What good are docs?

What good are docs?


Are docs a good investment?

One of the challenges every documentarian faces is justifying the investment in docs.

Whether that investment is

  • salary
  • training and professional development
  • expanded doc team
  • tooling
  • dev help for site development

It can feel like we technical writers are always battling it out for the company’s money. And, often, the experience is that the money for conferences or books or a new team member goes to other teams instead. Teams that have a clearer line of sight from work to the bottom line of the company’s P&L statement.

So just what good are docs?

Customer Support Deflection

Customer support is probably the most common driver of kickstarting docs.

  1. A customer calls in with a problem.
  2. An employee researches the answer and responds.
  3. Two months later another customer calls in with the same problem.
  4. The employee researches the answer a second time, but this time writes up a Google Doc with the answer so they can reference it in the future.

Voila! Docs are born.

Eventually, customer support decides to make a version of the docs public so that customers can start out in the knowledge base or wiki and address answers themselves.

This is cheaper than hiring yet another customer support rep.

And you know? They work. Good docs serve to reduce (or, in the jargon, “deflect”) the number of calls or emails that customer support has to receive, thus relieving an expense on the company.


Sales does their work and now there is a new customer. They have to know what is involved in getting your product working for them. And they have to learn how to use it within the context of their other tools. Then there are their own employees that they have to train.

After customer support deflection, training of new users is the second biggest driver behind creating docs for most businesses.

But also, both your own company and the customers you support have employee churn.

  • Employees move on to other pastures.
  • They retire.
  • Something tragic happens and they cannot continue in their role.
  • You or your customer discover you need additional employees to perform similar tasks because there is too much work for what you have.

New employees have to come up to speed on how to use the product, too.

This is onboarding. Helping someone who has not used your product before learn how to do their thing on your product.

Good docs help alleviate this pain by providing a place where the new employees can go to discover or ask their question.

Note, however, that good docs work in conjunction with - not in place of - good training. Documentation and training have different requirements and you cannot drop one in for the place of another. Most products need both.


Documentation is a key part is the decision process when choosing a tool. Buyers want to know that when they hit a rocky spot, they have more than a Zendesk support channel to contact.

I know when I go to look at a new tool, docs are one of the first things I look at. Docs, more than a sales or marketing piece, help me figure out if the tool really can help my specific needs and concerns.

A tool without any docs? It goes to the bottom of the consideration list, if it even stays on the list at all.


If docs are public, they are another avenue of lead generation. When someone searches a question and your docs turn up, that’s a new prospect.

But if your docs are hidden or - worse - nonexistent, then that’s a prospect you have to work hard for in another way.

Ongoing Training

At some point in time, enough requests or competition comes along that the product has to change. Updates happen. And you have to let people - both employees and customers - know what the changes were and how they effect the ongoing day-to-day use of the product.

Enter release notes and doc updates.

Not every new update can be an Apple, Samsung, or Google event with a webinar or conference to announce all of the exciting new things. Not everything warrants that level of announcement.

But you still have to communicate it to people.

Enter docs.

Docs are good!

As it turns out, documentation serves a lot of purposes, often hidden from eye. Pay attention to when you go to search for help for something and see just how often your own life and work depend on someone having invested in good documentation.