The content you make readily available to customers does the talking when your people are out of the room—is what you’ve provided able to do the heavy lifting between touchpoints?
David Hoare, VP of Content at ServiceNow, says content plays a critical role in the customer journey, from presales through renewals and everything in between. In this episode, David shares the data that proves technical documentation can drive sales and discusses how to present content seamlessly across your organization.
Listen in to learn how to read the signals customers send through their interactions with your content.
- Customer interactions with technical documentation provide important signals that can be used to drive sales
- How to present content seamlessly by breaking down content silos that mirror your organizational structure
- Talk to your customers and understand where you can use content to address their challenges
[02:51] The role content plays in the customer’s journey
[07:18] Leveraging technical documentation to drive CX
[09:07] Presenting content in a seamless manner
[10:22] Metrics to measure content by
[17:50] Thinking about content as a CX tool
[19:24] Seeing technical documentation as a neighbor to sales
If you have the opportunity to do customer research, definitely be using that. Understand where your customers are at and where their challenges are. And then the next question is, can content help in solving those challenges? We see that content is essential for the entire customer journey, from presales through renewals and everything in between.
Flourish CX, the only show helping CX leaders do one thing, empower their customers. Each episode democratizes best practices while leaving you feeling both inspired and equipped to take action. Let's get to it.
To help customers achieve their goals, you have to know what your customers want. I'm Shannon Katschilo, your host for Flourish CX. In this episode, David Hoare, VP of Content at ServiceNow says, "Content plays a critical role in your customer's journey and getting them what they want when they want it."
Content is valuable because, as David points out, it's what's doing the talking when your service and salespeople are out of the room. After all, most people don't want to contact a service center for help. They want products to work. And if there's a problem, customers prefer to solve it themselves with the information you've made available. As you listen, ask yourself, is your content good enough to do the heavy lifting in between your customer touchpoints?
David, welcome to the Flourish podcast. As we get started, can you tell us a little bit more about ServiceNow and yourself?
First off, thanks for having me here. ServiceNow is a digital workflow platform. Our role in the world is to help customers streamline and automate work, and the ultimate goal is to make customers and employees more productive and successful. I lead the technical documentation team at ServiceNow. We have a team of over 200 content creators, and our job is to help customers adopt and make the most of the ServiceNow product.
Is there anything about yourself or you're interested in that we wouldn't necessarily get from doing a quick glance over on your LinkedIn profile?
Well, one thing about me is I'm a passionate photographer, love to capture portrait photos in a natural and organic way. I'm really always hoping to capture a moment or an expression or a feeling in the photographs that I take.
I always love to hear when people have these really phenomenal hobbies outside of their role. So from the previous guests that we've had, it's predominantly been around customer experience or customer success. I'm really interested to hear your perspective on content and why a CX audience should be particularly interested in the role that content plays in their world.
I believe content plays a critical role throughout the customer's journey, from presales through adoption through support and all the way through the renewal cycle. Content is always there. And in a way you can think about it as content is kind of doing the talking when your service and sales people are not in the room. So it's really important, I think, that your content is on brand, is accurate, and is really doing a lot of work for you in those gaps in between the points that you engage.
Can you talk to me a little bit more about the customer journey? And you spoke a little bit about onboarding, but can you talk to us a little bit more about ServiceNow and your role and thinking about the role that content has all the way from evaluation and then driving time to value? Would love to kind of hear a little bit more about how you look at that life cycle at ServiceNow.
When folks think about product documentation or technical documentation, the first thing that they think about is adoption. So for us, our developers and our systems administrators are going to the documentation, understanding what ServiceNow is, understanding how they will be using it and adopting it for their purposes. And one of the interesting things we see is, the visitors who come to us versus those that don't, we see about a 13% higher adoption rate amongst those visitors. So we know that we are part of the things that those most successful customers do.
Then I would say onto support outcomes. This is another area that we think about and we measure. So when we share technical documentation with our customers when they're having an issue, we also see cases resolve faster and their customer satisfaction is higher. So we know that when they're running into problems and we can provide those documents to them, they are able to use those to resolve their issues more quickly.
Then onto your point, and this is an area I think that is less well understood and it's an area that I'm super excited about, is the role of technical documentation in presales and in renewals. We see when customers visit the technical documentation, they are twice as likely to become a customer. And if they visit us more than one time in the month before a sale, they're five times more likely to become a customer. So what this says to us is, as I mentioned earlier, the documentation is playing an important role in addition to your sales teams and your marketing. People want to go deep. They really want to understand, "Okay, I've read the documentation, I've spoken to my sales rep. Now really when I get down into the specifics, are there features here that are going to help me achieve my business goals? Am I going to be able to implement this in a way that works in my company?" So we see that.
And then, when you think about going towards the next phases of the customer's journey, they've implemented, they've worked with support, then at some point there's a renewal is going to come up. When we see customers coming to us in the months before that, they also renew at higher rates as well. So what this means is there's some really important signals in the behavior of customers with your documentation that you should be sharing with your sales teams. They're strong indicators of where a customer's at and where their head's at. And you can really use that, I think, to drive more sales and more renewals.
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for sharing those statistics. And as a customer in your day to day life, that makes sense, right? Before you purchase something, you want to know what is that experience going to look like after I sign that contract? Am I going to have access to documentation so that I don't have to contact a contact center? What is that experience going to look like for me? And it really sounds like you're giving the buyer that inside view of what a post ServiceNow life looks like from the onset, and that data to be able to drive it to your sales team to get a narrower focus on who's visiting the website that isn't a customer? How can you start to add value? How can you start to raise awareness? You're just going to get a higher ROI in your prospecting investment.
How do you work with your customer experience, your customer support team? How are they leveraging the content to really drive phenomenal customer experiences?
A couple of different ways here. For us, we are a part of the product experience team at ServiceNow. One of the areas that we work together is we are very tightly aligned with our UX designers, content designers. So as we are thinking about what the next product experiences are going to be, we are partnering with those teams as well to make sure that when you're in the product, you're getting the best experience that you can. And then also, how do you get the help that you need in the moment as well.
So from a UX perspective, the best help is no help. So if we can make the user experiences as seamless as possible and help you complete your journey, that's amazing. However, in the real world, there's often times when you're not able to do that. Even with the most used consumer products out there, they still all have help and support.
So what we try to do is to make sure that you can complete as many journeys as possible without assistance. But if you are unable to, then we want to be there for you. And that should either be through in-product help and self-service experiences or easy access to our customer service teams. And then, with those customer service teams, my team provides the technical documentation in addition to all of the other resources they have at their fingertips. And we know that when they do that, it helps customers resolve their issues more quickly.
Is there a perception in your mind that needs to change around content? Either in the walls of ServiceNow, in your prior roles and some pretty incredible companies? Would love to hear your thoughts as a leader in this space around a perception of content.
One of the things I see when I look across the industry is there's often silos of content. So when you go to the company, you can often see, "Okay, here's the work of the marketing team and it's awesome. Here's the work of the training team. And again, it's really, really great. Technical documentation, support." And you can see these kind of patterns across if you visit some of the biggest sites out there. I focus in the enterprise space. I look at other cloud providers and things like that.
This is a challenge and an opportunity I think that exists in the industry, is how do you break down those silos that often mirror your organizational structure and present content in a seamless way that helps the customer throughout their entire life cycle? How do you bring these content practitioners together and make sure that everybody is providing the information that is exactly what the customer needs at the moment that they need it?
You talked a little bit about metric. And so much of the customer experience world is really determined by metrics, whether it be customer effort score, NPS. Would love to kind of hear your world around how you measure the success of the content that you're creating and delivering? How best do you measure your own success or your team's success? And can you tell us a little bit about the metrics that you're looking at?
I'm a big believer in data driven decisions. I'm never happier than when I've got data in front of me. So I split it up into a couple of different areas. Number one is the focus on the customer and the outcomes. So at a high level we use things like Net Promoter Score to understand either the customer overall or more granularly with different experiences how they're feeling about those.
But I think really, the gold standard should be to be tying what you're doing content work to company outcomes or customer outcomes. And a big part for us is things like product adoption or product feature adoption.
Taking a step back a little bit. We work a lot with developers and admins, and they need to know about ServiceNow. They need to know how the product works, what it is. So we need to educate them. They need to learn.
So can we see a user of our products using these content sources and then going and doing something in the product? Did they adopt a new module? Did they roll out some new features? And similarly, when it comes to the end users as well, can we see? I visited this help page and then I was able to use those features successfully in the future. I believe that's the gold standard that content team should be striving for, is product outcomes like that. And then as I mentioned, customer outcomes. Can you tie back to more sales? Can you tie back to better support outcomes, reduce cost? That's sort of the externally focused view, like focus on the customer.
I lead a large team, and many, I'm sure, of your listeners lead large teams as well. You've got to make sure that you are running a tight operation when it comes to content creation.
I think there's also metrics that you'd need to look at around the content itself. So at the basic level, things like, is it well written? And there's automations you can get for this kind of thing. Are there spelling mistakes? Do you have good grammar? What's the reading grade level? Is that appropriate for your audience? Things that you can measure and scale across your content.
And then, areas that are a little bit harder, I think are is the content accurate? If you are a technical writer, for example, for us, we embed with the products and engineering team and they explain to us how the product works. We run through it, we use it, but you may not always get the nuance of it. So often you have to go back and talk to your PM and counterparts and get that level of insight, did I explain this correctly? Because that's really critical for user success.
And then the third part I think is the content effective? I've talked a little bit about those customer outcomes, but you also need to be focused on the fundamentals. Your websites have to be fast. Your content architecture has to be really good, really clean and really well organized. And then things like your SEO. That's another thing. Your SEO has to be great. If your content is not findable, it's not going to be useful for your customers.
Any advice you would give when starting out? What is the one metric or the one piece of data you should be looking at for organizations that are maybe just on the lower end of the maturity curve? Love to kind of hear your opinion on that as you got started in this space.
So I started working on content experiences maybe 25 years ago now. And I think a lot has changed in that time. One thing that I feel today is with modern content platforms, you get a lot of the analytics and metrics come with the solution.
When I started out, I feel like measurement was often an afterthought. As software development teams we're going to rush to implement something, but then as follow ons you would put the how do we measure success. That's something that didn't exist when I started out in this industry 25 years ago.
Within ServiceNow, how do you use content to inform the customer experience strategy? Are you working with those individuals to give them insight into which pieces of content are being accessed the most? How are you working with those leaders to inform their strategy?
In a couple of different areas. As I mentioned, we work as part of the user experience team, so we have tight relationships there. One of the things I love about that is working with our UX research team. So what they do is they're going out and continually doing customer surveys, and they come back and they actually inform us and inform our product counterparts as well. So that is a really valuable asset that we have access to. They're telling us what's working and what's not in the interaction between the product and the content we provide.
That's great. And I would also imagine as you are making changes and looking at that feedback, I would think that that feedback loop is then coming back into the customer surveys and you're seeing an improvement there. So you have this constant feedback loop between the two teams, where as you solution, you're seeing an impact on the NPS and the other side of the coin there.
Yeah, that's right.
Leaders such as yourself where you're in the content space, I'd like to hear a little bit more about yourself individually and how did you develop the mindset that content experience drives the customer experience? What do you think it is about yourself or maybe some of your peers as well where you've connected those dots together? And would also love to hear your advice to those listening, how may they learn and follow in your footsteps and develop more of that framework to have such a big impact on the organization?
For me personally, I've held multiple roles over my career. I started out as a software engineer, did time as a project manager and worked in business development, account management and various different roles, and sort of looped back around. I think content has always been central to a lot of those roles that I've had and the interplay between technology and content. I think for me, having a breadth of experiences like that has really helped inform how I go about things like forming a content strategy. Because I've seen so many things from so many different areas, I'm able to pull from those and synthesize them into our space.
And also, it sounds like from those roles, you've been a part of the customer journey. So you can also see from those critical moments of truth, how are you're going to make a big impact. I'm newer to this space, but having content all the way from the pre-boarding to value realization, it's kind of in the middle. And so you're probably also from your role to have a really great 360 view of that customer experience.
That's exactly right. If you take my business development roles, for example, a lot of those are about acquiring content from other places. And when you are in that role and you are paying for somebody else's content, you do want to know, is it successful, are we getting value for money? So I think having that view has been really interesting and that experience when I've come into roles where I'm leading content teams where we are creating that content ourselves, you still want to know that it's valuable for your customers but you're just paying for it in a different way.
And how would you advise organizations that are maybe struggling with customer experience? How would you advise them to think differently about content as a CX tool?
Yeah, I think my number one suggestion would be talk to your customers. If you have the opportunity to do customer research, if you have a customer survey, definitely be using that. Understand where your customers are at and where their challenges are. And then the next question is, can content help in solving those challenges?
Some of the things that I've seen and I've talked about here is we see that content is essential for the entire customer journey, from presales through renewals and everything in between. So that would be my suggestion. Talk to your customers and then formulate a strategy to see where content can help in addressing their challenges.
It's great advice. And to build upon that as well, when you're able to listen to your customers, really distill it down into those biggest areas of impact and then build content strategy to do that. You really are building yourself a really phenomenal business case so that you can prove the ROI, continue to build on it, and again, solve those customer paints, and then tying it to the metrics that you spoke about earlier.
To layer onto that question, when you're thinking about really senior executive CEO, COO, or Head of CX, what should they know about content that they didn't realize or that maybe someone in the organization necessarily doesn't want to bring up or is afraid to tell them? Anything like how you are rallying back or really showcasing the really positive impact that you're having on ServiceNow?
I would say it's the role of technical documentation as a neighbor of sales. I think that's probably something that's not well understood in the industry. Content is often thought as a cost center. So changing that mindset I think is one of the opportunities for leaders like us to go out as they're engaging with senior leadership and CEOs of their companies. But to do that, I think number one, you need data to show it. Number two, you need a clear narrative. And if you can include the voice of the customer in that, I think it becomes incredibly powerful and incredibly persuasive.
Yeah, absolutely. I haven't met a CEO yet that wasn't interested in how to drive revenue. So if you can connect the dots, can be a pretty, pretty powerful story.
This has been phenomenal, David. Really appreciate you sharing all your knowledge and the different pieces of business impact as well. Really getting down to more details about how other leaders such as yourself can make such a positive impact.
Is there anything that we didn't touch on that you wanted to share with our audience today as it relates to yourself and the work that you are currently doing with ServiceNow or have been doing at other phenomenal organizations?
First off, thanks for inviting me today. It's been wonderful to talk to you. I hope that some of the insights that I've shared are useful to your listeners. I feel really lucky to be working at ServiceNow at this point. The company and its focus on delivering a consumer great experience, I think is a really exciting mission to be part of. And owning the content and being able to provide that to our users, I think is a really, really great place to be. And I'm certainly learning a lot as I go through this as well.
Thank you for listening to this episode of Flourish CX. To learn more, head over to zoominsoftware.com/podcast and follow along wherever you get your audio.