Why writing a quality help manual may be the best investment your business makes

Customer Support

Launching a new product takes both time and money, in any business both of these are generally in short supply. There are always pressures to reduce costs and get the product complete and ready for sale at the earliest opportunity.
Sometimes when looking for ways to keep costs to a minimum it can be tempting to think of a help manual as being an extra expense that should be produced as cheaply as possible. It is a common belief that most people should be able to work out how to use a product by themselves and if they do have any difficulties they can always call your help-desk for assistance.
This error in thinking may well be one of the biggest mistakes made by businesses today. No-one can deny that producing proper help documentation does involve some cost, but to consider the cost without looking at the savings incurred by your help manual is to look at only half the picture.

A much more useful way of thinking about your help documentation is to consider how much money your business can save in support costs by producing help documentation that answers your customers questions and ensures they avoid contacting your support team. Every call to your customer support team costs you money and the more you can reduce those calls the more efficient your business will become. Reducing calls to customer support really is not that difficult. It does take some research to work out which features of your product are the most problematic for your customers. Look through your support records, find out why customers contact you and then place special emphasis on addressing those areas in your support documentation.

Save on support cost by using a help authoring software

Ensuring that you cover all of your products features adequately can be a challenge for any writer so it's good to know that there are free tools available to help you produce high quality help documents. Using help authoring tools makes writing your documents simple. You can use the fully featured word processor included to write your manual and take advantage of all the features to make sure your documentation is the best it can be. The topic editor makes it easy to check that every feature of your product has been included in the manual. Another important feature is the media library which allows you to easily include images, and video within your help documents.
One of the key benefits of using a help authoring tool is that it becomes much easier to update you manual if required. If you notice that you are getting a number of calls to customer support about a particular feature you can quickly edit a section of the manual and output a revised manual already correctly arranged for whichever format you would like to use. There is no need to worry about rewriting the whole book, or the problem of a small change in the text leading to formatting changes being needed elsewhere. With a help authoring tool all of these issues are taken care of automatically leaving you free to concentrate on producing a great text for your end-users.