Kathy Madison, Comtech Services<
April 15, 2019

The ladies of Comtech Services, the CMS/DITA North America conference hosts, help set the tone for the conference by donning capes and assuming superhero powers. Dawn Stevens, Comtech’s President and the CIDM Director took on the identity of Purple Reign while her team became Sunburst, Cotton-Candy, Green-Goose and Blaze. During the opening session, Severin Foreman, of Marvell, was recruited as a “conference insider” and dubbed Tidal Wave. The adopted personas were in honor of Adam Toporek’s, author of Be Your Customer’s Hero, keynote presentation “From Hassle to Hero: Paving the path for positive customer journeys”.

Adam started his talk by describing several scenarios of how customer’s perceived hassles can create negative emotions about a company’s product and services. He then went on to discuss how these emotions play into the role of information developers and discussed three principles for creating heroic content experiences for your customers.

  1. Know your customers as well as your products. Close the gap between what you know about your products versus what you know about your customers. Using a highway metaphor think about an “on-ramp”, how does your customer want to get to your content and what do they need to know first? Then think about an “off-ramp”, anticipate what’s next and create pro-active content. And don’t forget to observe your customers; if you rely on surveys or ask them questions, keep in mind that often customers don’t know what they want.
  2. Think of the pressure points your customers experience before you think about their touch points. Address the Pareto principle with your content, that is, what content can generate the most benefit to your customers. Simplify, simplify, simplify! Adam quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson, “One ‘simplify’ would have sufficed”. This sounded a bit like minimalism principles.
  3. Humanize your content. Consider introducing your team via a video. Add personality to the content by making it conversational. Tell stories of customers using your products in a way that others can relate. Allow customers to comment on your content. If possible, use a name and face… remember they made even the Terminator seem human.

To end his talk, Adam shared some funny but real principles for becoming a hero to your customers. Sorry, I am unable to include his images, they were great!

  1. Don’t contradict yourself
  2. Don’t offend every women on earth
  3. Don’t change languages mid-sentence
  4. Don’t rely on auto-correct
  5. Don’t forget to use words
  6. Maybe skip the secret messages (or not?) in content you think no one reads
  7. Just say no to google translate
  8. If your lawyers make you do it, get new lawyers
  9. Use Professionals

Many of the 95 sessions of the conference indirectly discussed how to become a content superhero, including presentations on giving customers a personalized experience with dynamic delivery solutions, leveraging subject matter experts, collaborating across teams, improving content quality, introducing complex content reuse strategies, streamlining a migration to DITA, or helping customers find content more readily. In fact, the sessions on taxonomy and metadata, were some of the highest attended at the conference, indicating that the information-development community are indeed starting to focus more and more on the customer experience.

CIDM believes that this focus is so important that in 2020, the CMS/DITA NA conference will be co-located with a new CIDM conference, Journeys. As its name implies, this conference will focus on information needs throughout the user journey, from initial discovery through long-term advocacy. Designed to attract anyone who creates information from marketing to support to training to documentation, sessions will encourage cross-department collaboration to provide users a unified message regardless of where they are in their journey. We look forward to seeing you and some new faces next spring!