Good customer service means end-users should feel that they are being cared for throughout the support process. But great customer service means taking steps to reduce the reasons why customers need to request assistance in the first place.
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Providing good customer-facing written documentation does much to achieve this goal. Providing customers with a way to have their questions answered without having to reach out for help will save users time, not to mention streamline your company's internal processes.
For documentation to be most effective, it should follow a few specific guidelines, which are explained below.
To learn all the baseline principles of creating MSP documentation you can refer to our guide.
The following are a few additional principles to help guide the way you create documentation for your customers.
Documentation Should be Written for Humans
You cannot expect end-users to be as knowledgeable as your service technicians, or that they have the ability to understand technical concepts within the documentation. For that reason, be sure to write documentation that your customers (instead of your own employees) find easy to read:
If your customers have to call in for support on how to use documentation, you are doing it wrong. Check all newly created documentation using the best proofreader possible: your most loyal, yet technically unskilled, the customer. If they can understand without having to request extra guidance, so can your other customers.
Try to be engaging. While it is important that documentation is readable, it should also be engaging. If readers get bored, the information isn’t going to be retained. Short paragraphs, diagrams, and photos help to keep the reader focused. However, keep in mind that not everyone is on the same page of understanding context or humor as you, so try to avoid potentially questionable content (such as memes).
Documentation Should be Accessible
Documentation is useless if customers can't find it. There are several ways to ensure that your documentation is accessible to customers:
- Document management solutions (ITGlue, etc.).
- Internal wiki.
- Nicely structured shared folder.
Not everyone likes acquiring a solution for these needs, but creating an internal wiki-based knowledge base nowadays is simple using software like MediaWiki.
Furthermore, end-users should be instructed on how to access documentation. Create standard welcome emails for new hires, if possible, informing them how to access your internal documentation platforms. The easier the access, the more that customer-facing documentation will be used. Putting access to your learning management system somewhere obvious, like on a company landing page, will make it more likely that end-users will use it.
Ask for Help
Development of internal documentation is a demanding and difficult task that involves multiple steps:
- Create a concept for a group of documents
- Create a draft for the single document
- Proof the single document
- Review the document and make needed edits
It should not, as a rule, be a task for just one person to carry out.
Instead, it should be a group process that starts with technical associates identifying which concepts end-users will need to understand. Then, if you believe that you write in a clear and concise manner, you draft the relevant documentation yourself. Otherwise, hire a writer to do it for you.
The best way to organize the writing of documentation is to create a step-by-step workflow and assign tasks to the responsible team members. In other words, organize the effort just as you would organize any type of managed IT project that you perform for your customers.
Benefits of Customer Documentation
There are many different benefits of customer-facing documentation. The two biggest are the reduction in call volume and the education of end-users. Each of these benefits helps the managed service provider just as much as it does the customers that the MSP is serving.
Proper Documentation Can Cut Call Volume
Cutting call volume helps both managed service providers and end-users. For MSPs, it means the ability to focus support staff more efficiently. For end-users, it means shorter wait times when the need arises for help.
Documentation Can Be Used to Educate End-Users
There is no better educational tool available to end-users than customer-facing documentation. The following tips can help to derive the greatest benefit from this resource::
- Support technicians should refer end-users to documentation when possible. When end-users call in for support, support technicians are often tempted to fix the issue and move on to the next call. A much better practice would be to spend a few additional minutes working with the client to guide them toward the documentation that provides the information they need to resolve the issue on their own.
- End-users should be able to submit requests for additional material. It's impossible to know if your customer-facing written documentation is truly complete and up-to-date at all times. The best way to minimize the need for additional or updated material is to give your users a place to submit requests for it.
As the managed service provider market continues to get more and more competitive, you need to find areas to set your MSP apart from the competition. Educating your customer base is a sure-fire way to make this difference shown.
Necessary Documents Checklist
Here is a list of customer-facing written documentation that every managed service provider should be offering. For some of these, more than one version can be created.
- Instructions - Very broad, but super important. Instructional materials, even just for the basics, are a must.
- Support Procedures - End-users need to know the best ways to submit support requests. No matter whether it’s online or on the phone, your customers need to know how to get ahold of you, and the proper information to collect prior to reaching out for support.
- Service Level Agreements - As a managed service provider, you should have agreements with your customer base as to the level of support that you provide. Expected response times, availability, and services that will incur additional charges should all be spelled out in documentation so that everyone knows what to expect
- Support Contact Information - Similar to support procedure documentation, end-users need to know your contact information. They need to know the number to call, and your hours of operation.
- Network Overview - A network overview will help your clients' own IT staff communicate with you as a managed service provider. When there is a network issue, a network overview document will help to verify that the same information is being communicated, and that the terminology and device names communicated are understood.
- Security Overview - A managed service provider should have certain security expectations of end-users that are spelled out in the documentation.
When combined, these standard documents will help a managed service provider get end-users from problem discovery to problem resolution quicker than ever.
Effective customer-facing documentation can set a managed service provider apart from its competitors. When written effectively and appropriately, documentation helps to educate end-users and solve problems fast. The best way to ensure that documentation is written effectively is by following a proper documentation process that involves multiple parties, including technicians, professional writers, and legal staff.