Lately we’ve been wondering why there isn’t more collaboration between content-producing marketing teams and customer support and documentation teams. After all, both share a broad agenda: producing content that helps people understand, adopt, and use our products and services.
Yet in many organizations (especially at the enterprise level), this shared agenda hasn’t produced close collaboration or working practices and certainly not cross-functional teams, tools, processes, or metrics. But why not? These three factors deserve a lot of the blame:
- Disparate skills and tools. Companies traditionally separate out support and content functions and build teams with different skills. Support generally requires a more technical background and deep product knowledge, while a content team is often comprised of people with backgrounds in product marketing and writing or journalism.
- Different perspectives. Content teams tend to follow the product lifecycle while support teams live and function within the customer-support lifecycle, helping customers resolve problems within the constraints of the current product or service offering.
- The very nature of content. Generally, support and documentation teams handle customer issues as a series of questions and answers. Content teams, on the other hand, produce content in response to a wider variety of topics—new features, general industry issues, and in response to broader marketing goals—often with less emphasis on customer pain points.
What can we learn from each other?
Obviously there are always going to be functional differences between support and content teams, but how can we better leverage our shared knowledge and content?
Move content teams to a question-and-answer paradigm
Content teams should consider content through a Q&A lens. This can be a hard shift because content isn’t always measured for its value, and is often created based on estimations of what customers are interested in, as opposed to what customers are actually asking about. When planning, content teams should ask: “What customer questions will this piece of content answer?” and plan and map content to real customer dilemmas and business scenarios.
One thing support teams can do is to record and share support calls with content teams. By sharing customer questions and issues, support teams can play a vital role in ensuring that a singular story rises up through the organization, from support to documentation to marketing to sales.
Give support teams a more holistic view
Although support teams work across a customer lifecycle, their focus still tends to be at a micro, rather than a macro, level, with an emphasis on quick and cost-effective resolutions. This can mean that useful customer information gleaned from an exchange isn’t documented or passed on because it seems extraneous to the issue at hand.
One thing content teams can do is to include support in long-term marketing and product planning. This will help them understand the planning, scheduling, and resource constraints faced by other teams when they are elbow deep in customer issues. Content teams should share recently produced content so support can use it to add value to relevant interactions. Also, by sharing plans for upcoming content, support can jump in with relevant knowledge that will improve the content.
Make it easy to share the good stuff
Newer cloud-based tools help to blur boundaries and bridge the gaps between teams with shared goals. Products like Zendesk provide the ability to easily share customer information and content between teams through internal and external knowledge bases, and throughout both the product and customer support lifecycles. The more you can share, the more likely your combined content efforts will hit the sweet spot we’re all aiming for—to produce solutions that truly help your customers.