The documents that your organization produces are your true deliverable. Here’s what makes them so important.

             

Posted Dec. 5, 2017

In our day-to-day work, we can forget that customers and clients don’t necessarily see what we do. In other words, they can’t come and sit with you while you work.
 
This fact is particularly salient in technical and technological fields, where an engineer or developer might know her technical product or service backward and forward. If a customer were to sit down with you or your team, you could de-construct the product in delightful and arresting detail, wowing and educating at the same time!
 
Unfortunately, customers rarely have that opportunity. Even colleagues might not get all the behind-the-scenes information and insight.
 
In those cases, clients and customers (and those unlucky colleagues) will see only the written materials that you produce about the product or service. So, those documents are what customers use when they’re
 
  • Seeking a solution like yours (before they’ve heard of it).
  • Deciding whether to make a purchase.
  • Trying to understand the product.
  • Looking for answers or support.
 
In other words, it’s often the writing itself that sells your business offering, explains and answers questions, and helps customers put the product or service to maximum use. The product writing you create is how customers find you, why they decide to do business with you, and how they know how to use your products or services.
 
That’s why it’s important to realize that the documents your organization produces are a customer deliverable.
 
The importance of effective technical writing could hardly be overstated. From sales copy to technical manuals, from online FAQs to instructional articles, any customer-facing writing related to the product must be treated with as much seriousness as the product itself, or you’ll undermine its success before it even gets off the ground.
 
You might argue that you already produce copious amounts of writing that no one uses. “No one reads anything anymore!” you protest. “Why waste time when it’s never going to be read anyway?”
 
First, that’s just plain untrue: customers and clients do read the materials you create.
 
Eighty-one percent of customers conduct online research before making a buying decision, reports AdWeek. In fact, researchers at McKinsey & Co. found that customers use an average of six different “interaction channels throughout the decision journey.” Notably, 65% of them will be frustrated by inconsistent experiences.
 
In the face of high bounce rates and customers ignoring documentation in favor of calling customer support, we understand why you might conclude that your customers or clients don’t read. Poor engagement metrics can be frustrating when you’ve spent time producing carefully orchestrated sales, support, and technical documentation.
 
But this is a chicken-and-egg problem. It’s easy to assume that people won’t or don’t read, when the issue is that they simply don’t tolerate bad and inconsistent writing. Why would a client waste time reading something that’s difficult to consume? Remember, bad writing costs American businesses nearly $400 billion annually, in part because people won’t waste their time trying to work through hard-to-understand documents.
 
Second, and more important, you’re not writing to every customer.
 
One percent – just 1% – of a retail website’s users generate as much as 40% of its revenue. The average loyal, repeat customer spends 67% more in their 31st to 36th months of a business relationship than in months 0-6.
 
These are the customers – the ones who are highly engaged and will to open their wallets – to whom you’re writing. And they’re the ones who will most appreciate polished, clear, well-written materials.
 
Every customer-facing document matters.
 
Ultimately, it’s critical to understand that every written word you put in front of a client or customer impacts their relationship with you. Do they buy in the first place? Do they make repeated purchases or upgrade their plans, or do they disappear? Do they stick with you, or turn over to a competitor? Do they generate buzz for you, or write bad reviews?
 
Writing is not secondary to your job (although many professionals wish it were!). It’s a primary part of your job and business, and it literally pays to make the effort to ensure that any documents and written materials your organization produces shine with crisp, clear, professional writing that engages and satisfies customers.

About Hurley Write, Inc.
 
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 25 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations.