Technologists often look for ways to solve problems that people regularly face. Building a solution is one part of it, but another part is ensuring that people can use technical products to meet their needs. FastMail’s customer service team takes a human-centered approach to communications with our customers by focusing on their experience. We often go out in the field to share our methods and what we have learned with the broader technical community.
Just a few weeks ago, two members of our team traveled to New Zealand to detail our successful customer-focused process at linux.conf.au (LCA). LCA is an annual Linux event, which convenes open source software and hardware communities.
Here are a few takeaways from their sessions.
Photo credit: Simon Lyall
Strengthening support teams
Companies providing products can benefit by learning more about importance of help documentation, used externally and internally. Alexandra’s talk, Making Yourself Redundant on Day One, discusses why and how to document for companies and for individual support team members.
The most obvious benefit of documentation is to make it clear how customers use products. Alexandra instructed companies to also use documentation for use within support teams to help onboard new employees and create inclusion by sharing knowledge that brings new members into the fold. Any record of polices or procedures only makes it easier for the next person and brings more clarity and confidence to teams. (If you'd like to experience this first hand, we're hiring!).
It's also the case that new team members are in the best position to ask questions and contribute their thoughts on guiding customers as they learn themselves. There is a lot that can be gained from a fresh perspective. Alexandra provided further guidance on how and where to start documenting, and how to make use of notes, screenshots, and other informal content.
Testing help documentation to meet user needs
Through the Looking Glass — How user testing can give technical writers better perspective, was Fraser’s talk on support documentation and user research. Users on a platform are interacting with something new to them. If they struggle with the product, they contact customer service. Learning more about the users and the way they use software informs our understanding about how they feel and the concerns they may have.
Fraser discusses the experience he has using a semi-structured interview method called contextual enquiry. To conduct research, users are asked questions from a script and are observed taking actions in their own digital environments. Fraser goes on to explain how data was extracted from this research method and put to good use.
At FastMail, documentation is continually being being created and improved to meet customers needs and help you get the most out of our suite of products. It's terrific to have outstanding customer service specialists like Alexandra and Fraser who are great representatives of our values. These key components help to make FastMail a product that customers get value from and love to use.
For more wisdom from Alexandra and Fraser, please check out our coverage of other recent talks.
For more on how we got involved in LCA, read up on our work in open standards.