Gavin Austin, Principal Technical Writer at Salesforce joins us in this episode of Knowledgebase Ninjas.
Connect with Gavin and Salesforce here:
The goal of Gavin’s documentation team
Gavin’s documentation team exists to enable customers to get more value from Salesforce but also to reduce Salesforce customer attrition. That said, Gavin’s team also frequently meet with product and development teams to ask difficult questions and often change how those features are built.
Gavin’s route into documentation
Gavin has been in technical documentation for more than twenty years… he initially got into it after his aunt mentioned that as a technical writer, she was getting paid to learn.
So whilst Gavin was studying English and philosophy at college in California, he opted to take a minor in technical writing and enjoyed learning the harder skills.
Salesforce’s documentation process
The first step is to find any kind of documentation for this specific product or feature, this could be a slide deck or even just a napkin!
Gavin would then speak with the teams building the product and ask a set of questions whilst also trying to get hold of a demo version or user experience designs.
Gavin then takes a step back to determine what documentation is required and then starts work on release notes.
Writing for millions…
Gavin estimates that tens of thousands if not millions of people consume the content that Gavin and his team produce. Gavin used to work in book publishing and getting five thousand people to read your book used to be a great achievement… now he far surpasses that!
Gavin has found that streamlining the amount of content they are creating is having a great impact on the amount of value they are creating. Instead of writing about each edge case, Gavin’s team just focus on the core use cases.
Gavin’s ROI of documentation
The Content Experience team (Gavin’s team!) at Salesforce is generating tens of millions of dollars in a reduction of support costs, unfortunately Gavin can’t share the exact number.
This has been calculated by looking at a reduction in support costs as customers are able to solve their own problems. Gavin estimates that each support call to a business can cost between $2-10.
Googling product names, leads to Gavin’s content
Gavin has found that his team’s content ranks on Google for product feature search terms for example “service cloud. This means that Gavin and his team are not just writing for customers, but they are also writing for prospects.
Gavin’s biggest inspiration?
Now a COO at Salesforce, Andrea Leszek taught Gavin the value of rigourous quality assurance:
Gavin’s #1 resource…
Gavin has noticed that the lines between marketing communication and technical documentation are blurring in the fourth industrial revolution, he has therefore been reading a Seth Godin book called:
Gavin’s #1 piece of documentation related advice to his twenty year old self
Gavin advice to his twenty year old self would be to experiment, he doesn’t think there has been enough experimentation in the post sales technical writing world – take more risks!