Beyond Technical Communication : How Can Technical Documentation Help?
   
How Can Technical Documentation Help?
As previously mentioned, you as a technical writer have a unique ability to be in front of customers and have their attention in a way that no sales or marketing professional will ever be able to. By allotting some of your daily activities and priorities to refining elements of your help documentation that aligns with company goals, your increased value as an employee will become apparent. Your company goals will of course be specific to your organization; however, there are several ways in which technical documentation can be commonly used to supplement the overall goals of your company.
Reducing Support Calls
By making sure your technical documentation aligns with the needs of your support department, you can relieve support centers of basic types of support now handled by your online help documentation. This in turn reduces the number of support staff members needed while freeing up your current support staff to handle more complex customer issues. Customers are now empowered to resolve their common support issues on their own, thus alleviating long wait times, confusing phone conversations, and frustrating disconnects.

Talk with your support department, get a report from them about the highest volumes of calls that they’re receiving, and make sure these issues are easily accessible and up to date in your help documentation.
Improving Documentation Based on Customer Behavior
Through the use of modern tracking software such as Google Analytics, which is 100 percent free, technical communicators have the ability to ascertain which pages of the online help documentation are most commonly visited and thus derive, what issues are most commonly arising. Through this method, you can develop a greater understanding of where customer issues lie, and through greater understanding, you can progressively develop these hot spots to better cater to the needs of your customer.
You can have a pageview report added to your Google Analytics dashboard or emailed to you on a regular basis. Analyzing its content is easy. For example, if you see that visitors on average are spending a large amount of time on a page that should provide a simple solution, it may mean that the content of that page needs to be more concise or simplified. Or, if you see that a page that should provide the final solution has a low exit rate, then maybe people aren’t getting the solutions they need. You can even drill down to see which pages visitors are going to next and update your content if necessary. When applied to your specific help documentation, the benefits of modern tracking software are endless!
Using Social Media to Improve Your Product and Documentation
Another great forum to use to tap into the understanding of common issues arising from your customer base is direct user feedback. Monitoring forums such as social media outlets and blogs offers you a greater understanding of where customer issues arise and can provide valuable insight into the development process of your technical documentation.
Monitoring a customer’s social media comments about your product or help documentation can be immensely helpful. Many companies think they know exactly what their clients are looking for, and some even get it right, but client needs are always changing, and staying ahead of the curve is a constant and dynamic task. Customer social media comments will tell you exactly which parts of your product or help documentation customers are unhappy with or wish could be improved. Other’s follow-up comments can provide insight into whether the feeling is mutual among the community. Clients are going to use social media to discuss your product, so knowing where they’re doing it and how to monitor it can be very beneficial.
Making Content Organized and User-Friendly
One very important aspect of your online help documentation is that it is imperative to not overlook the user experience (UX). The most thorough of documentation is useless if it can't be found. While comprising your technical documentation, you must focus on ease of access and organization. Online help is only effective if it saves time. Your customers will not spend countless amounts of time searching for a solution before they abandon their search and look for alternate forms of support. Find out exactly what your clients need from each page, provide summaries of page’s contents so clients know what they’re about to read and whether it’s what they’re looking for, and have an organized, user-friendly menu system and search that is easy for your customers to navigate.