Part I: How a Technical Writer Can Save You Money—Reduce Your Help Desk Support

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How a Technical Writer Can Save You MoneyThat product you’ve been working on—the one you’ve poured your heart and soul into—has a beginning. Maybe it was the day the idea was born or perhaps the day the idea was approved for production. And since that time, many hours of research, development, and testing have gone into the product. Then, finally, you reach the end—the moment the product is delivered to the user. You may view your product’s launch date as the end of your project; however, your project is not complete. Your user is going to need support. Ideally, the documentation included with your product should cover most of your user’s issues and questions. You should view it as a virtual teacher sitting next to your user, answering questions and providing guidance. However, if your documentation isn’t usable, it could increase the workload of your help desk, and this leads to an expense you likely don’t want. Here are several ways you can work with a skilled technical writer to reduce your help desk support and thus save money:

Create User-friendly Documentation

Documentation that is current, easy to read, and error-free will empower your users to solve problems without contacting your help desk. You want to make it easy for users to quickly access and find the answers they need in the user manual rather than pick up the phone and call you. Therefore, in addition to accurate, useful content, your documentation should include a logical table of contents, with clear headings and subheadings, and it should also include a glossary with terms that may not be widely-known.

Provide Photos and Diagrams

When possible, the document should include photos and diagrams, especially in step-by-step procedures. This will be particularly helpful for your users who learn best from visual presentations. An experienced technical writer will know the best way to present information to users of all learning types.

Include Troubleshooting Tips

If you have your technical writer on board during the product’s testing phase, he or she can take notes on the problems encountered and how to resolve them. The writer can include instructions and tips so that users don’t encounter those issues, or the writer may choose to create an FAQ section so that users can quickly scan for answers to common problems.

Provide Links for More Information

Your documentation should include links to additional resources. Such links can offer advanced users a way to access more detailed information—information that doesn’t apply to the majority of  users and, therefore, not included in the original documentation. It could also link to any information released since the product’s launch (such as software updates, security patches, or product recalls).

Encourage Users to Connect with You

Encourage users to provide you with an email address so you can notify them of product updates, scheduled maintenance, or unscheduled downtime. Have your technical writer draft several professional email messages ahead of time, depending on the different situations that may arise. Stay tuned for Part 2—The Hidden Costs of Outdated Documentation.