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​​Four Reasons to Invest in Internal Documentation

Imagine that you are the only support specialist online today in the Australia time zone in your company. You are trying to help multiple customers with questions that you’ve never come across before, and you can’t ask your teammates who won’t be online for at least another 6 hours. You feel isolated and demoralised, and these customers are losing their patience…

Or, what if you just joined a new company as a support specialist. Your new teammates are welcoming and friendly, and they tell you that you can feel free to ask them whenever you have any questions. Even so, you feel bad about asking three questions for every ticket you’re trying to answer, and it’s hard for you to feel any sense of accomplishment as you’re spending more time waiting for teammates to answer your questions than actually answering customer tickets…

As a global remote team, our teammates work across different time zones, 7 days a week. We want to avoid the frustration and inefficiency described in the two scenarios above as much as possible. We want our Customer Advocates to feel supported and empowered, even if they are the only ones online at any given time, without the real-time support of another teammate.

Along with video calls, 1-on-1 conversations, and Slack messages, comprehensive internal documentation is integral to the way we support one another as a team. It’s almost like having another helpful teammate (ok, maybe half a teammate!)

john-schnobrich-2FPjlAyMQTA-unsplash.jpgPhoto by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

What are the benefits of internal documentation

1. Democratise access to information

Good internal documentation enables every teammate to find important information rather than allowing it to be siloed. With a quick search, our Advocate can easily find steps on how to troubleshoot specific issues, policies to handle tricky situations, and best practices that we use to ensure our customers' security and privacy. This removes blockers preventing teammates from effectively supporting our customers.

2. Facilitate teammate growth

Everyone in our team can find the video recordings and written documentation of all of the internal training on various topics in our internal wiki. Some of the training is essential, and some of the training is more advanced or focused on specific growth paths. Having all of the training available on-demand to the team enables people to refresh their fundamental knowledge from time to time, or to level up in the knowledge that supports their professional growth. This also saves us lots of time from re-doing the same training whenever new teammates join the company.

3. Onboard new teammates

Along with saving time on re-doing the same training, we believe great internal documentation helps facilitate a smoother onboarding experience in many different ways. Although it is highly beneficial and encouraged for new teammates to ask questions and engage with everyone in the team, it is equally important to equip them to work well independently at their own pace without constantly depending on other teammates’ schedules.

4. Ensure consistent quality

Even the most experienced support specialists cannot remember everything. When we have best practices and internal policies clearly documented, it reduces uncertainties and confusion around how we should approach specific situations.

Conclusion - next steps

At this point, it’s possible that you’re convinced that maintaining internal documentation is important. Maybe you’re even thinking about how you can implement it for your company!

The first step is to identify one team member (or more) to be the owner of building it from the ground up. That is useful even if you’re planning to have quite a collaborative process to generate content. Designating an owner gives you the best chance possible to reach your desired outcome. Otherwise, a new project like this can easily fall through the cracks.

Then you might want to identify the type of content that you’d like to include, and where you should store the content. Wherever you choose, the content should be easily accessible and searchable for your entire team.

This article is just scraping the surface of internal documentation. In future posts, we’ll dive into more of the “how’s” we use at Buffer, including things like:

  • What is the process to identify information that needs to be added or updated?
  • Where do we store internal documentation and why?
  • How do we audit internal documentation to keep the information updated?
  • How does our internal documentation team work together with the external documentation team?

In the meantime, if you have any tips and stories about establishing your internal documentation and the benefits you’re seeing, we’d love to hear from you via Twitter @buffer with the hashtag #CustomerSupportThoughts.

Happy documenting!

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