-based content, which has its roots in minimalism, guides authors to take a “less is more” approach and deliver the smallest amount of instructions possible to help customers solve a problem or answer an inquiry. This not only improves efficiency and speed of content creation, but directly supports consistency – since contradictory information can be quickly identified and fixed.

  1. Taxonomy Driven

Taxonomy driven content allows companies to build a common content vocabulary with respect to categories, labels, concepts and topics. This supports consistency across various team and functional lines, and makes it easier and faster to locate and reuse content.

  1. Ease of Distribution

Ease of distribution – both to multiple devices, and in multiple formats – enables companies to ensure that all touch points have consistent, accurate and up-to-date information. This is particularly important because per MarketingProfs, customers typically engage up to eight distinct touchpoints when they search for information.

Deploying an Intelligent Content Infrastructure

Zoomin enables companies to deploy an intelligent content infrastructure that effectively and efficiently supports:

  • Consistency of customer-facing product documentation throughout the organization and across silos
  • Contextually relevant information for every target audience, product and issue
  • Easy accessibility at any time, on any device, and in any language

Furthermore, as a streamlined and automated authoring solution, Zoomin reduces the resources that companies need to create new content, while measurably lowering time-to-market, publishing costs, and distribution costs. At the same time, Zoomin increases efficiency, ROI, and most importantly in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace: customer satisfaction; not just now and then, but consistently and without compromise.

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