Beyond Technical Communication : How Technical Documentation Can be Profitable
   
How Technical Documentation Can be Profitable
For companies to be successful, they have to be profitable. Even not-for-profit organizations have to be measured on some level of productivity to be credible. Technical documentation has the unique ability to be one of the most profitable revenue-generating tools at your company’s disposal. Think about a typical product cycle from the view of the consumer. The cycle begins with some type of product awareness. This is typically the job of marketing by getting the name of your product out there. Once a prospect is aware of your product, he or she will go through a research phase. This might start with a search on the Internet, followed up by some reviews or word of mouth, but it usually ends with a call to a sales representative. Finally, if needs are met, there is a purchase. This part of the process is only about 10 percent of the cycle. The other 90 percent comes from usage. It is during this 90 percent that customers are exposed to help documentation and that technical communicators can leave a lasting impression. In many cases, the users accessing the documentation are either having technical issues that they are unable to resolve or some uncertainty about how the product works. These situations open a window of customer perception into your company and also an opportunity to increase customer experience. By definition, your customers are in a situation where they need help if they are looking at your help documentation. The quicker they can get relevant, clear, precise information that resolves the problem, the better their experience and the more valuable your product becomes to them. If your technical documentation leaves customer issues unresolved, the customers are often likely to become unhappy or possibly even leave. Especially for “at risk” clients, but also for others, help documentation is a great medium to win their support and appreciation.
The better you understand how your customer uses you help documentation, the more profitable and valuable your Technical Writing Department becomes to the company. In addition to the most obvious and ever-so-important customer satisfaction scenario, effective documentation minimizes the necessary resources required to provide adequate support to your current customer base. Today, it is no surprise that such a level of importance is placed on the satisfaction and retention of your customers. Commitment to the customer experience can result in up to 25 percent more customer retention and revenue than sales and marketing initiatives alone. The Harvard Business Review wrote that the average company loses 50 percent of its customer base over a five-year period. That means in five years, you have to find half of your customer base in new customers just to maintain. But a focus on increasing customer retention by merely 5 percent could increase profits by 25 to 125 percent. On average, current customers spend 33 percent more than new customers, and the cost of acquiring a new customer can be five times greater than satisfying and retaining a current customer. So how can technical documentation help retain customers and improve their experience?