It seems everyone in our company is talking about customer journeys. As a company with a clearly stated customer focus this is to be expected, but how can content design use this enthusiasm to benefit an aging help system?
Customer journeys are primarily used by my Experience Design colleagues to understand the processes a customer goes through in their work, in an effort to map those experiences onto our software designs. The end result should be a software experience that fits seamlessly into a typical customer’s work lives.
Whilst that makes for a better software experience, we wanted to explore whether we could use some of these techniques to improve help content for existing software, in essence, using the customer journey to facilitate a content audit and review with the aim of targeting our limited capacity to get the best results for our company and our customers.
What is a content audit?
Keeping content fresh and relevant to its audience is crucial. If it’s not relevant or kept up to date, the audience won’t find any value in it. This has repercussions. Customers who are already struggling with the software, and are now struggling to find the help they need in the help system, will find a way to contact Support and they won’t be happy.
Support costs are huge and there’s a constant pressure on our departments to encourage customer self-serving behaviour. For this to be a success, the help content itself must be up to scratch.
A content audit can help us ‘sniff the milk’ on our content, i.e. to understand what we have, what we’re missing, and what is out of date.
Why is this important?
We’ve recently picked up responsibility for the help system for one of our key products. Previously, the help system content was owned by Support who had a different view on how to create and maintain a help system.
A significant issue for us has been on previous adoptions of the Knowledge Centred Support methodology where support technicians were encouraged to end calls by writing content in the help system that answered their customer’s query. Without tight governance, this has caused significant bloat in the help system that caused a number of issues.
- Multiple topics answer the same question.
- Topics covering the same area are sometimes contradictory.
- A large number of small topics with relevant keywords can clutter up search results making it more difficult for customers to find the relevant topic.
It’s not just KCS we’re dealing with. The help system is over ten years old, covers multiple regions, and has been written by multiple authors. Good topic curation has sometimes fallen by the wayside as the pressure of delivering new content for new features has taken precedent.
Who to get involved?
Instead of just reviewing all existing help content, we wanted to target a particular area. In deciding what area to target, we dug into the customer feedback we’d been gathering steadily for years. This together with Google Analytics helped us answer the following:
- What terms are customers searching for?
- How many topics cover the same topics?
- What satisfaction score does the most popular topics in this area have?
- What negative verbatim feedback have we received for this area?
- What verbatim feedback has been left to Support colleagues?
Our biggest resource in understanding customers in this area (beside customers themselves) was clearly our support team.
We identified a major area of concern in the help system was Bank Feeds and confirmed this with Support who had this down as one of their biggest call causers. (A bank feed is just a way of bringing your bank transactions into our bookkeeping software for businesses.)
Unquestionably, there were issues in the software in this area, and once we’d passed back the main concerns to the development team, we were able to focus on how the help system could also be improved to support this area whilst we waited for software changes to come.
Invitations were sent to the support team and we received overwhelming enthusiasm from colleagues keen to work with us on improving the content. We decided on a workshop format to bring ideas together and form a plan of action.
Working remotely because of Coronavirus, we settled on Miro and Teams as our facilitation tools. Miro is incredibly flexible and great for collaboration, allowing multiple collaborators to work in the same virtual space simultaneously. It also comes with dozens of useful templates, including a customer journey template.
We set up a MIRO board with a typical customer journey through the process of setting up a bank feed in our software. Whilst we could have done this in the workshop itself, we decided against it as the process was fairly well understood and easily replicated.
The customer journey board prior to the workshop starting, was then a timeline of screens that formed the bank feed connection process. At each stage, we wanted to draw out any potential customer pain points.
We also prepared the board by adding direct customer quotes from feedback left via the help system about this area. In Miro, virtual post-it notes are the simplest way to realise this. We kept a section to the side of the main timeline with customer quotes that we’d be able to refer to in the workshop to back up observations or stimulate discussion.
Running the workshop
We kept the workshop to a somewhat pacy two hours, knowing that typically workshop fatigue sets in around this point and there is little to be gained from prolonging the experience. This was also why we wanted to focus on one targeted aspect of the help rather than the whole shebang.
With three Support colleagues and three content designers we walked through the customer journey that we’d already mapped encouraging the following:
- Corrections to the flow
- Anecdotes from Support at each point as to typical calls received
- Issues we’ve identified in the help system at each point
Participants were encouraged to refer to the customer feedback, add their own feedback, and share their customer experiences.
What happened next?
The workshop had several outcomes.
- We understood, as a content design team, the problems customers were having on a day to day basis with bank feeds.
- We made notes of the terminology Support used so we could incorporate that into content metadata.
- We came up with a list of topics that were deemed to be key in reducing call volume and planned for those topics to be created or reshaped from existing content.
- We identified problem areas in the existing help content that we would need to look at.
Running a workshop like this was new for us and proved a lightweight way of tackling known problem areas. By involving Support, we were able to build relationships and demonstrate that we were able to collaborate efficiently for the benefit of our customers.
We now have more workshops lined up with the aim of working through the major areas of the help system.