Producing documentation inside a Support team

Advantages of working as a tech writer and support agent

Working in support and documentation simultaneously comes with some advantages. As a documentarian, you receive direct user feedback through support, which helps you anticipate everyday use-cases. If you notice a mistake or that something is missing from the current documentation, you can ensure it’s changed yourself, without having to pass the task to another department. As a supporter, if you have also documented the product yourself, you have a deeper knowledge of where to point people, and since you have already used the product, it becomes easier to explain it to users.

Tips for support agents wanting to start in tech writing

As a supporter, starting to write documentation can be challenging, although the two are related. In support, a user asks a question about a specific topic, which you then explain. In documentation, however, you have to come up with topics yourself and anticipate questions before they are asked. In addition to that, you also need to figure out who your expected audience is and make an assumption about their prior knowledge, whereas in support you get an idea of the user’s level of knowledge from their question. When writing documentation, you may have to cater to multiple audiences in the same article, or even split it up into multiple articles for beginners and more advanced users.

Feedback: in documentation, your work is often reviewed by a colleague, and you review their work as well, whereas in support, you usually interact with the user more directly. On the one hand, this can feel like being supervised by your colleagues or supervising them, but on the other hand, it provides a kind of safety net, preventing you from putting out wrong information by yourself.

Tips for tech writers wanting to start in support

Are you a tech writer looking to start out in a support role? Great choice! The two disciplines complement one another excellently, with both requiring good customer-facing communication skills and specialist product knowledge.

However, when you are starting out, you’ll find that there are several challenges to tackle on the road to becoming a support superstar. Let’s explore the most important ones;

Knowledge of features that you haven’t documented: perhaps the best way of learning a product’s features is by documenting them. But what if your customers start asking about features that somebody else documented?

This may happen more than you’d think – especially if you haven’t been working at an organization for long, or if you’ve only recently started to write about a certain tool.

My advice: don’t be discouraged or alarmed if you get questions you can’t answer. To learn more about the software, reach out your colleagues, study old support tickets, and, of course, don’t forget to read the docs!

No review process: as a doc writer, the chances are that your work gets edited and proofread by a colleague before publishing. However, when answering most support requests, your input won’t be checked by a colleague.

So, how can you deal with this safety net being removed? Firstly, recognize that it’s fine not to know something – never give an answer you’re not 100% sure about just for the sake of saving face. If you don’t know, it’s always a good idea to ask another agent for their input, or escalate the ticket to the next support level for support.